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Judge to hear legal submissions ahead of acid attack sentencing

Berlinah Wallace was convicted of throwing a corrosive substance with intent but acquitted of murder.

A judge will hear submissions from prosecution and defence teams before sentencing a fashion student convicted of throwing acid over her former partner as he lay sleeping.

Berlinah Wallace, 48, was acquitted of murdering Mark van Dongen but convicted of throwing a corrosive substance with intent following a four-week trial at Bristol Crown Court.

She purchased a bottle of 98% concentration sulphuric acid and viewed more than 40 websites about it – including post-mortem images – after Mr van Dongen left her for another woman.

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Cornelius Van Dongen (right) with his son Mark Van Dongen (Family handout/PA)

Wallace threw the liquid over the engineer as he slept in bed at her flat in Westbury Park, Bristol, in September 2015, and laughed as she told them: “If I can’t have you, no-one else can”.

The on-off student, from South Africa, calmly chatted to an ex-boyfriend on the phone as Mr van Dongen screamed for help in the street outside.

Neighbours called 999 after hearing Mr van Dongen and finding him covered in acid, wearing a pair of black boxer shorts.

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The bed where Berlinah Wallace threw acid over Mark van Dongen (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)

The 29-year-old 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 died by euthanasia at a hospital in Belgium on January 2, 2017, after suffering 15 months of excruciating pain.

A jury of 10 men and two women acquitted Wallace of Mr van Dongen’s murder and manslaughter on Thursday but unanimously convicted her of throwing a corrosive substance with intent.

Mrs Justice Nicola Davies will hear submissions from prosecution and defence teams in the case at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday and sentence Wallace on Wednesday.

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Court artist sketch of Berlinah Wallace giving evidence during her trial (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

She warned Wallace, who wept as the verdict was read, to expect a “significant” sentence.

The acid attack followed the break-down of Mr van Dongen’s five-year relationship with Wallace, in which she was controlling and abusive.

He called 999 and reported Wallace for harassment on September 2 – the day she purchased the sulphuric acid – after she made 14 silent calls to his new girlfriend, Violet Farquharson.

Mr van Dongen, from the Netherlands, went to stay with Wallace on September 22 but was awoken at 3am the following morning by her throwing the acid over him.

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A body map showing the injuries on Mark van Dongen from the acid attack (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)

Before his death, he recorded two video interviews from his hospital bed – helping to secure Wallace’s conviction almost two years later.

His application for euthanasia in Belgium was authorised after doctors ruled it was a case of “unbearable physical and psychological suffering”.

The decision to charge Wallace with murder was taken to the Court of Appeal, where judges ruled it should be put before a jury.

A Domestic Homicide Review will now examine the lead up to Mr van Dongen’s death.

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