Today marks nine years since little Daniel Pelka died in Coventry, having been starved and beaten to death by his cruel mum and her boyfriend.
Daniel was just four years old when he died as a result of a head injury at his home in Coventry on March 3, 2012.
He had been brutally tortured, beaten and starved by his mum Magdalena Luczak, then 27, and her boyfriend Mariusz Krezolek, then 34, for more than six months.
Luczak and Krezolek were both jailed for a minimum of 30 years after being convicted of his murder at Birmingham Crown Court in August 2013.
The judge described them as “heartless monsters”. Both have since died in prison.
Each year sees a number of people visit Daniel’s memorial in St Paul’s Cemetery, Holbrooks, to pay their respects on the anniversary of his death, including Nicci Astin who set up the Justice for Daniel Pelka Facebook group.
However, due to the Covid pandemic and lockdown restrictions, that cannot be the case this year for Nicci who lives elsewhere in the country.
Nicci said: “We aren’t able to get to Coventry this year ourselves, but there will be others there and we have bought flowers which will be picked up and go to his memorial.
“I do miss going and meeting other people that share the same sort of feeling towards Daniel.
“All I want is for Daniel and his little face to be remembered.”
Flowers are also being sent to Daniel’s final resting place near to his father’s home in Lodz, Poland, and Nicci is hoping she will be able to visit Coventry in July to mark Daniel’s birthday.
Daniel’s memorial, which has become a shrine to the youngster, was set up by the Justice for Daniel Pelka Facebook group after he was buried in Poland.
During the trial it had been found that Daniel, who lived most of his life in Coventry and went to school in Foleshill, was bullied, beaten and starved by Luczak and Krezolek before his death.
During his final months, he was denied food, forced to perform punishment exercises, confined in a locked box room with just a urine-soaked mattress to sleep on, poisoned with salt and subjected to water torture.
Staff at his school saw him scavenging for food and on one occasion he was caught stealing a teacher’s birthday cake.
During the 30-hour period in which Daniel lay dying after suffering a head injury, Luczak and Krezolek chose not to call an ambulance, instead opting to carry on with their normal lives.
After his death, it was found Daniel weighed less than two stone.
A serious case review later found that social workers, police officers and healthcare professionals had all missed chances to save him.
Daniel Pelka investigation: Tragic four-year-old was ‘invisible’ to authorities
Review into youngster’s death says experts had chance to intervene – but failed to do so
Tragic Coventry youngster Daniel Pelka was “invisible” to the authorities who never spoke to him about his home life, a damning report reveals today.
The investigation into the four-year-old’s murder details the number of opportunities that experts had to intervene – but failed to do so.
Police officers had been called to the home because of incidents of domestic violence involving Daniel’s mother and different partners.
Health visitors, who were aware of the background of violence, had repeated contact with the tragic schoolboy and his family, but failed to refer Daniel’s mother on to relevant agencies to develop “further interventions”.
‘Overworked’ social workers missed multi-agency meetings discussing the family’s situation, and red tape meant they spent more time inputting data into a computer system than trying to address the problems.
Even a doctor failed to link Daniel’s shocking weight loss to physical abuse just days before his death.
The report stops short of pinning blame on any one key agency, instead stating that no professional could have predicted Daniel’s death.
But it recommends better reporting of injuries at schools and improvements in the identification and reporting of domestic abuse in families.
Helpless Daniel was starved, beaten and force-fed salt before he was brutally murdered in March last year.
His mother Magdelena Luczak and her partner Mariusz Krezolek were both jailed for 30 years for his murder.
Serious case review author Ron Lock, an independent safeguarding consultant, wrote that Daniel’s voice simply “wasn’t heard”.
He said: “Whilst some school staff were able to give helpful descriptions of Daniel in their observations of him in class, overall there is no record of any conversation held with him by any professional about his home life, his experiences outside of school, his wishes and feelings and of his relationships with his siblings, mother and her male partners.
“In this way despite Daniel being the focus of concern for all of the practitioners, in reality he was rarely the focus of their interventions.”
In total 15 recommendations are made in the report to try to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.
Among them is a suggestion that paediatricians should always consider that a child’s health problems could be caused by abuse.
Daniel was seen by a GP and safeguarding expert in February – less than a month before he was murdered.
