LONDON (AP) — The mother and stepfather of a 4-year-old boy who was starved and beaten to death were sentenced Friday in Britain to a minimum of 30 years in prison for his murder.
Magdelena Luczak and Mariusz Krezolek were convicted this week of murdering Daniel Pelka, who was abused and tortured in the months before his death.
The case has horrified Britain and raised questions of why teachers at Daniel’s school in Coventry, central England — who had seen his bruises and increasingly emaciated frame — did not intervene.
Judge Laura Cox said the sentences reflected the couple’s “unimaginable acts of cruelty and brutality” and “callous disregard” for Daniel’s suffering.
Luczak and Krezolek, who are both from Poland, had blamed each other for Daniel’s death in March 2012, after the boy had been beaten and left to die in an unheated cell-like room.
The judge noted that the pair had constructed elaborate lies — such as telling school administrators not to feed Daniel because he suffered from an eating disorder — to shield their “campaign of cruelty.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has described Daniel’s killing as “evil” and said: “His death should be on all of our consciences.”
Over a nine-week trial, Birmingham Crown Court heard that Daniel appeared healthy when he started school in September 2011. Over the months that followed, he was subjected to “deliberate, escalating” brutality.
He was forced to swallow salt, held under cold water until he lost consciousness and subjected to regular beatings. Daniel was locked in room where the door handle had been removed and keyhole blocked.
“The small hand and finger marks on the inside of that door provided a poignant image of his desperate attempts to escape,” the judge noted in sentencing.
His starvation was systematic and chronic, to the point that his bones ceased to grow. In testimony, experts likened his appearance to that of a concentration camp survivor.
The judge said that after Daniel was dealt what would be the fatal blow, the couple went about their lives, “hoping that he would regain consciousness” and did not take him to the hospital.
“Over the nine weeks of acutely distressing evidence, I have not observed a single sign of genuine remorse at any stage from either of you,” the judge said. “Both of you are in breach of what is probably the most important position of trust, as the parents of a small child who was entitled to their protection, their love and their care.”
Local lawmaker Geoffrey Robinson said Daniel had been “badly let down” not just by his mother and stepfather but by his school, health professionals and social services.
“How could anyone believe it to be normal for a child to … scavenge around bins to access waste; and to steal food from the lunch-boxes?” he said. “What human being, with the slightest understanding of children, would not have been concerned enough to take action?”