Life sentence for 'pure evil' acid attacker Berlinah Wallace

A fashion student has been jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 12 years in prison for throwing acid over her former partner, who later died by euthanasia, in "an act of pure evil".
Berlinah Wallace, who poured sulphuric acid over her former partner Mark van Dongen's face. Photo credit: Avon and Somerset Police/PA WireBerlinah Wallace, who poured sulphuric acid over her former partner Mark van Dongen's face. Photo credit: Avon and Somerset Police/PA Wire
Berlinah Wallace, who poured sulphuric acid over her former partner Mark van Dongen's face. Photo credit: Avon and Somerset Police/PA Wire

Berlinah Wallace, 48, poured sulphuric acid over face of Mark van Dongen, 29, was he slept in her flat in Westbury Park, Bristol at 3am on September 23 in 2015.

She laughed and told the engineer: "If I can't have you, no-one can," before calmly chatting to an ex-boyfriend on the phone as Mr van Dongen fled in agony.

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The graduate was left in a coma for four months, suffered extensive burns to his body, was left blind in one eye, paralysed from the neck down and had to have his lower left leg amputated.

He suffered 15 months of excruciating pain before dying by euthanasia at a hospital in Belgium on January 2 2017.

Wallace was acquitted of murder but convicted of throwing a corrosive substance with intent following a four-week trial at Bristol Crown Court.

Mrs Justice Nicola Davies described how Wallace bought a litre of 98% concentrated sulphuric acid on September 2 2015 after Mr van Dongen left her for another woman.

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She viewed 82 websites about sulphuric acid - including post-mortem images - and came up with her defence based on a court case of a man accused of tricking his partner into drinking it.

"You chose your moment for the attack," the judge told Wallace, who remained emotionless.

"It occurred when Mark van Dongen, wearing only boxer shorts, was asleep in the bed which you had shared in your flat.

"Vulnerable, almost naked, he awoke but had no real opportunity to avoid the focus of your acid attack, namely his face and then his body.

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"Immediately before you threw the acid, you said to Mark: 'If I can't have you, no-one can.'

"Your intention was to burn, disfigure and disable Mark van Dongen so that he would not be attractive to any other woman. It was an act of pure evil."

Mr van Dongen immediately suffered "excruciating pain" but Wallace did nothing to help him, such as calling an ambulance.

"Nothing better demonstrates your malicious and callous intention than your refusal to provide any help, even when Mark was screaming in pain," the judge said.

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Mr van Dongen suffered burns to two thirds of his face, a large percentage of his upper chest, arms and upper thighs - with 25% of his body affected.

A consultant at Southmead Hospital, where Mr van Dongen was taken after neighbours called 999, said he had never seen a patient with such extensive injuries following a chemical attack.

Following the attack, Mr van Dongen was unable to communicate for four months and at that point, could only do so by sticking out his tongue when his father read through the alphabet.

Through this, he spelt out 'Berlinah' letter by letter when asked who had attacked him.

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Wallace was arrested at her flat following the attack and claimed Mr van Dongen had placed the acid in a glass in an attempt to trick her into drinking it.

The judge said Wallace had told "lie after lie" about a man who had been unable to defend himself.

Mr van Dongen told colleagues and his father that he was "scared" of Wallace, who had previously poured boiling water over him and scratched him.

"He was right to be so because he had some idea of what you were capable of," the judge said.

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She said it was not a "coincidence" that the defence Wallace had used was similar to an article she read on September 14, regarding a separate court case.

Wallace, who made 14 silent phone calls to Mr van Dongen's new partner Violet Farquharson, also subjected him to "emotional blackmail" after he left her.

Mr van Dongen returned to stay with Wallace on the evening of September 22 only because of his concern for her amid previous threats of self-harm.

"Only you know what occurred in those hours to anger you," the judge told Wallace

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"I believe it likely that, yet again, Mark was seeking to leave you."

Mrs Justice Davies said there were no guidelines for sentencing Wallace for the offence, but she was "dangerous" and therefore required a life term.

"Your conduct can properly be described as sadistic," she added.

"On the clearest evidence you have been shown to be a manipulative and controlling woman who has lied without compunction or conscience in an attempt to avoid culpability."

Speaking outside court, Mr van Dongen's father said Wallace's actions had "completely ruined" his family's lives.