The report describes this as a “key opportunity” to address Daniel’s problems.
Instead after being examined Daniel was given worming tablets, despite worms not being a cause of weight loss in the UK.
The GP failed to realise that Daniel’s behaviour – as described by his mother – could be the result of neglect.
It was just one of a number of situations where experts weren’t prepared to “think the unthinkable” and put forward child abuse as a reason for Daniel’s condition.
In 2011 Daniel was taken to hospital with a broken arm but Krezolek and Luczak’s explanation – that he had fallen from a sofa – was quickly accepted.
The report states that the injury could and should have been viewed in a different light and the opportunity to explore the situation further was not taken.
Little Heath Primary School in Foleshill, where Daniel spent several months, is also criticised for having a “dysfunctional” response to safeguarding.
The report states: “With the background of mounting concerns by the school about Daniel’s obsession to seek out food, as well as poor growth and possible loss of weight, it was surprising and very concerning that these injuries were not linked to those concerns.”
The school’s belief that Daniel had a medical reason for his plummeting weight is also highlighted in the report alongside the fact that Luczak was viewed by them in a positive light.
However the report does state that the staff members got a teacher from a neighbouring school – who spoke Polish – to chat with Daniel three days before he died.
Daniel wasn’t communicative though and the teacher said she was not sure how much he understood.
Daniel Pelka service
The report adds: “Daniel was clearly unable to use this opportunity to explain what was happening to him – the circumstances may not have been conducive, but in some way it seemed to reflect the complete helplessness that he was no doubt experiencing.”
Mr Lock added: “No one professional, with what they knew of Daniel’s circumstances, suspected or could have predicted that he would be killed.
“This was a complex and tragic case. Daniel’s mother seemed plausible in her concerns about him, Daniel’s siblings appeared well cared for and no concerns were expressed by neighbours or the wider community.
“Strong concerns nevertheless emerged about Daniel’s circumstances and his care, although at no point were practitioners who had contact with him prepared to think the unthinkable and consider that he might be suffering abuse.
“But if professionals had used more enquiring minds, and been more focused in their intentions to address concerns, it’s likely that Daniel would have been better protected from the people who killed him.”
West Midlands Police welcomes findings in review of the Daniel Pelka death
Assistant Chief Constable Garry Forsyth accepts Daniel was not “given a voice”
West Midlands Police have issued a statement following the release of the Serious Case Review into how the authorities dealt with Daniel Pelka before his death.
Assistant Chief Constable Garry Forsyth said: “Following the tragic death of Daniel Pelka in March 2012, West Midlands Police launched a major investigation which ultimately led to the conviction of his mother, Magdalena Luczak and her partner, Mariusz Krezolek for his murder.
“Daniel ’s death has had a long-lasting impact and affect on his wider family and the communities of Coventry, as well as the officers involved in the investigation. He will never be forgotten.
“As a result of the events leading up to Daniel ’s death a Serious Case Review was launched by all agencies who had contact with Daniel prior to his death, with the Force actively contributing to this process.
“The independent review found that whilst no-one could have predicted Daniel ’s death, there were opportunities for those involved in delivering services to children in Coventry to protect him from the people who ultimately killed him.
“We welcome the recommendations from the report following Daniel ’s tragic death. The report highlights missed opportunities by agencies that had contact with Daniel and his family while living in the Coventry area. In respect of those recommendations relevant to us, the force has already put in place a number of improvements to support the safeguarding of children, including improved sharing of information with our partners.
“We accept that Daniel was not “given a voice” and that as a collective group all agencies should always have direct and independent engagement with a child when domestic abuse is reported. Domestic abuse is always a child protection issue.
“Since Daniel ’s death, officers have been given further guidance on being more child-focused when called to incidents of domestic abuse. It is our responsibility to ensure that the children are safe and well both physically and emotionally and not accept the word of a parent if they claim a child is not affected by domestic abuse.
“The Serious Case Review highlights that our response to domestic abuse incidents is generally good, but the report also raised the lack of consistency in dealing with separate domestic abuse reports and in risk assessing each incident. We accept there needs to be a more holistic approach when dealing with multiple incidents involving domestic abuse, in particular where children reside.
“Prior to the publication of the report improvements have and continue to be made by the Force in this area.
“Our sympathies remain with Daniel’s wider family.”
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