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‘Acid murder’ accused: ‘Ex-partner was abusive’

Berlinah Wallace, 48, is charged with murdering Mark Van Dongen, 29, by leaving him with such catastrophic injuries that he asked for assistance in ending his life.

The fashion student allegedly hurled acid over Mr Van Dongen’s face and body at her flat in Bristol in September 2015, and he died at a clinic in Belgium in January 2017.

Mr Van Dongen, who had a new girlfriend but was staying with Wallace, told police he woke at 3am to hear her laugh and tell him: “If I can’t have you, no one else can,” before the acid was thrown.

‘Acid murder’ accused: ‘Ex-partner was abusive’
‘Acid murder’ accused: ‘Ex-partner was abusive’

Giving evidence at Bristol Crown Court, Wallace said Mr Van Dongen had been physically and verbally abusive to her during their five-year relationship.

She said the couple met on a dating website for people with HIV in 2010 and she later had a miscarriage after they tried to start a family.

Mark van Dongen. Pic: Facebook
Image:Mr Van Dongen died at a Belgium clinic in 2017. Pic: Facebook

Wallace claimed the Dutch engineer – who the court heard had a Swastika etched on his hand – would be racist and swear at her.

“He has hit me,” she told the jury.

“To begin with it was more about mouth – saying unkind things.

“Then eventually it was he attacked me because I asked him to leave my house.”

The court heard that in April 2011, police were called to Wallace’s basement flat in Westbury Park after she reported that Mr Van Dongen had physically assaulted her.

She told the jury that on one occasion, he had thrown her out of their flat while she was having a shower. She described standing naked outside on the street.

On another occasion, she claimed he pulled her hair extensions out and left her “bald”.

“When we argued I would be nasty – calling him names: prostitute, paedophile and those kinds of things,” she told the jury.

“I would scratch him, bite him. I don’t describe myself as having a temper, I just don’t like people hitting me.

“I used to fight back and scratch him and bite him.”

Mr Van Dongen suffered catastrophic injuries
Image:Mr Van Dongen suffered catastrophic injuries

The trial was briefly halted at one point after Wallace broke down in tears in the witness box.

She told the jury she had depression, severe anxiety and PTSD, and had attempted to take her life.

She said she was “shocked” to hear that Mr Van Dongen, in the summer of 2015, had been speaking to a woman he had met online.

Mr Van Dongen later moved in with the woman, and Wallace admitted making a number of silent phone calls to her.

“I did make these calls to annoy him because he said he was going to help with the bills and then he disappeared,” Wallace told the jury.

She said she bought sulphuric acid days before the alleged attack because she had “problems with the drains”.

Among the final text messages between the former couple, the court heard Mr Van Dongen told Wallace: “I love and care about you. Let’s keep peace between us…There is no need for fighting anymore.”

Wallace, of Ladysmith Road, Bristol, denies charges of murder and throwing a corrosive substance with intent.

The trial continues.

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