An emaciated four-year-old boy died of a head injury after being subjected to a campaign of "incomprehensible" cruelty by his mother and stepfather, a court has heard. Daniel Pelka, whose physical condition was likened by a doctor to that of a concentration camp victim, is alleged to have been deliberately starved over several months. Jurors sitting at Birmingham Crown Court heard claims that the youngster was "imprisoned" in a bedroom, which had no door handles, and force-fed salt.
Daniel, whose mother and stepfather came to Britain from Poland in 2006, was pronounced dead in the early hours of March 3 after paramedics were called to his home in Coventry. His mother, Magdelena Luczak, and her partner, Mariusz Krezolek, both deny murdering Daniel and causing or allowing his death in March 2012.
Opening the case against the couple at the start of what is expected to be an eight-week trial, prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC alleged that text messages provided compelling evidence of their guilt. In one message to her partner in February last year, which was read to the jury, Daniel's mother is alleged to have said: "He's temporarily unconscious as I nearly drowned him. I am having some quiet time."
Krezolek is alleged to have told Daniel's mother in another message sent on October 7, 2011: "Lead or take him to the room and lock him there. You will have some peace and do wait for me." Jurors heard that Krezolek was sent another message by Luczak which read: "We will deal with (Daniel) after school. He won't see grub at all."
During his opening speech, Mr Hankin said the prosecution submitted that Daniel, who was found to have suffered a subdural haematoma, was unconscious when a text message was sent from Luczak to Krezolek at 4.34pm on Friday March 2. The message, translated from Polish, is alleged to have read: "He'll get over it by tomorrow. There is no point to stress ourselves out and to call an ambulance because that will cause proper problems."
Daniel, whose body was found to have 24 distinct areas of injury, was formally pronounced dead at hospital after a 999 call made by Krezolek at 3.07am on March 3. A post-mortem examination found Daniel had "groups of injury" on his head, trunk and all four limbs, and discernible bruising to his right scalp. Medical experts who took part in the post-mortem found that he had very little body fat and "markedly reduced" muscle bulk, Mr Hankin said.
Jurors were also told that an expert in gastroenterology, who will give evidence to the trial, judged that the schoolboy was "extremely emaciated" and had a body mass index so low that it could not be plotted on a chart. Another witness who will testify at the trial believed that one had to look to areas of the developing world, particularly Gambia, for cases of comparable gravity, Mr Hankin added.
The Crown alleges the boy's emaciation was the consequence of an inadequate food intake and that no evidence of a physical disorder was found. One health professional involved in caring for Daniel when he was taken to Coventry's University Hospital was "horrified" by what she saw, the court heard. The court was told that the doctor, who had 19 years of medical experience, said Daniel's body resembled pictures she had seen in text books, and that lay people would understand by bringing to mind images of children starved in concentration camps during the Second World War.
Another expert is to tell the court that the level of malnutrition could have happened in a minimum of three months, but most likely occurred over a period of between seven and nine months. Details of internet searches on a computer found in the bedroom shared by Luczak and Krezolek were also presented to the jury.
The internet history showed that searches for "When a child stops responding" and "care, patient in coma" were conducted on the morning of March 2. Mr Hankin told the jury: "Some time between the evening of Thursday March 1 and the late morning on Friday March 2, it is the prosecution case that Daniel was subjected to a violent assault in his own home by one or the other, or both, of the defendants. Irrespective of who landed the fatal blow, each bears responsibility for his murder. This act of cruelty and violence was not an isolated incident. Leading up to his death, he was subjected to a campaign of incomprehensible and escalating cruelty."
Krezolek, 33, and Luczak, 27, have both admitted a charge of child cruelty but deny causing Daniel's death. The trial was adjourned until Tuesday.
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