Acid victim who died in euthanasia clinic ‘hurt while trying to harm ex-partner’

A man who ended his life in a euthanasia clinic after allegedly having acid thrown in his face by his ex-girlfriend may have been trying to hurt her instead, a court heard.

University fashion student Berlinah Wallace, 48, is on trial accused of the murder of Dutch engineer Mark Van Dongen after she allegedly threw acid at him as he slept in her bed at her flat in Bristol.

Richard Smith QC, defending Wallace, told jurors at Bristol Crown Court there were “two sides to every story” and that on the night of the incident it was Mr Van Dongen who had poured the sulphuric acid in a glass for her to drink.

He said it was the defence’s case that their relationship had hit such a low they were physically abusive to each other and had both made claims about abuse from the other.

“Berlinah Wallace said to the police that she did pick up the glass and throw the contents over her boyfriend but thought it was water,” Mr Smith told the jury.

“The critical issue right in the middle of this case is what she thought was in that glass when she cast it over her boyfriend.

“She thought it was water because every evening at night her boyfriend would leave a glass of water with which to take her medication.

“She thought on that night she was being encouraged to take her water, Mark Van Dongen had not put water in the glass to take her tablets, he had put sulphuric acid in.

“In the dark times of this difficult relationship there had been suggestions made to her by Mark Van Dongen that she might alleviate her depression by taking sulphuric acid – a rather bizarre and cruel observation.

“He planned to make her suffer, not him. If that is right then his plan has gone horrendously wrong.”

Mr Smith said the evidence would show that the pair had spent the previous evening together and Wallace had not left Mr Van Dongen alone in the flat.

He also suggested the Dutch engineer was worried about Wallace revealing details of his private life.

“If that was so it might give him a motive and he talked about being blackmailed, and he felt he was going to take the action Berlinah Wallace said he was,” Mr Smith said.

“An open mind please, members of the jury. Calm, without emotion, it might not be the way that it seems.

“Mark Van Dongen might be the author of his own misfortune.

“When he ran into the road and got into the ambulance he couldn’t possibly say it was his fault because he knew if he told the truth that he would at very least cause severe injury, if not kill his girlfriend.”

Wallace, of Ladysmith Road, Westbury Park, Bristol, denies charges of murder on a date between September 22 2015 and January 3 2017 and applying a corrosive fluid with intent on September 23 2015.

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