Innocently running after the mother who was about to murder him: Haunting final image of starved boy, four, before parents battered him and left him to die in a box room for 33 HOURS
- Daniel Pelka, four, died after sustaining massive blow to the head
- Mother Magdalena Luczak and partner Mariusz Krezolek found guilty of murdering the schoolboy after months of abuse
- Daniel was forced to scavenge food from school bins in the final weeks of his life because he was so hungry
- Schoolboy's biological father says he hopes the killers rot in jail
- He was 'imprisoned' in a tiny box room and forced to sleep on an old mattress in a room which stank of urine
- To donate to a fund set up in memory of Daniel Pelka click here
By ROB COOPER
Running after his mother, Daniel Pelka appears to be just like any other child in the playground at the end of a school day.
But 36 hours after this CCTV footage captured him leaving his friends, he was dead, murdered by his evil mother Magdelena Luczak, 27, and stepfather Mariusz Krezolek, 34.
They were both found guilty at Birmingham Crown Court today of the murder of the four-year-old who was starved so badly that he was forced to scavenge food from school bins and steal from classmates.
He suffered months of abuse in which he was regularly imprisoned in a locked room at the family home in Coventry, force-fed salt, and made to perform arduous punishment exercises.
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Final hours: Daniel (circled in green) is seen leaving Little Heath Primary School in Coventry with his mother (circled in yellow) just 36 hours before he died
Mother who would murder him: Daniel, aged four, runs after his mother Mariusz Krezolek hours before he was killed
Murdered schoolboy: Daniel Pelka, aged four, died severely malnourished after being starved in the months leading up to his death by his mother and stepfather
The couple - who tried to blame each other for the abuse Daniel suffered - face life behind bars when they are sentenced on Friday.
Daniel was regularly 'imprisoned' in a locked room, force-fed salt and made to perform arduous punishment exercises.
After the case, Detective Inspector Chris Hanson described it as 'a callous and wretched murder'. He said the boy's mother and stepfather 'showed him no compassion, no care and not an ounce of kindness'.
Eryk Pelka, Daniel's biological father, said he hoped the two killers would 'rot' in prison.
The couple, both originally from Poland, hid the horrifying abuse by claiming Daniel had an eating disorder.
Jurors were told how Daniel was left to die in his unheated 'cell' for around 33 hours after suffering a fatal head injury at his Coventry home on March 1 last year.
For at least five months before his death, Daniel was kept in the boxroom where he was imprisoned with nothing but a flimsy, stained mattress.
Luczak and Krezolek used vanilla-scented air fresheners to mask the smell of urine in the shabby room.
When police first arrived at the house after Daniel's death, his killers had put a child's bicycle and other items inside to mock an air of normality.
The door handle had been removed on the inside and a metal plate covering the lock was upside down so that he could not even look out of the room.
Guilty: Luczak, left, and Krezolek, right, who were today found guilty of murder. They will be sentenced on Friday
Final days: CCTV grab of tragic Daniel Pelka with friends at school just days before he was murdered
Final days: Daniel's face is seen in school just days before he died severely malnourished
Prison: The tiny unfurnished box room that Daniel was locked in for hours on end. The urine-soaked room had only a mattress. The door had been tampered with so Daniel could not get out
Filthy: A dirty mattress Daniel Pelka was forced to sleep on during his confinement in the box room in his home in Coventry
Convicted killers: Magdelena Luczak, Daniel's mother, and his stepfather Mariusz Krezolek who were today found guilty of murder by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court
Horrific: A graphic issued by police which shows the catalogue of injuries on Daniel Pelka's body
Detective Inspector Hanson told Birmingham Crown Court: 'I guess as the penny dropped or the realisation hit us, we were certain that that's where Daniel was sleeping.
'The room smelt strongly of urine, the carpet was wet, some of the walls appeared wet and damp, there was mould on the walls and you could clearly see palm and fingerprints belonging to a child on that door.
'Because of their height and because they are tiny, they are consistent, in my opinion, with a child of around three or four years old.
'I could see that the door had been adapted to essentially become a prison cell door so that once the door was closed, anybody left in that room had no chance of getting out.'
