What it was like in the courtroom during the trial of murder mum Christina Robinson

Christina Robinson was found guilty of murdering her three-year-old son Dwelaniyah, and four child cruelty offences. Credit: Durham Police

* Warning - this article contains distressing details about child cruelty and murder

For the last three weeks, a jury of eight women and four men has sat in Court One at Newcastle Crown Court and listened to the horrifying details of the abuse, cruelty and murder of three-year-old Dwelaniyah Robinson.

On more than one occasion, proceedings had to be paused after a juror became so upset by the evidence they were hearing.

In the dock, Dwelaniyah’s mother - and murderer – Christina Robinson sat quiet and calm. Apparently fully engaged with the devastating evidence mounting up against her, but at no point showing any sign of emotion.

As the prosecuting barrister, Richard Wright KC, laid out the case on the opening day, it became clear that following this case would be traumatic: for the jury, for the legal teams, for the public who read or watched the coverage, and for journalists like myself who have sat in court or followed the case over video link.

Traumatic too for Dwelaniyah’s father, Gabriel Adu-Appau, who sat in the public gallery for much of the trial, listening to the evidence against the mother of his children.

We were to hear of how a mother deliberately burned her three-year-old son in a bath of scalding-hot water, leaving the wounds effectively untreated for 18 days; how a mother beat her son with a cane because the bible tells her that she should chastise her child; how a mother picked up her son and shook him so violently that it killed him.

As the prosecution presented its case, the court’s sitting times were arranged around a schedule that allowed Robinson to express milk for her baby son. He was born last year after she became pregnant using a sperm donor shortly before murdering Dwelaniyah.

On 13 March she took the stand to give evidence in her defence. As she faced the jury, she sat on a high stool in the witness box, wearing a black shrug and a grey jumper dress.

Despite her apparent religious convictions she chose not to ‘swear by Almighty God’, but to ‘sincerely and truly declare and affirm’ that she would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

And when she gave evidence, responding to questions from her barrister Jamie Hill KC, it was with a soft West Midlands accent, occasionally requiring a reminder to speak up.

Her tone level and calm, and never betraying any sign of emotion, she told lie after lie: that Dwelaniyah had been burned playing in the shower, that she hadn’t shaken him on the day he died.

That calm demeanour, present from the very first time police spoke to her. One officer describing her as “quiet, calm” and “unpanicked” as paramedics fought to save her son’s life.

And then, after two-and-a-half weeks of evidence - and nine hours in the witness box - she took a decision that suggested she was anything but calm, and sacked her legal team.

With her sat at the bench where her barrister had been up to that point, the judge told the jury: “Ms Robinson has decided to dispense with the services of her barristers and solicitors. She's entitled to do that.”

He added that “she decided to sack, effectively, her solicitors and barristers”.

As a result, instead of Jamie Hill KC presenting the defence’s closing speech, Christina Robinson did so on her own behalf.

A rambling and repetitive 68 minutes, it was like a scene from a bad American courtroom drama.

“I’ll show to you today,” she promised the jury, “why I am not guilty and why the case of the prosecution is simply not true.”

The nub of her argument, that “despite what everyone has said", she claimed: “There is nothing that directly incriminates me.

"There is nothing that says ‘she deliberately did this’. Nothing that says ‘this is her handprints’. Nothing that ties me directly to killing anybody.”

The jury, though, disagreed. Robinson, they decided, was guilty of murder and four counts of child cruelty.

After the forewoman delivered the verdict, several of the jurors once again became visibly upset.

Christina Robinson, though, as has been the case from the moment police first visited her house and throughout the trial, showed no emotion as she was taken away to begin what the judge said will inevitably be a life sentence.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...