Daniel Pelka case continues to haunt city two years on
- 3 March 2014
- From the section Coventry & Warwickshire
Two years ago, Daniel Pelka died in Coventry. The four-year-old had suffered a life of starvation and physical abuse at the hands of his mother Magdalana Luczak and stepfather Marius Kresholek.
A serious case review into Daniel's death criticised his school, health professionals and social services for missing opportunities to help him. It is a case that continues to haunt those involved in child protection.
Social worker Chris Horne was sent to Daniel's home with police just before Luczak and Kresholek were arrested on suspicion of murder in March 2012. His job was to assess whether Daniel's siblings should be taken into care.
He had never met Daniel and said there were no obvious signs of the brutal murder that had already taken place at the property.
"Everything seemed fairly normal... it wasn't till afterwards we looked further into the home we found there were dozens of air fresheners to cover up the smell.
"The box room that Daniel was kept in was kept out of the way, it didn't looked particularly used.
"They'd done a job of making the home look like a very normal home, so on exiting the home with Daniel's siblings we were still worried we'd actually done potential damage to this family by removing the children."
Mr Horne said Luczak was in tears and appeared "inconsolable".
He said: "Mum was absolutely distraught, appeared in every way a loving mother who'd lost the child she'd loved, was in tears about the other children being taken into care. The step-dad was very calm, very considered."
Later, it emerged Daniel had been subjected to "terrifying and dreadful" abuse at the hands of his mother and her partner.
A teaching assistant described him as a "bag of bones" and the murder trial heard he had been "wasting away". At the time of his death, the schoolboy weighed just over a stone-and-a-half (10kg).
Much of the detail that emerged in the trial about the level of abuse Daniel suffered was "completely unknown" to the professionals involved, the review found.
No-one has been disciplined as a direct result of Daniel's death.
Mr Horne said: "Social care made mistakes, there were assessments that weren't good enough.
"The social workers involved at the time didn't have the support from partner agencies that they should have done and if they had that information to hand maybe they would have made a different decision.
"But we didn't do enough to protect Daniel and we took it all personally.
"I wasn't there, I was still at university when Daniel's first assessments were done. But when a child dies in your area under your watch then we all take it really personally, we collectively failed."
The review said "critical lessons" must be "translated into action".
Luczak, 27, and Krezolek, 34, were told they must serve at least 30 years in jail after being found guilty of murder at Birmingham Crown Court in July.
"We think about him all the time and that's how much he's affected our practice," Mr Horne said.
"Everyone's read the serious case review, everyone knows his case inside and out because we do feel responsible and we feel like we shouldn't let it happen again.
"In the office now, Daniel is always at the forefront of everyone's mind. There isn't a week that goes past where someone doesn't mention him."