Former soldier Krezolek - described in court as a heartless 'monster' - and Luczak blamed each other for Daniel's death during the trial.
But text messages between the pair proved they worked as a team to inflict the sickening abuse and even decided not to summon an ambulance as Daniel lay dying with more than 20 separate injuries.
The pair also carried out Google searches - including one for 'patient in a coma' - which suggested the youngster had been beaten, subjected to an attempted drowning, and poisoned with salt during his final hours.
Krezolek, by his own admission, also went online to check his bank account and the price of car tyres after Daniel, who weighed just one stone 9 lbs, was repeatedly struck around the head, causing his brain to swell.
The serious case review will examine why social services and police did not become involved after staff at Coventry's Little Heath Primary School noticed bruising on his neck and what appeared to be two black eyes.
Although the injuries to the neck were entered in a concerns book at Daniel's school, no written record was made of the later bruising seen around his eyes.
The trial heard Luczak played a leading role in convincing teachers and medical professionals that Daniel's dramatic weight loss, which left him looking like a famine victim, was due to a rare genetic disorder.
Guilty: Magdalena Luczak, 27, left, told police she had been raped by her partner to try and cover up the fact they were starving and beating four-year-old Daniel Pelka (right)
'Doting': Daniel's stepfather Mariusz Krezolek cradles a baby in this family photo. His treatment of the child is a far cry from the abuse he meted out on Daniel
During the meeting with the paediatrican, Dr Supratik Chakraborthy, Krezolek laughed out loud as Luczak explained how Daniel had once eaten discarded chips he had picked up from a pavement.
Medical records show Daniel weighed 14.8kg in January 2011 and 13.8kg three weeks before his death.
But the schoolboy, who had developed normally until January 2011, weighed just 10.7kg and was in a state of 'skeletal emaciation' at the time of his death on March 3 last year.
Experts in paediatric development told the court Daniel had low iron stores, low zinc stores, wafer thin body fat, and barely any muscle at the point of his death.
Although he should been around 3ft 9ins, he was only 3ft 3ins because his bones had stopped growing due to food deprivation over at least three months and possibly up to nine months.
Questioning: Luczak - seen in a court artist's sketch - was accused of having lied to try and 'save her own skin' today during her trial at Birmingham Crown Court
Factory worker Krezolek and Luczak, who did not ill-treat a sibling of Daniel, were both drinking heavily and taking drugs, including cannabis and amphetamine, at the time of the abuse.
The couple, who never took Daniel to see his GP, had previously colluded in covering up an earlier act of cruelty in which Daniel's left arm was broken 'clean in half' by Krezolek in a fit of temper.
Social services closed their file on Daniel five months after the injury was passed off as an accident in January 2011.
During the trial Prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC alleged the fractured limb may have been a trigger for the later abuse, which escalated after Daniel began attending school in September 2011.
Daniel is said by witnesses to have been 'disappearing' inside his school uniform and looked 'desperate and lonely' as he lost weight.
In their evidence to the court, Krezolek, 34, and Luczak, 27, admitted they had gone to sleep on both nights that Daniel lay dying in the box room, and even had sex after his death.
Among the text messages which showed that the couple 'took relish' in their abuse, was one saying 'he won't see grub at all' and another stating that he had nearly been drowned.
Devastated father: Eryk Pelka, Daniel's biological dad, leaves court after giving evidence against his son's mother and stepfather at an earlier hearing during the nine-week trial
A message sent by Krezolek on October 7, 2011, also urged Luczak to lock Daniel in the box room and wait for him to return home.
Krezolek, who served jail sentences for driving while disqualified in 2006, 2007 and 2008, denied murder and causing or allowing Daniel's death.
Luczak denied murder but had admitted through her counsel that she was guilty of causing or allowing her son's death.
Due to the convictions for murder, no verdicts were required from the jury on the lesser alternative charge of causing death.
Mr Pelka, Daniel's father, said that social services and Daniel's school 'could have done more', and insisted he would have taken care of his son if Luczak had asked him to do that.
'If Magde had called me and said she couldn't cope with the child, I would have taken Daniel here to Poland for sure,' he said.
