When news happens, text AND and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email and phone.
'Chances missed' to save Daniel
Chance after chance was missed to intervene in the case of a tragic four-year-old boy who was beaten to death by his mother and stepfather.
A serious case review into the death of Daniel Pelka found repeated failures by the agencies set up to safeguard children's welfare but concluded nobody could have predicted his death at the hands of an abusive mother and stepfather last year.
The review found Daniel was at times rendered "invisible" in the eyes of health professionals, school staff and social workers in the presence of controlling Magdelena Luczak and brutal former soldier Mariusz Krezolek, who "misled and deceived" a host of child protection agencies by spinning a "web of lies" to conceal systematic abuse of the boy.
Daniel, from Coventry, died of a head injury on March 3, 2012. The report also revealed for the first time, through 27 separate police logs recorded between 2006 and 2011, how Daniel grew up in a household dominated by routine domestic violence and alcohol abuse. Luczak and Krezolek, both originally from Poland, were convicted of the youngster's murder following a trial earlier this year and are now each serving a minimum of 30 years behind bars. During their trial at Birmingham Crown Court, the jury heard how Daniel had been kept locked in a box room as a virtual prisoner, fed salt, and routinely beaten - at one point his mother held his head under water in the bath.
The serious case review, carried out in any case of child death where there is a suspicion of abuse or neglect, concluded several critical opportunities were missed to intervene in Daniel's care. There was too much reliance in accepting Luczak and Krezolek's version of events, with the report concluding health professionals and social workers could instead have dared to "think the unthinkable". The review by Coventry Safeguarding Children Board has published 15 recommendations aimed at preventing such a failure happening again. These include calls for greater communication and co-ordination between the different child protection agencies, and a strengthening of working procedures and staff training.
Published in the report for the first time are West Midlands Police logs, revealing Luczak had three consecutive partners who were abusive to her, and charting how officers would be called to the family home to find one or other of the adults drunk. In one incident in 2008, Luczak, 27, was reported as being in the street having taken an overdose "because her partner had left her", although no reference was made to Daniel who would have been six months old at the time. In another in May 2010, officers arrested Krezolek on suspicion of assault at home after Luczak claimed he had slammed her finger in the door, with police recording that Daniel was at home at the time.
The safeguarding children board said there was "inconsistency" in when referrals were made by the police and how they were dealt with. The review also looked at several missed opportunities by child welfare agencies to intervene on Daniel's behalf, including in January 2011, when he was brought in to accident and emergency with a broken arm caused, his mother and stepfather falsely claimed, when he jumped off a sofa at home. A doctor did refer the issue to social services, who then carried out an assessment, but a follow-up was deemed unnecessary. The safeguarding children board reflected that at no point was Daniel spoken to on his own by social services about his home life. The review also pointed to the last six months of Daniel's life when there were "a number of missed or delayed opportunities to intervene more effectively to assess and respond to the mounting concerns about Daniel's behaviours, physical injuries, lack of growth and weight loss".
Amy Weir, chairman of the Coventry Safeguarding Children Board, said that she "accepted" a clearer understanding of who is responsible for a child had to be established. She added that the death of Pelka had "severely affected" those involved in the case.
Asked if the police could have done more for Daniel, assistant chief constable Garry Forsyth, of West Midlands Police, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Absolutely, that's quite clear in the review. While it says we dealt with each of the domestic abuse incidents reasonably well what we didn't do was give Daniel a voice in those investigations and we had an opportunity to do that and that was clearly a missed opportunity." Asked if he felt his officers let Daniel down, Mr Forsyth said: "Quite clearly we could have done more for Daniel and we should have done more for Daniel and I want to focus going forward to make sure that we have a much stronger child focus and everybody has been touched by this, all of the people involved in it, it's a truly tragic and heartbreaking case and yes I would accept we should and could have done more for Daniel."
Dr Sharon Binyon, medical director at the Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, told Today that improvements had been introduced, including better reporting of domestic violence, with school nurses and health visitors informed if any child is in the household. When told that was common sense and people would question why such measures were not already in place, Dr Binyon replied: "We now have the benefit of being able to do that, put that on to the child's electronic record so that it is now available for anybody making that assessment." Dr Binyon added the training of all staff had been reviewed. She said: "We are now confident our staff understand their responsibilities to act when they have concerns about children and they know how to do that, how to push the button and how to bring the professionals together."