Fashion student accused of murder tells of acid purchase ‘coincidence’
Berlinah Wallace denies murdering her former partner Mark Van Dongen by throwing acid over him in 2015.
A fashion student has told a court it was just a “coincidence” that she purchased acid on the day her former partner told her to leave him alone.
Berlinah Wallace, 48, is accused of throwing the acid over Mark Van Dongen’s face and body while he lay in bed at her flat in Westbury Park, Bristol, in September 2015.
She is charged with murdering Mr Van Dongen by leaving him with such catastrophic injuries that he was granted euthanasia and died in Belgium in January 2017.
Before his death, Mr Van Dongen told police that he awoke at 3am to hear Wallace laugh and tell him: “If I can’t have you, no-one else can”, then throw the acid on him.
I don't trust him. He had been lying to me all along. He was capable of anything. Berlinah Wallace
In cross-examination, Wallace said she phoned Mr Van Dongen on September 2 and he complained that she was “stalking” him and told her he would phone the police.
“I was shocked,” she said. “One of the things I did mention was perhaps I will tell the police that he has been downloading child porn.
“I made a threat. I don’t trust him – he might have downloaded child porn on my computer.”
When asked if Mr Van Dongen had downloaded indecent images of children, Wallace replied: “No. I have never seen child porn before.
“I don’t trust him. He had been lying to me all along. He was capable of anything.”
The court heard that, by then, Wallace had made 14 silent phone calls to Mr Van Dongen’s new girlfriend, Violet Farquharson.
Wallace denied that she felt anger towards Miss Farquharson and claimed she made the phone calls “to annoy Mark”.
She said she had decided to stop making the calls by the time she spoke to Mr Van Dongen on September 2.
The fashion student admits buying acid on Amazon on September 2 but claims it was to deal with smelly drains.
Adam Vaitilingam QC, prosecuting, pointed out to Wallace that she had purchased the acid on the same day as Mr Van Dongen told he would call the police on her.
“Was that just a coincidence?” he asked Wallace.
“Yes it is,” she replied. “I was really, really disappointed in Mark. I had nothing against Violet whatsoever.
“Actually I felt sorry for her. At some point I wanted to tell her about things but my tongue was stopped.
“I panicked, I put the phone down. Eventually I just did it to annoy Mark.”
The court previously heard a statement from Wallace’s landlord, who said she complained of smelly drains in December 2014 and they were dealt with – with no further complaints made.
However, Wallace said the work carried out on the drains then did not solve the problem.
“Are you saying that for nine months you and Mark lived in a flat smelling of sewage but did nothing about it until September 2 2015?” Mr Vaitilingam asked.
Wallace replied: “Yes we did. It wasn’t all the time. I didn’t want to be a pest.”
She said she “didn’t think about” mentioning it when she phoned her landlord in September 2015 about water coming from radiators.
Wallace told the jury she bought the acid after searching for “drain cleaner” on Amazon, and picking one of the results.
But Mr Vaitilingam said internet records deleted from Wallace’s laptop showed she had actually searched for “sulphuric acid”.
“It was a long time ago,” Wallace replied. “There was no motive other than what it was bought for.”
She said she deleted any search history involving her bank account or Mr Van Dongen’s bank account.
Police found websites relating to acid attack victims, including post-mortem images, had been deleted from her browsing history.
“Why did you delete every single one of the websites that you visited that dealt with sulphuric acid attacks?” Mr Vaitilingam asked.
Wallace replied: “Maybe because it was not desirable – it was nothing I intended to go back to.”
During her evidence-in-chief, Wallace claimed Mr Van Dongen had poured a glass of what she believed to be water and left it by the bed.
She said she threw it over him when he pulled her underwear during an argument.
“I was trying to run away then he said ‘ooh you threw acid at me’,” she told the jury.
“I just turned around and I think I saw smoke or something. The only way I can describe it is black.”
She claimed that earlier that night, Mr Van Dongen had brought her the acid in a plastic container and told her to drink it.
Wallace said she did not phone the emergency services to assist Mr Van Dongen, a Dutch-born engineer, as she was in shock.
The defendant, of Ladysmith Road, Bristol, denies charges of murder and throwing a corrosive substance with intent.
Her trial continues.