A man was driven to euthanasia after an acid attack by his jealous ex-girlfriend left him paralyzed from the neck down, a court has heard. Mark Van Dongen, 29, suffered 15 months of pain before being granted euthanasia in Belgium in January 2017.
Despite his assisted suicide, prosecutors have accused Berlinah Wallace, 48, of murder. She allegedly discovered he was seeing another woman before launching the attack, telling him: ‘If I can’t have you, no-one else can.’ The attack at her flat in Bristol in 2015 left Mr Van Dongen all but blinded and with burns covering 83% of his body.
He ran out into the street in his boxer shorts, screaming for help, before being taken to hospital. Neighbours mistook his agonised cries for the sound of foxes fighting, while one said he looked like he had been ‘dipped in clay’.
‘On September 2 2015, the defendant had bought a bottle of sulphuric acid. She kept it in her kitchen,’ Mr Vaitilingam said. ‘At around 3am in the morning on September 23, as Mr Van Dongen was sleeping in bed, she took the acid into the bedroom.
‘She then went into the bedroom and woke him up. She laughed and said “If I can’t have you, no-one else can”, and she threw the glass of sulphuric acid into his face. ‘It covered his face and parts of his upper body and dripped on to his lower body as he moved about.
‘Covered in burning acid, Mr Van Dongen ran out into the street in his boxer shorts, screaming for help.’ A neighbour took him upstairs, put him in a shower and called 999, and he was taken to Southmead Hospital. ‘The injuries that he suffered were grotesque and horrific. His face and much of his body was grotesquely scarred,’ the prosecutor said.
‘He lost the sight in his left eye and most of the sight in his right eye. He lost his lower left leg, which was amputated. ‘He was confined to a hospital bed, for a long time unable to move anything other than his tongue. ‘His physical condition improved a little – he regained the power of speech, though never the ability to move.
‘But 15 months later, deciding that he could bear it no longer, he asked a euthanasia clinic in Belgium to assist him in taking his own life. ‘He was examined by three consultants, who confirmed that this was, in their terms, a case of unbearable physical and psychological suffering despite maximum medical support. ‘They agreed that the test for euthanasia was met, and on January 2 2017 they inserted a catheter into his heart, which brought about his immediate death.’