UK

Starved Boy Daniel Pelka Ate Food from School Bins

06/06/2013 11:29 BST

A four-year-old boy who was allegedly starved and murdered by his mother and stepfather tried to eat food from the bins at school, a teacher has said.

Beatrice O'Brien, a teaching assistant, said she and other teachers watched Daniel Pelka reach into a bin in the playground on one occasion, "pick out either the core of an apple or a pear, and (he) started to eat it"

daniel pelka

Daniel Pelka was a 'bag of bones' during the time leading up to his death

She said shortly before his death he felt "like a bag of bones" and his skin was "ashen-coloured".

The Crown alleges that Daniel died from a head injury following an "incomprehensible'' campaign of abuse at the hands of Magdelena Luczak and her partner, Mariusz Krezolek.

On day three of their trial at Birmingham Crown Court on Thursday, the jury heard that teachers at Little Heath Primary School watched from the staffroom as Daniel, 30ft away, reached into a bin.

"We watched him walk up to the bin, look to see if anyone was looking and pick out either the core of an apple or a pear and he started to eat it," said Mrs O'Brien.

Later that same day, she said he took an empty tube of yoghurt from a bin in the classroom "and was trying to get the last bit of yoghurt out".

"I said to him 'Oh no Daniel, don't do that'," said Mrs O'Brien.

The problem of Daniel taking food in school became so frequent that Mrs O'Brien said teachers stopped punishing him, and started "gently" explaining to him what he was doing was wrong.

She said: "We started to think it was an obvious problem and almost became something he couldn't help."

She added that the instances of him taking food grew as time went on from "once or twice" to "any opportunity".

"I believed he might have had some sort of eating disorder."

On the last afternoon he was at school, Mrs O'Brien said he tried to shell and eat "dried kidney beans" that were part of the children's sandtable.

"He had sand around his mouth," she said.

"Then I really noticed that the sand didn't really stick - there wasn't much saliva and his mouth seemed very dry."

She passed her concerns on to colleagues at the time.

When he first started at the school in September 2011, she described him as "quiet, he was small, he had a cheeky side".

"Sometimes he could be quite awkward or stubborn if he didn't like the look of an activity," Mrs O'Brien said.

Describing how he looked on the last day he attended school, 1 March 2012, she said: "I was very concerned. He did not look at all well and he had lost a lot of weight. His skin colour was ashen, it wasn't healthy."

She added that he had "dark circles under his eyes" and said she tickled him on one occasion, because of her concerns about his health, to find "he felt like a bag of bones" .

Mrs O'Brien said Daniel started school with a smart haircut and well-fitting uniform, but towards the end of his life "he seemed to be wasting away", his hair was untidy, and his uniform was too big for him.

Mrs O'Brien said Daniel was "quite solitary" and he "walked around with his hands in his pockets".

Earlier, headteacher Darren Clews said Luczak and Krezolek went to the school on Monday 5 March looking "upset" and explained to him that Daniel had died.

Afterwards, Luczak's barrister Stephen Linehan QC said it was accepted that his client had given Mr Clews a false account of the events leading up to the child's death.

Mr Clews confirmed the details of the school's register showing that between 14 September 2011, when Daniel started school, and his death in March 2012, he had missed 28-and-a-half days at school.

Daniel, whose mother and stepfather came to Britain from Poland in 2006, was pronounced dead in the early hours of 3 March after paramedics were called to his home in Coventry.

Krezolek, 33, and Luczak, 27, deny murder and causing or allowing the death of a child.

Nicola Griffiths, another teaching assistant, described how the class had been planting different types of beans in the soil to see if they would grow.

"During this exercise I was keeping an eye on Daniel," said Mrs Griffiths.

"I turned to help somebody else and when I turned back, he had soil around his mouth.

"Daniel had been eating the baked beans (we had planted) from out of the soil."

She said if Daniel was ever asked to get changed he would never cry but instead "whimper".

On two occasions she said he came to school with injuries, including one "on the bridge of his nose" and another bruise the size of a two-pence piece on the left-hand side of his forehead.

She reported these injuries to staff on both occasions she said.

The trial, which is expected to last for up to eight weeks, was adjourned until Friday.

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