Mr Pelka added: 'I never got a single message. If only I had got it I would have taken him for sure. We have two kids right now and we would have had three then and Daniel would still be alive.'
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: 'Seeing the photos of little Daniel, smiling despite everything he was going through, it is hard to believe that anybody could ever wish to do him any harm.
'That his own mother and her partner colluded to make his short life such a living hell, is even harder to comprehend.
'Magdalena Luczak and Mariusz Krezolek deliberately spun a web of lies to cover up their evil abuse and evaded any help they were offered.
'However, once again crucial questions need to be asked about how a youngster slipped through the child protection net with the most catastrophic of consequences.
'The indications that Daniel was suffering for some months should have been plain to see - he was disappearing in front of people's eyes.'
The 999 call that came too late: How Daniel's mother and stepfather failed to act
By the time Mariusz Krezolek summoned urgent medical help by dialling 999 at 3.07am on March 3 last year, Daniel Pelka was already dead.
Although paramedics arrived just seven minutes later and made efforts to revive Daniel, they immediately noticed his emaciated body was cold to the touch and that his lips were blue.
A 10-strong medical team attempted to resuscitate the boy at Coventry's University Hospital before death was formally pronounced at 3.50am.
But detectives and medical professionals are sure Daniel had died before the emergency services were alerted - and that the 999 call featuring Krezolek and then Magdelena Luczak was a cruel and heartless sham.
After taking over the call from Krezolek, Daniel's mother gave details of his condition which were obviously bogus given the brain injury he was later found to have suffered.
Murdered: Daniel Pelka who died last year after months of abuse at the hands of his mother and stepfather
Luczak can be heard crying and giving her partner instructions in Polish on the 999 recording.
In the first of a litany of lies to the authorities about the death, Luczak told the operator: 'He started feeling very bad today.'
After asserting that Daniel had 'complained of pain' and nothing more, Luczak added: 'He's stopped breathing, please help me.'
Commenting on the emergency call, Detective Inspector Chris Hanson, who oversaw the murder inquiry, said: 'I have listened to lots of 999 calls over the years because a basic line of inquiry when a child has died is to listen to the 999 tapes because you can hear some very significant comments in the background.
'Very often you find that you can't understand what (parents) are saying because they are so anxious they're screaming for help.
'This was different because it was rather more calculated and sounded rather more coached.
'Straightaway I just felt: "that's not true, that's been staged if you like".
'I thought this is very different, it doesn't sound right - and it's been proved it wasn't.'
An overpowering stepfather who used Polish Army experience to speed boy’s starvation
Bull-necked Mariusz Krezolek used his experience of a year in the Polish Army to devise punishment exercises he knew would hasten Daniel Pelka's emaciation.
The powerfully-built plasterer, who worked in an automotive plant while living in Coventry, forced his starving stepson to use precious calories performing squats and other energy-sapping drills.
Also a trained brick-layer, Krezolek once told a work colleague that Daniel was 'retarded' and should be sent back to his biological father in Poland.
Starved Daniel Pelka pictured next to a pile of food was starved in the months before he died and was severely malnourished
'BRIGHT-EYED BOY TURNED INTO A BAG OF BONES': POLICE CHIEF REACTS TO MURDER CONVICTION
Krezolek, who boasted at work about having served jail sentences for driving offences, told the colleague in the summer of 2011: 'It's not even worth beating him because he won't feel pain as he's autistic.'
In other disturbing comments, Krezolek also informed the same work-mate that Daniel was 'all f***** up' and 'a very bad person'.
Born in the small town of Trzebnica in south-western Poland in June 1979, Krezolek showed not a shred of remorse during 17 hours and six minutes in the witness box.
The former soldier was accused of faking tears and even grinned in the absence of the jury as he sought to minimise his role during five days of testimony.
In his at times heart-breakingly callous account, Daniel's stepfather admitted he would not have subjected a child of his own to the punishments and cruelties Daniel was forced to endure.
On his fourth day in the witness box, Krezolek appeared to take pleasure from confirming he and Luczak had sex on the eve of their arrest, two nights after Daniel died.
