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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Daniel Pelka: The power of parental evasion and deceit

There has already been much written about the murder of Daniel Pelka. I obtained the sentencing remarks of Mrs. Justice Cox when she imposes a 30 year minimum. She reviews the evidence in her 6 page statement. It is gruesome reading. Within it, are a few powerful lessons about how this case has been evolving. The Serious Case Review which is likely to be published next month will add more details.

The urine stained mattress; the door of the room Daniel was kept in with interior handle removed and a
model of how emaciated he was at death

Yet, some of what Justice Cox has to say reminds practitioners of just how duplicitous parents can be, particularly when they are engaged in a campaign of torture as was happening in this case. The decision outlines how the mother and step father lied, avoided contact with authorities. When they did have contact, they created stories that were just plausible enough.

These caregivers, step father Mariusz Krezolek and mother Magdelan Luczak, if they can be called that, picked on Daniel as opposed to the other children making him the targeted child. Justice Cox seems perplexed at this but it is not an uncommon phenomena. She also notes that the siblings were coached to tell the story that the parents wanted told. These combined efforts made piercing the veil to find the truth difficult. Certainly there were signs that the Seroius Case Review will probably highlight.

Parents who engage in this behavior are more difficult to work with, and even get any meaningful connection in the first place. They may be amongst the hardest population to gain any significant relationship with, much less progress.

Mariusz Krezolek, the step father,  testifying before Mrs. Justice Cox

Some examples from Justice Cox's decision:

Both of you constructed a careful and wholly untruthful account that Daniel had a serious eating disorder and learning difficulties, which he may have inherited and for which he was receiving medical treatment. This account was deliberately designed to prevent interference by school, medical and welfare personnel, and to perpetuate the brutality being meted out to him. You instructed and encouraged Daniel’s older [sibling] to tell lies to the authorities if she were asked any questions about what was happening at home.  (p.3)

I am in no doubt that, before you made that call, you had deliberately planned the detailed lies you would tell in an attempt to deceive the authorities and save your own skin. That plan was put into action even in the call to the emergency operator. 
Before your arrest you made concerted efforts to remove evidence by deleting the computer search history, attempting to tidy the house and concealing the stained mattress from the box room. You lied persistently when you were interviewed by the police. (p.4)
Both of you carried out a deliberate and cynical deception of teaching, welfare and medical personnel, which was designed to conceal what was happening, to prevent any help being provided for Daniel and to enable you to continue your ill treatment of him without interference. You instructed and encouraged Daniel’s older [sibling] to tell lies to anyone in authority about what was happening at home. 
Once you became aware that Daniel had stopped breathing, you made a concerted and deliberate attempt to deceive the authorities from the outset, and to seek to remove evidence of your involvement in Daniel’s abuse and death. (p. 5) 
The media has also noted that the mother kept Daniel away from medical care, missing appointments and avoiding contact.

There are deficiencies in how people did respond to what was before them. But, in my view, we must also bear in mind that parents can put up significant barriers to accessing children. We must not be daunted by the barriers but, rather, be prepared to challenge. Having an empathic mind in child protection is important, but so is having a curious one where you challenge the data before you - ask whether it makes sense? Does the explanation intuitively seem to explain or is it off?

I raise the notion of intuition because, at times, it is paying attention to our gut feeling that can cause us to ask further probing questions.

This is a case where there were opportunities to ask - the paediatrician who saw Daniel shortly before his death; school officials who saw many signs of concern (bruises, stealing food, eating large quantities when he could get food, rummaging for food in garbage cans, declining attendance). A curious mind might well have probed beyond the parental explanations. Assembling even the school data might have caused one to say, "There is just too much going on here." Yet, the mother suggested that there were problems and that she was getting help from a doctor. Just the kind of response that assures an observer that the issues are known and being taken care of.

It will be easy to point fingers in this case. I hope that those considering it will not lose sight of the power of parental evasion and deceit which can be very effective in keeping inquiring eyes away.

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