A cruel mother and step-dad who locked their four-year-old boy in a homemade prison cell and starved him before eventually beating him to death were yesterday found guilty murder.
Tragic Daniel Pelka suffered a campaign of “incomprehensible cruelty” at the hands of evil Magdalena Luczak, 27, and partner Marius Krezolek, 34, over a six-month period.
During a nine-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court, a jury heard harrowing details of how the callous pair had force-fed Daniel SALT, denied him meals and even “waterboarded” the youngster in the bath when he misbehaved.
When police searched the couple’s home in Coventry, West Mids., they discovered an upstairs box room with the door handle removed where Daniel had been forced to sleep on a urine-soaked mattress.
The court heard Luczak and Krezolek would regularly lock Daniel inside the makeshift prison cell and refuse to let him go to the toilet.
Forensic officers found a child’s handprints on the inside of the door where the toddler had desperately tried to escape.
Both defendants admitted leaving him inside the squalid room for around 33 hours after he suffered a fatal blow to the head – only calling for help when it was too late.
Deleted internet searches recovered by police computer experts showed the couple tried to cover their tracks rather than dial 999 after Daniel collapsed from his injuries.
Queries entered into Google in the hours before Daniel’s death included ‘how to revive an unconscious person’ and ‘table salt overdose’.
The devious pair even washed and clothed Daniel’s limp body and transferred him to a different room in an attempt to disguise his mistreatment before an ambulance arrived.
Despite efforts to revive him he was pronounced dead at University Hospital Coventry on March 3, 2012 after being rushed from the couple’s home in the Holbrooks area of the city.
A post-mortem found the little lad’s emaciated body weighed just 1.5st (10kg) – 15lbs (7kg) below average – at the time of his death.
Suspicions were raised when a senior detective inspected the toddler’s bruised body, which he described as looking like that of a ‘famine victim’ usually seen in Third World countries.
Both defendants, giving evidence through Polish interpreters, denied inflicting the blow which led to Daniel’s death.
But a jury rejected their version of events and found both guilty of murder yesterday.
The four women and eight men took around four hours to reach a unanimous verdict on both defendants.
The pair, who had previously pleaded guilty to an additional child cruelty charge, remained emotionless as the foreman read out the verdict.
Judge Mrs Justice Laura Cox adjourned the case until Friday morning, when Krezolek and Luczak will be sentenced.
Both now face mandatory life terms.
The trial heard how investigations revealed Luczak and Krezolek had exchanged texts egging each other on as their abuse of the boy escalated.
In one chilling message Luczak, originally from Lodz, Poland, boasted how she had ‘almost drowned’ Daniel in the bath and said she would do it again if he disturbed her ‘quiet time’.
The devious mum managed to hoodwink education staff and doctors into believing her son had an eating disorder, when she and Krezolek were responsible for his dramatic weight loss.
On one occasion she even bribed Daniel with a chocolate bar if he promised to stay silent about his abuse.
Teachers at Little Heath Primary School, Coventry, said Daniel would steal food and was even caught scavenging through BINS and eating scraps from the floor in a desperate attempt to feed himself.
Daniel once scoffed half a cake designed to feed 15 ADULTS when left unsupervised in a classroom.
Staff also noticed bruising to the toddler’s neck and grazes to his face – but were told they were caused by falls or scuffles with other children.
Krezolek, who nicknamed Daniel ‘Rudy’, a Polish term meaning ‘ginger’, would force him to perform squats or kneel for extended periods of time as a punishment for stealing food.
In a statement Daniel’s heartbroken father Eryk Pelka, who gave evidence during the trial, said after the verdict: “It’s a great tragedy that such a little angel had to leave this world.
“I am glad that those responsible have been tried fairly and will be punished severely.”
A probe into the handling of Daniel’s case by social services and other agencies has been widened after details of several missed opportunities to intervene emerged during the trial.
The court heard police were called to the couple’s home over a YEAR before Daniel was murdered when he broke his arm in January 2011.
Krezolek and Luczak said he had fallen off a sofa and officers decided not to continue the investigation after just one interview with a young family member.
Coventry Safeguarding Children Board, which is heading the serious case review, said new information had come to light during the trial.
Chair Amy Weir said: “Today’s verdict brings to an end a trial which has shocked and affected everyone who has heard over recent weeks about the tragic details of Daniel’s life and subsequent death.
“The trial has shown how Daniel died at the hands of two cold-hearted and violent people – the two people whom Daniel should have expected to protect and look after him.
“Instead they subjected him to a cycle of cruelty and violence while aiming to deceive everyone else who came into contact with him.
“We are very satisfied with the outcome of the trial and pay tribute, in particular, to the incredible bravery of Daniel’s sibling who provided crucial evidence.
“Alongside the police investigation the Coventry Safeguarding Children Board has been carrying out a Serious Case Review into Daniel’s death.
“The review to date has scrutinised and challenged the actions of all the agencies and organisations that had an involvement in Daniel’s life.
“It has considered whether more could or should have been done to protect Daniel.
“However new information has emerged during the trial.
“Therefore the Safeguarding Children Board will consider the work completed so far on the review in the light of all the evidence presented in court.
“We will aim to publish the final review within six weeks.”
Gil Mulhall, head teacher at Little Heath Primary School, also paid tribute to Daniel after the verdict.
She said: “Although he only attended our school for six months, Daniel will be remembered by everyone who knew him during his all too brief time here and his death has had a devastating impact on our school community.
“A quiet, unassuming boy, Daniel was accepted and liked by his classmates and has been greatly missed.
“This can be seen in the way his school mates wanted to remember Daniel when we spoke to them after his tragic death.
“This resulted in a memorial bench and garden being created in the school grounds as everyone agreed Daniel liked the outdoors. He also had an interest in nature so we have planted an apple tree on each side of the bench.
“There is not a day that goes by where Daniel is not remembered by staff at our school and our heart goes out to the brave little boy we knew and his surviving siblings.”