Dwelaniyah Robinson murder: Three-year-old became 'invisible' to services before he was killed by sadistic mum

Dwelaniyah Robinson
Dwelaniyah Robinson -Credit:Northumbria Police

Murdered youngster Dwelaniyah Robinson was "invisible" to services for part of his short life as his family moved home repeatedly.

And a lack of understanding about his family's culture and religion could have impacted on professionals ability to know what was going on in his home, a review has found.

The three-year-old died in November 2022 after he was subjected to a a campaign of sadistic cruelty by his mum Christina Robinson, who was convicted of his murder. Jurors at Newcastle Crown Court heard how Robinson, who submerged her son in the scalding bath as a punishment for soiling himself, claimed she was following the Bible when she hurt her son.

Today a joint safeguarding review into the deaths of Dwelaniyah and two-year-old Maya Chappell, who also died in County Durham two months earlier, has been published.

The Child Safeguarding Practice Review (CSPR), commissioned by the Durham Safeguarding Children Partnership, highlights missed opportunities where agencies could have stepped in to offer the families of both children early support, had more "professional curiosity" been shown.

The report explains how Dwelaniyah lived in three different local authority area's during his life, and had spent some time living with his maternal grandmother in Staffordshire. And while the frequent changes in who was caring for the little boy should have sparked concern and investigation, at times his invisibility was simply "accepted", the review says.

Christina Robinson, convicted of murdering her three-year-old son
Christina Robinson, convicted of murdering her three-year-old son -Credit:Northumbria Police

A practitioner learning brief, published alongside the review, said a lack of knowledge about the family's culture could have contributed to this.

"There was a lack of knowledge about specific cultures and religions, this impacted professionals’ confidence in asking about this and aspects of parenting and beliefs that may be related to this," it says.

"This meant that aspects of the family’s identity and culture were silent across services. The importance of the family’s racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious identity was not considered. The limited understanding or curiosity about where he was and who was caring for him meant he was not fully noticed and therefore any significance considered. His absence was simply accepted."

Police at Robinson's home
Police at Robinson's home -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

A further opportunity to find out more about Dwelaniyah's family life was also missed when his father told police he had suffered domestic abuse at the hands of Christina. While a risk assessment was carried out, no referral was made to children's services.

"(The father) attended the police station in Stockton-on Tees, where he was working at the time, and shared difficulties in the marital relationship. He went on to disclose an assault by his wife," the report says. "Father subsequently did not go on to make a complaint and said his wife was a wonderful mother and did not want to pursue this. Police records show that the father had attended for advice only in relation to this and declined to share more information.

"Given the minimal information, there were questions raised about the quality of this information. There is no information to suggest a referral was made to children's services but given the context of the referral, ie men are less likely to report an incident than women, a proactive referral to children's services would have been helpful here and included the information about father worries that mother may leave the country with the children. There was certainly enough here to be curious about."

The review also highlights how rarely Dwelaniyah was seen by health professionals and that his mother withdrew her consent to have him immunised without giving a reason.

"The intermittent engagement missed appointments and immunisation withdrawal was a missed opportunity for follow-up, and evaluation of the information held between the GP and health visiting service and consider possible neglect," the report says. "It is significant that there were nine health visitors and two early years practitioners involved with the family inevitably complicating the transfer of information and potentially impacting on continuity of care."

The review concludes that both Maya and Dwelaniyah had hidden vulnerabilities that were not picked up on by the services they were in contact with. And while it does not say their deaths could have been prevented, it does highlight missed chances for further investigation into their lives.

Today Dave Ashton, chair of the Durham Safeguarding Children Partnership, said changes were already being made.

He said: “These are deeply distressing cases resulting in the tragic deaths of two young children, and our thoughts and sympathies are very much with all those who loved and cared for them.

“We are committed to learning from the circumstances of each case and commissioned a joint Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review, led by an independent author, to look at the responses of the agencies involved in detail and identify any themes around learning and practice. The learning arising from the review has been shared across the partnership and we are working together to implement the recommendations.”

Robinson, 30, of Bracken Court, Ushaw Moor, County Durham, was found guilty of murder and four child cruelty offences by jurors at Newcastle Crown Court. She will be sentenced later this month.