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The toddler murdered by his mother's 'sadistic cruelty'

Newcastle Crown Court
Image: Christina Robinson was found guilty during a 17-day trial at Newcastle Crown Court | Duncan Andison /

In November 2022, a devastating crime shook the community of Ushaw Moor, a small village in County Durham. Dwelaniyah Robinson, a three-year-old boy, was murdered by his mother, Christina Robinson.

Marked by its brutal nature and the young age of the victim, the case is a disturbing example of the consequences of familial abuse, as well as the critical need for vigilance and intervention when it comes to children’s welfare.

Christina Robinson stood trial at Newcastle Crown Court, facing charges of murder and multiple counts of child cruelty. Over a harrowing three-week trial, jurors heard the details of a young life marred by abuse and neglect.

Mother blames Bible-based religion

The prosecution described how Christina subjected her son to regular and violent punishments, including being scalded in hot water and beaten with a bamboo cane. She claimed she was following the teachings of the Black Hebrew Israelites, a Bible-based religious movement.

Dwelaniyah's experiences were chronicled through evidence presented at the trial. He sustained more than 60 injuries over an 18-day period, including a final act of cruelty that caused a fatal brain injury.

His mother, who acted as her own legal representative after sacking her lawyers, denied the cruelty but admitted to some of the accusations. During the trial, Robinson said she believed she was ‘right’ at the time but now sees her actions as ‘misguided’.

Jury told of an alarming pattern of neglect

After soiling his bed, three-year-old Dwelaniyah was immersed in a bath of hot water as punishment. This resulted in burns that covered up to 20 per cent of his body – serious injuries his mother failed to treat for fear of legal repercussions. When questioned on why she did not act, she said she was ‘ashamed’ and worried it would ‘look bad’.

As well as physical abuse, the court heard how Robinson would often leave Dwelaniyah alone in the house while she ran errands or visited beauty salons.

At the time of Dwelaniyah's death, Robinson was pregnant with another child via sperm donation. Her husband, a trained pharmacist who had recently joined the RAF and was away at a training camp in Aylesbury at the time, was unaware of the pregnancy. The jury was also informed that Robinson was having an affair with a Middlesbrough man whom she had met on a dating app.

Mother found guilty of all charges

After careful deliberation, the jury found Christina Robinson guilty of all charges. The verdict was based on evidence and testimonies that painted a grim picture of a mother who prioritised her personal interests and religious ideologies over the welfare of her son.

‘This has been a truly horrific case,’ said Detective Chief Inspector Simon Turner of Durham Police. ‘Dwelaniyah Robinson had his life sadly taken from him, at just three years of age, having been beaten and abused at the hands of his own mother.’

The community and local law enforcement officers have been left to grapple with the disturbing realities of what occurred behind closed doors in a seemingly ordinary home. Mr Justice Garnham, the judge who oversaw the trial, acknowledged the emotional toll on the jurors and underscored the need for reflection and healing.

‘My thoughts are with those who truly cared about Dwelaniyah,’ added DCI Turner. ‘Sadly, nothing can bring him back, but hopefully today's verdict will provide some closure and allow them to grieve.’

Robinson was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum term of 25 years.

NSPCC condemns Robinson’s actions

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) was quick to comment on the case, calling the actions of Robinson ‘heartbreaking’ and maintaining that ‘every child deserves a happy and safe childhood’.

‘All of us have a responsibility to look out for children, and to speak up for them when they might not be able to,’ said an NSPCC spokesperson.

Murder prompts policy review

The local community, as well as Britain as a whole, has been forced to reflect on the effectiveness of existing child protection policies. The impact of the case extends beyond the courtroom and has triggered an in-depth review by the Durham Safeguarding Children Partnership to prevent such tragedies in the future.

‘This is a distressing case and the Durham Safeguarding Children Partnership is committed to learning from the tragedy of Dwelaniyah’s suffering and death,’ commented a spokesperson for the Durham Safeguarding Children Partnership. ‘A Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review has been conducted, led by an independent author, and the report will be published in due course.’

If you have concerns about a child’s safety and well-being, visit the Crime + Investigation advice page. If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, phone 999.