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Judge praises dignity of engineer’s family through acid attack trial

Kees van Dongen sat through every day of the four-week trial at Bristol Crown Court.

The judge in the trial of acid attacker Berlinah Wallace has paid tribute to the father of victim Mark van Dongen.

Kees van Dongen remained at his son’s side from after the acid attack until the moment he died.

Mrs Justice Nicola Davies jailed Wallace, 45, for life with a minimum of 12 years on Wednesday after she was convicted of throwing a corrosive substance with intent. The court had heard how she threw sulphuric acid on ex-boyfriend Mark van Dongen as he lay sleeping.

His injuries were so severe he was blinded in one eye, paralysed from the neck downwards and had to have a lower leg amputated.

He died by euthanasia in a Belgian hospital 15 months later in January 2017.

Kees van Dongen said he has been left financially “wiped out” and his 11-year marriage has “fallen apart” due to the strain of proceedings against Wallace.

On Tuesday, he wept as he gave a victim personal statement about the effect of Wallace’s actions on him and his family.

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Berlinah Wallace court case

He described how his son applied for euthanasia after 14 months of agony, telling him: “Dad, I’m tired of fighting, I’ve suffered so much pain and I can’t take any more. Please let me go.”

The judge told Mr van Dongen: “You have attended every day of this trial, a difficult and distressing experience for you.

“You have had to relieve the months of Mark’s suffering and death. No words of mine will ease your pain.

“But may I thank you for the dignity which you have brought to these proceedings and offer my condolences to yourself and your family upon the loss of your son.”

Mrs Justices Davies also commended the major crime team at Avon and Somerset Police for their work in the “harrowing case”.

I feel like a broken man, completely drained, and the old Kees no longer exists Kees van Dongen

In his victim impact statement, Mr van Dongen described his son as “gentle, sensitive, accommodating, too good for this world”.

He said his son’s injuries were so horrific that when he first went to visit him in Southmead Hospital he failed to recognise him.

Mr van Dongen was later transferred to the Maria Hospital in Belgium, where his father spent “entire days rubbing him and moving his arms” to relieve his pain and itching.

After contracting a lung infection, Mr van Dongen made the decision to have euthanasia.

Accompanied by his father, he was taken to the cardiac ward of the hospital and a catheter was inserted into his heart at 7.15pm on January 2.

“I feel like a broken man, completely drained, and the old Kees no longer exists. Mark and I lost our battle,” Mr van Dongen told Bristol Crown Court.

“I’m trying to find some peace for what happened. I’m living one day to the next and we will see what tomorrow brings.”

He described listening to his son’s screams for help on a 999 call made by neighbours as “horrendous”.

“However, I promised Mark that I would be standing here in his name, that I would not miss one minute of the trial and I would make every effort to make sure that she gets the sentence she deserves,” he said.

“Despite all the consequences for my health and financial status, I don’t regret it for a minute and I would do it all again. I hope that I will get over it one day.”

Mr van Dongen’s family have set up a JustGiving page, at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/bart-vandongen

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