The following exchange then took place between Krezolek - who said Daniel had been 'pushed to the back burner' - and prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC.
Mr Hankin: 'I am interested to know how you were able to treat a little boy in the way that you did, was it because he was not your own flesh and blood?'
Krezolek: 'It happened because I simply wanted to satisfy Magda.'
Mr Hankin: 'You had no respect for Daniel as a human being did you?
Krezolek: 'I did.'
Mr Hankin: 'When was the last time you cuddled him?'
Krezolek: 'I cannot remember. He simply didn't come for cuddling.'
Mr Hankin: 'You have told the jury that little boy lived in the shadow of alcoholism and violence. Who in the quiet periods needed care more than Daniel?'
Krezolek: 'Of course it was needed for Daniel more than anyone else but it was the arguments that made a man simply think about something else.'
Mr Hankin: 'When was the last time in life you tucked him into bed?'
Krezolek: 'I cannot remember.'
Mr Hankin: 'Read him a bed-time story?'
Krezolek: 'I cannot remember.'
Mr Hankin: 'When did you bathe him?'
Schoolboy: Little Heath Primary School in Coventry, West Midlands, where Daniel Pelka was a pupil. He used to scavenge food from bins in the weeks before he died because he was so hungry
Krezolek: 'I cannot remember.'
Mr Hankin: 'When was the last time in life you played with him?'
Krezolek: 'I cannot remember.'
Mr Hankin: 'This is a little boy who had been in your life for two years and you can't remember when you last tucked him in, read him a story or bathed him, or even played with him. You didn't have his best interests at heart did you?'
Krezolek: 'I think you're right. Not because I didn't want to but because my head was occupied with something else.'
Several jurors shook their heads in apparent disbelief as Krezolek again appeared to feign distress as he was shown haunting black-and-white CT scan images of Daniel's body.
Mr Hankin asked Krezolek how he could look at the deeply distressing scans without remorse.
After Krezolek claimed he was 'truly sorry' for what had happened to his stepson, Mr Hankin told him: 'You cry for yourself Mr Krezolek and not Daniel.'
The evil mother who put love of drugs, alcohol and vile boyfriend before Daniel’s basic needs
Magdelena Luczak put her use of cannabis, amphetamines and alcohol, and her 'intense' love for Mariusz Krezolek, before even the most basic needs of her four-year-old son.
Despite presenting herself in court as a fearful victim of her violent partner, Luczak was the driving force behind the cover-up which kept Daniel Pelka's plight hidden from the authorities.
Tellingly, Luczak held hands with Krezolek across the lap of a police officer at Coventry Magistrates' Court just four days after Daniel's death.
Killer mother: Luczak, 27, seen (right) holding a baby, put her use of cannabis and alcohol ahead of looking after her son Daniel, four.
Luczak appeared at ease in the dock as she and Krezolek used their thumbs to stroke each other's hands for around 20 minutes, giving the lie to her claim to be terrified of him.
A superior command of English compared with Krezolek meant Luczak was in demand to fill out benefit claim forms for Polish friends - and able to tell health workers Daniel was being given cereal in the morning, Polish stew at tea-time, and supper before going to bed.
Witnesses told the trial Luczak was aggressive towards professionals, particularly the doctors who called in social services after Daniel suffered a broken arm 14 months before his murder.
Said by her sister to be a heavy abuser of alcohol who became argumentative and sometimes violent in drink, Luczak was noted by friends to have an almost obsessive interest in her appearance.
The former cleaning worker used a dietary supplement designed to ensure her hair and nails remained healthy - at a time when Daniel's bones had stopped growing due to his needless malnutrition.
Born and raised in Lodz, the third largest city in Poland, Luczak worked as a cleaner and at a Parcelforce depot after settling in Coventry in February 2006.
Luczak, who had three previous troubled relationships with men her sister said were 'not good for her' before meeting Krezolek, told her trial she was at a loss to explain why she allowed her partner to deprive Daniel of food.
In evidence which the Crown said was simply an attempt to deflect blame onto Krezolek, Luczak, alleged that Daniel was mistreated for around five months before being beaten around the head by her partner, who then tried to strangle her.
