The abuse and murder of four-year-old Daniel Pelka completely horrified the nation of Britain and raised a number of questions as to why teachers at his school, who knew that he was being abused at home, did not intervene.
Daniel was a four-year-old boy living in Coventry, central England, with his Polish mother, Magdalena Luczak and her Polish boyfriend, Mariusz Krezolek. Magdalena had come to Britain in 2005 with her former boyfriend and Daniel was born on the 15th of July, 2007. The following year, however, Magdalena and Daniel’s father split up and two years later, Mariuz entered the picture.
The relationship between the couple was tumultuous to say the very least. In August of 2010, police were called to the home following an altercation between Magdalena and Mariusz during which Magdalena sustained a small cut from a knife and was choked into unconsciousness. According to Magdalena, Mariusz was drunk at the time and no charges were made against him.
In early 2011, Daniel was taken to hospital with a broken arm and while here, the nurses noticed that he had a number of bruises on his arm, left shoulder and lower stomach. Nurses suspected that Daniel was potentially being abused at home so Children, Learning and Young People Directorate were ordered to complete Core Assessment of the family and the outcome of which would be fed back to relative professionals. The report found that Magdalena could care for Daniel.
In September of that same year, Daniel was enrolled in primary school. Just two months later, the school contacted Magdalena to inform her that Daniel is seemingly fixated on food. They informed her that he had stolen food from other children’s lunch boxes and was often taking more fruit than the other children from the fruit corner in his classroom. Magdalena informed the school that Daniel must not eat more than what she provided for him in his lunchbox, which was said to be the bare minimum.
Several months later, the deputy head teacher organised a meeting with Magdalena regarding Daniel’s so-called food obsession. According to his teachers, he “looked for food everywhere and would eat whatever he could get his hands on.” On one occasion, he had eaten half a cake which was for a teacher’s birthday. In addition, Daniel would scavenge the bins and beg other children to share their food with him. According to Magdalena, Daniel had an “eating disorder” and told the head teacher that Daniel must not be fed at school because he will binge and then vomit at home.
To most people, it was evident that Daniel was being denied food at home. He had gone from a healthy and happy child to skinny and disheveled. In fact, Daniel was being systematically starved at home to the point that he was emaciated. The starvation was so severe that Daniel’s bones had stopped growing.
Over the course of a number of months, Daniel was subjected to deliberate and escalating brutality at the hands of Magdalena and Mariusz. He was forced to swallow salt, held under cold water until he fell unconscious and was subjected to regular brutal beatings. These beatings would take place in a room where the door handle had been removed and the keyhole had been blocked. Daniel would be locked inside this darkened room and the inside of the door would be dotted with small hand and fingermarks which showed Daniel’s desperate attempt to escape from the room.1 He wasn’t allowed to leave the room to use the bathroom and was forced to defecate on his own mattress.2
Between December of 2011 and February of 2012, Daniel was seen in school with a number of injuries, many of which were facial injuries. The school had failed to properly record all of these injuries but they included four bruises down the neck to the shoulder, black bruises on the eyes and a scratch across the nose, a bruise to the center of his forehead, a large bump on the left side of his forehead, a graze to his forehead. Despite the fact that these injuries were extremely noticeable and severe, they were never reported to police or to Children, Learning and Young People Directorate.
On the 1st of March, Daniel received one final beating. After coming home from school, Daniel wet himself. Mariusz knocked Daniel to the ground by hitting him on the back of his head. He then took him into the darkened room and continued to beat him.3 Daniel never woke up. The following day, Magdalena googled: “care – patient in a coma” as well as “salt poisoning.” She text Mariusz informing him that Daniel was still not awake but he replied that Daniel would “get over it” and that calling an ambulance would “cause proper problems.”4
The following morning, the couple finally called 999. It was already much too late for Daniel who was pronounced dead half an hour later at hospital. It was evident that Daniel had suffered prolonged abuse and neglect. His autopsy revealed 22 separate injuries, 10 of which were severe and to the head. His cause of death was determined to be brain injury and the manner of death was homicide. Experts likened Daniel’s appearance to that of a concentration camp survivor; he weighed only 24lbs.
As news of Daniel’s murder swept across the nation, many were left questioning why the school had failed to report the signs of evident abuse and neglect. Local lawmaker, Geoffrey Robinson said that Daniel had been let down not only by his mother and stepfather but by his school, health professionals and social services.
A serious case review would be ordered and it would find that chances were missed to save Daniel and that critical lessons must be translated into action. It found that excuses by Magdalena were accepted at face value, that Daniel’s voice was not heard because English was not his first language, that there was no record of any conversation held with Daniel about his home life and that there were too many missed changes for intervention. It also found that Daniel was not confident enough in himself or in his English that he did not speak up about the abuse.
The report did not blame or identity any individual agency but said that the professionals involved were “too optimistic” about what they had seen and just moved on to the next case. Nobody was ever disciplined as a direct result of Daniel’s death.5
In the wake of the murder, both Magdalena and Mariusz turned on each other and blamed the other for the death of Daniel. Magdalena claimed that she had tried to protect her son but was the victim of domestic abuse herself. During their trial, neither one showed a semblance of remorse for what they had done to Daniel and instead, both denied they had killed him. In August of 2013, Magdelena Luczak and Mariusz Krezolek were found guilty of Daniel’s murder and sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison. When handing down the sentences, Judge Laura Cox said that the sentences reflected the “unimaginable acts of cruelty and brutality.”
“His death should be on all of our consciences.”Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
On the 14th of July, 2015, Magdalena hanged herself in prison. It was the day before Daniel would have turned 8-years-old. Six months later, Mariusz died from a heart attack in prison. He had refused medical help out of fear that people would recognize him.
- The Leader-Post, 3 August, 2013 – “Couple Jailed for Murdering Boy”
- BBC News, 3 July, 2013 – “Daniel Pelka Was Held Underwater in Bath”
- BBC News, 15 July, 2013 – “Daniel Pelka Murder Trial”
- BBC News, 16 September, 2013 – “Timeline: Missed Opportunities in Daniel Pelka Case”
- BBC News, 17 September, 2013 – “Starved Boy Daniel Pelka Invisible to Professionals”