Image from BBC News.
Magdelena Luczak and her partner Mariusz Krezolek were convicted of murder, having previously admitted cruelty to a child. The victim was Luczak’s son, 4 year old Daniel Pelka.
The couple came to Britain in 2006 from Poland. It was alleged that they worked as a team to systematically starve Daniel to death. During the trial, his condition was likened to that of a concentration camp victim by a doctor.
Her case was that she cared for Daniel in the mornings and gave him breakfast. Krezolek cared for him in the afternoons and initially gave him smaller portions to discipline him, but later stopped feeding him all together. Daniel lost a lot of weight over the school holidays and this was noticed by teachers at school.
The prosecution alleged that Daniel was forced to steal food from school and that there were text messages from Luczak to Krezolek discussing bribing Daniel with food to keep quiet about being beaten. Luczak admitted bribing him. She also admitted prohibiting Daniel’s school teacher from giving him food; she said this was to protect him from Krezolek, the inference being that he would be violent if he found out.
It was also alleged that Krezolek fed Daniel salt and water so that he was sick and brought up the food he had eaten at school before his body could gain proper nourishment from it,
Luczak denied assaulting Daniel but admitted that she should have done more to protect him as she ‘knew what was really going on at home’.
When asked why she had not taken Daniel to the doctors, she replied “Because Daniel would always have a lot of bruises.
“I tried to make it secret, what was happening to him. That is why I didn’t go to the doctor.”
When asked why, she said “It wasn’t me, it was [Krezolek] but I knew what was happening. I myself don’t understand my actions. I must have loved [Krezolek] to allow such a thing.”
Daniel died in hospital of severe head injuries on 3 March 2012.
Both denied murder but were convicted on 31 July 2013.
Both Luczak and Krezolek ran defences which blamed each other; Luczak said that Krezolek would not let her feed Daniel and maintained that she had tried to protect Daniel from Krezolek, who was abusive.
Krezolek said in evidence that Luczak stopped him calling an ambulance after Daniel fell because she was concerned social services would notice his bruises.
He said the boy had lost consciousness while Luczak was getting him ready for a bath and Daniel was left for 24-26 hours after his fall before he was seen by a paramedic.
Daniel’s death is- the subject of a serious case review by Coventry’s Safeguarding Children Board.
Here is our guide to sentencing in murder cases.
The life sentence is mandatory for those convicted of murder. But the Judge has to set the minimum term to be spent in prison before the pair are eligible for release.
A whole life tariff is normally the starting point in cases the case of the murder of a child if involving sadistic motivation. Now arguably starving and beating the Daniel to death could constitute sadistic motivation, however it seems unlikely that the court would construe this case as one which is appropriate for a whole life order.
This highlights the fallibility of the ‘starting points’ system in the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
This case has no features which would fall into either the 30 year or 25 year starting points. So, the starting point would seem to be 15 years, which is a lifetime away from the whole life order that appeared to be hanging in the balance just a few moments ago.
The court then has to consider the aggravating and mitigating factors. The prolonged, wilful and no doubt painful nature of Daniel’s treatment and his subsequent death, and the abuse of trust are certainly going to result in an upward adjustment from the 15 year figure.
The question is simply ‘by how much?’
We will return to the case when the pair are sentenced on Friday 2 August.