But she admitted keeping the abuse secret - and passing up 16 opportunities to alert health and other professionals to the abuse between February 9, 2011 and February 7, 2012.
During her trial, Luczak was asked by Krezolek's barrister why she had not taken Daniel to a doctor as he lost weight.
Luczak 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's.'
Krezolek's QC, Nigel Lambert, then demanded of Luczak: 'Why on earth would you do that to your son?'
Speaking through a Polish interpreter, Luczak answered: 'I don't know ... I don't understand my behaviour.
'It wasn't me, it was Mariusz but I knew what was happening.
'I myself don't understand my actions. I must have loved Mariusz to allow such a thing.'
Bizarrely, given her treatment of Daniel and the 'foul' conditions in his room, Luczak kept the other parts of her home spotless.
Detective Inspector Chris Hanson, who led the murder inquiry, recalls that several plug-in air fresheners located throughout the house had been set to the highest setting as the couple supposedly grieved for Daniel.
Other items had been hidden from police and it is thought the air fresheners were an attempt to hide the smell from Daniel's room.
'On the outside, they did portray this normal household - the father going to work, mum looking after Daniel, but actually in reality we now know what was going on,' Mr Hanson added.
'It shows how sophisticated the conspiracy was to conceal what they were doing to Daniel from the authorities and everybody else.'
A boy who was reduced to a 'bag of bones': The catalogue of missed chances to save Daniel
In the months before his murder Daniel Pelka arrived at school with black eyes and a broken arm but chances to save him were still missed.
The four-year-old, who was systematically starved and beaten in a case of 'incomprehensible' cruelty, was even described as a 'bag of bones' and caught stealing food from bins and other pupils.
But despite his intolerable suffering he still died at the hands of his mother and step-father, Magdalena Luczak and Mariusz Krezolek under the noses of the authorities.
Missed chances: Daniel turned up at Little Heath Primary School with a broken arm and became severely malnourished in the months before his death
The schoolboy was left to die in his unheated 'cell' home for around 33 hours after suffering a fatal head injury at his Coventry home on March 1 last year.
His parents' trial, which ended in a guilty verdict for both today, heard how 22 days before he was beaten to death Daniel was seen by a community paediatrician because he was so emaciated.
The appointment with Dr Supratik Chakraborthy was just one of a string of attempts to help Daniel, who was at the centre of a police inquiry after suffering a broken arm 14 months before his death.
During his last two months of life, Daniel was also sent to school with two black eyes and observed by his class teacher to have bruising on his neck.
Although action was taken to monitor and assist Daniel and his family, a serious case review into the horrifying circumstances of his death will examine why opportunities to save him were missed.
It is also expected to look at why social services were not alerted to Daniel's plight during the campaign of starvation waged against him over six months.
The inquiry, set up by Coventry's Safeguarding Children Board, is also expected to scrutinise the investigation launched after Daniel's left arm was broken on January 5, 2011.
After Daniel was taken to Coventry's University Hospital the next day, his mother Magdelena Luczak told a consultant her son may have sustained the injury while playing in the living room.
Medics were informed that Daniel had been jumping off a sofa with his sibling and had complained of pain the following morning.
But the consultant, who counted six bruises near the displaced 'spiral' fracture to the upper arm, called in child protection experts due to doubts about Luczak's account and Daniel's delayed attendance at hospital.
At a follow-up appointment at the same hospital on January 17, Luczak became 'very angry' that social services had been contacted, towering over a specialist and telling her: 'In Poland when a child breaks his arm, the doctors look at the child, not the parents.'
The inquiry, which saw the sibling corroborate the false account, eventually led to a police decision to take no further action, and social services closed their file on Daniel in June 2011.
Missed chances: Despite the warning signs, the Little Heath Primary School pupil died at the hands of his mother and stepfather
Between July 2011 and September 2011, when Daniel started at Little Heath Primary School, there were several further contacts between health workers and Luczak.
An educational welfare officer and a school nurse also paid visits to Daniel's home on various dates between August and December 2011.
