It’s not often that I feel the need to write about something in the news, but the case of Daniel Pelka has shocked and sickened me. Listening to the news reports has made me feel quite shaken. How could ANYONE do that to a child? Least of all his own mother? Words literally cannot express how that makes me feel, but I will do my best.
Daniel Pelka was 4 years old when he died in March last year. He weighed A STONE AND A HALF. The same weight as most kids on their first birthday. He had undergone months of starvation, neglect and physical abuse. His tiny body was covered in bruises. His head had been bashed against a wall and he had been held under water to the point of unconsciousness. He had no access to a toilet, so was forced to just go in his own bedroom – the bedroom he had been locked into with the door handle removed.
Photo – BBC website
When this came on the news this morning, I was so happy that my daughter just turned over to children’ s TV because I didn’t want to answer her questions. How could I possibly answer them? How to explain that a mother, who should have loved her child, abused, neglected, starved and ultimately killed her own son.
Daniel died at the hands of his mother and her partner. How often do we hear this? Baby P – Mother and partner. Karen Matthews who staged her own daughter’s kidnap – living with a partner. What is it with these inadequate women?! Yes, I make no apologies for calling them inadequate. Because mothers protect their children above everything. Mothers put their children first. They do not allow men to come into their lives and persuade them to abuse their own children.
No doubt there were issues we have yet to hear about which will come out in the serious case review. There may have been domestic abuse, there was certainly drink and drugs involved. But none of this should force a mother to abuse and ultimately kill her own child. Thousands of women suffer domestic abuse, which is horrific and inexcusable, but they still protect their children.
If you can’t look after your child or if you fear you are going to hurt your child – ask for help – from professionals or family. Ask for the child to be taken into care – seriously, no social worker would have allowed a child in that condition to carry on living with his family.
But this is the thing I really, really can’t get my head round. Because she clearly didn’t care enough to ask for help. She only cared about herself and her partner and protecting themselves from the consequences of their actions.
When Daniel started school he was a happy child of normal weight. But his weight went down dramatically until he resembled a concentration camp victim. He was found taking the remains of food out of bins or stealing from other children. He was a child who was literally starving. Being starved by his own mother.
When the school raised concerns, they were told he had an eating disorder and a ‘rare genetic disorder’. They were told they weren’t to feed him. Like other abusers before them, such as Eunice Spry, who abused a number of children in her care over a very long period of time, Daniel’s mother was very good at concealing the truth from the powers that be.
The assumption is always that a parent knows their child and cares for their child, so if a mother says her child has an eating disorder, who is going to disagree with her? But professionals are supposed to talk to children too, not just their parents. They should be able to chat to the child away from the parents to find out if there is something more untoward going on. But Daniel was only 4. He was terrified. Would he have admitted what was going on at home?
After Baby P, who died aged 16 months in 2007, and after Victoria Climbie who died at the hands of a great aunt and her partner at the age of 8 in 2000, things were supposed to be different. Schools, social workers, doctors, police forces, hospitals and health visitors were all supposed to talk to each other a bit better and share information between organisations and across different police forces and local authority areas.
So how has this happened again? And how many more times will it happen? Cases like Daniel’s are thankfully rare, but children are abused every day and many children still die at the hands of their own family.
When will we ever learn?