Christina Robinson trial: Mum tells court she caned son Dwelaniyah after watching religious teaching

Christina Robinson initially told police and paramedics Dwelaniyah's burns were caused by him playing, the court has heard. Credit: Durham Police

A mother standing trial accused of her son's murder has admitted beating the three-year-old with a cane, leaving him alone in the house with his younger brother and failing to seek immediate medical help for severe burns.

Christina Robinson, 30, denies causing a fatal injury to her son Dwelaniyah by violently shaking him at the family home in Bracken Court, Ushaw Moor, Durham, in November 2022.

She is accused of hitting him with a bamboo cane and deliberately scalding him, causing excruciating burns to his legs and buttocks, in the weeks before his death.

The defendant, who is originally from Tamworth, Staffordshire and who grew up for a period in Bulgaria, denies murder and a child cruelty charge.

Giving evidence in the witness box at Newcastle Crown Court for the first time on Wednesday 13 March, Robinson told the court of events on the day he died.

Dwelaniyah Robinson's had suffered burns and bruises leading up to his death, the court has heard. Credit: Durham Police

Wearing a black shawl and grey jumper dress, she said she was watching TV with Dwelaniyah and her other son when there was a "gargling, gasping” sound as he “lolled to the side”.

The little boy had been eating a cheese bap, she said, adding that she removed the food that had been obstructing his airway before commencing CPR.

The court has previously been told that Dwelaniyah died as a result of major head injury caused by him being shaken, or a head impact, or both.

Robinson suggested in court that he had fallen “on his face” a few days before and that day had fallen twice.

She also admitted it took 19 minutes between her son collapsing and her calling 999.

The defendant also told the jury said that she follows a religious movement called the "Black Hebrew Israelites".

The court has heard Dwelaniyah was found with 19 long thin bruises on his body.

She admitted she hit son Dwelaniyah with a garden cane after watching teachings in a YouTube video, disciplining him on the day he died because "he was messing about with his food”.

This she told the jury was a decision she now believed was "misguided".

Robinson also told the court burns to the lower half of his body had been caused accidentally with a shower.

The court previously heard that after Dwelaniyah's collapse on the day he died, Robinson told the emergency services his burns had been caused by him playing in the shower.

But the jury was told by the defendant that that was not true. She told the court they were instead a result of her cleaning him after he had soiled himself.

She said because Dwelaniyah was crying before she started to clean him with the shower, she did not realise the water had been too hot until after she had finished.

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Robinson did not seek medical attention for the burns, saying she treated them herself in the following days, even when she realised he was badly hurt.

She told jurors: “I already felt ashamed at the time when it happened, I didn’t mean to do this to him.

“As it got worse and worse, it just looked really bad. I knew it would look really bad.”

The trial has previously heard experts describe Dwelaniyah's burns as "a textbook” example of “non accidental” injuries caused by a child being immersed into scalding hot water.

Robinson also admitted in court to leaving Dwelaniyah and his younger brother alone in the house for sometimes as long as two hours while she would “nip to the shops” or collect her boyfriend from the train station.

“I thought that they were safe,” she said, adding it was "not the best of ideas, obviously”.

The defendant was also questioned in court about her personal situation during which time she told the jury she wanted to have a family with more than 10 children.

The court also heard Robinson said her marriage to Dwelaniyah's father, Gabriel Adu-Appau, was failing after he decided to join the RAF.

She told the jury she looked into using a sperm donor after the relationship “broke up”.

Jamie Hill KC, defending, asked how many children she wanted to have.

“Double figures,” she replied.

She also said she was prepared to be a surrogate mother for a friend, saying she was “very fertile”, but in the end, it was not necessary as the woman got pregnant herself.

Mr Hill asked who did the discipline in the house if both parents were there and the defendant answered that it was her husband.

She claimed he used shoes, a sandal, slippers, utensils or pieces of wood to discipline in the house.

Robinson told the jury that after one occasion, she had told her husband “that was unnecessary” but that “it was as if what I had said did not matter”.

Robinson said she had discussed physical punishments with her husband, who grew up in Ghana, and she told the court: “He explained to me and told me stories about how things were done where he came from.”

The court has heard Mr Adu-Appau was away from the family home, serving on an RAF base near Aylesbury when Dwelaniyah was fatally injured.

Robinson said she had four miscarriages but her husband only knew about two of them, adding: “He wasn’t interested, he didn’t care that they died.”

She added: “It was a hard time for me, and I never have and I never will recover from them.”

Robinson denies murder and child cruelty and the trial continues.