Senior and junior teaching staff, including Daniel's class teacher Lisa Godfrey and Little Heath's headmaster Darren Clews, gave evidence to the trial.
Miss Godfrey told the jury how when Daniel first attended the school he was always well-dressed and looked smart and well cared for.
Although he was noted to be solemn and not to be interacting with other children, Daniel seemed to be a child with the potential to be bright.
But he did not make the progress that other foreign-speaking pupils made and was initially observed to be eating up to five pieces of fruit a day, in addition to 'devouring' his packed lunch of Polish bread, a slice of meat and loose crisps.
During November and December 2011, Daniel was noted to be taking food from other children's lunch boxes, a problem which became progressively worse.
Evidence: Teacher Lisa Godfrey described to the court how Daniel would scavenge food from his classmates
Miss Godfrey initially spoke to Luczak in November about Daniel's behaviour and noted that she 'barely looked at' her son and was very stern with him.
In what became a common account to numerous professionals, Luczak claimed Daniel had an appointment with a doctor about his 'excessive' eating habits.
Luczak was spoken to again by Miss Godfrey before the Christmas holidays about Daniel's poor attendance levels, and claimed he had been sick after 'raiding the fridge' in the night.
During his time at Little Heath, according to staff members, if Daniel was upset he would 'whimper' rather than cry to show displeasure,
Another teacher who came into contact with Daniel said she had picked him up after he fell and he felt 'like a bag of bones'.
The same teacher told the court: 'He just felt small. He felt very skinny - it didn't feel like healthy slimness.'
Mr Clews told the court Daniel had been absent for 24 days during the autumn term - with further absences in January and February.
As a result of the concerns about attendance, the school's learning mentor contacted an educational welfare officer who later conducted visits to Daniel's home.
Following the Christmas holidays, Daniel continued to steal and scavenge for food at school, even eating half a 15-slice birthday cake.
By this time his appearance had changed markedly, and he sometimes hid food in his trousers or ate in secret.
On January 16 last year, Miss Godfrey spotted four dot-shaped bruises around the right side of Daniel's neck, which were recorded in the school's concerns book.
At the beginning of February, Luczak was again spoken to by school staff and assured them Daniel was seeing a doctor for his problems.
At some point before February 10, when the school closed for an extended half-term, Miss Godfrey also reported seeing Daniel with two black eyes and a scratch of his nose, and informed Mr Clews.
Concerns: Teaching assistant Amy Tokely said that Daniel's clothes were 'hanging off him' in the final weeks of his life
But Luczak was not spoken to about what Miss Godfrey had seen and no written record was made of the apparent injury.
Mr Clews's account of the second report of an injury differed from that of Miss Godfrey - with him describing Daniel as having a graze on the side of his head which was not serious enough to be entered into the concerns book.
During the inquiry into the second incident, a child was spoken to and claimed Daniel had been pushed over by another youngster the previous day while walking in the street.
On February 10 - three weeks before Daniel's death - he was seen by Dr Chakraborthy after a referral made by the school nurse.
Dr Chakraborthy was told that Daniel, who did not speak to any adult during the appointment, had an insatiable appetite and was aggressive towards anyone who denied him food.
In his evidence to the murder trial, Dr Chakraborthy said he had no reason to suspect Luczak was lying and had considered a hypermetabolic disorder, as well as an autistic spectrum disorder, as the cause of the boy's problems.
A full examination was carried out at the appointment and Daniel was recorded as being thin but not 'wasted' with no bruising on his body or limbs.
Blood tests were also carried out as a result of the appointment and a referral was made for Daniel to be further examined by a specialist consultant.
After the February half-term, Daniel looked very unwell at Little Heath, seemed more placid than normal and was no longer 'inventive' in his efforts to find food.
On February 27, Daniel 'looked like an old man' with sunken eyes and appeared to be 'sad, desperate and lonely' as he ate dried beans in a sand-pit.
Police were also called out twice to deal with drunken domestic arguments during the year that Krezolek and Luczak lived at the home where Daniel was murdered.
TEXT MESSAGES THAT HELPED CONVICT KILLER MOTHER AND STEPFATHER
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