Mother jailed for life for murder and abuse of three-year-old son

A mother who beat her three-year-old son with a bamboo cane after claiming the Bible advised the use of the rod weeks before she murdered him has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years.

Christina Robinson, 30, had exposed her son Dwelaniyah to cruelty and excruciating pain over several weeks before she shook him to death at the family home in Durham in November 2022.

Mr Justice Garnham said she was guilty of a gross abuse of trust as the victim’s mother.

A trial at Newcastle Crown Court heard Robinson had deliberately immersed him in scalding water, causing severe burns that left him in agony.

She did not seek medical help as safeguarding concerns would have been obvious if a health worker saw him.

Robinson, a member of the Black Hebrew Israelite religion, admitted hitting the boy with a bamboo cane but claimed she was following a Bible scripture which advised the use of the rod for the “correction” of children.

The defendant, originally from Tamworth, Staffordshire, and a mother-of-two at the time, was convicted of murder and four child cruelty charges which happened at the family home in Bracken Court, Ushaw Moor, following a trial in March.

Robinson repeatedly left her children at home alone while she conducted an affair while her husband was away serving with the RAF.

Mr Justice Garnham found that Robinson immersed her son in extremely hot water, causing burns to his lower limbs which affected 20% of his body, after Dwelaniyah had soiled himself.

Christina Robinson
Christina Robinson has been jailed for life for murdering her three-year-old son (Durham Police/PA)

The judge told her: “You must have known the water was extremely hot, it must have been obvious.”

Despite the excruciating pain her son must have suffered in the days that followed, Robinson saw fit to cause further injury by beating him with a cane.

The judge said: “You were a follower of a religious group known as the Black Hebrew Israelites and would listen to lectures or sermons from the group’s speakers on YouTube.

“Mistakenly, as you subsequently admitted was the case, you took the teaching of that group to indicate it was appropriate to punish your children by beating them with a bamboo cane.”

He added: “These beatings were all administered as punishments for behaviour that was objectively trivial but which you considered worthy of severe punishment.

“What must have gone through the mind of this little boy, being beaten with a cane by his mother, despite these terrible burns, does not bear thinking about.”

All the abuse happened when the little boy’s father was several hundred miles away at an RAF base near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

The judge accepted that when she shook Dwelaniyah, causing fatal brain injuries, she did not intend to kill him.

He also rejected claims that she was motivated by sadism, saying there was no evidence she took pleasure from inflicting pain.

But the judge said her mistreatment of Dwelaniyah in the last weeks of her son’s life was “appalling in the highest degree”.

Christina Robinson court case
Christina Robinson used a cane to discipline her son (Durham Police/PA)

That was reflected in messages she sent to her boyfriend saying Dwelaniyah deserved a “major ass kicking”, that “he’s old enough to know better, so he’ll pay” and that “he’ll get what he deserves, no more, no less”.

Robinson represented herself and continues to deny she killed her son, saying: “I pray for the day when justice will be served.”

Ten of the 12 jurors attended the sentencing, with one of them staring at the defendant intensely throughout the hearing.

Outside court, Detective Chief Inspector Simon Turner said: “Dwelaniyah was a defenceless little boy who had his life ahead of him, but this was cruelly taken away his own mother – someone he should have been able to trust, someone who should have cared about him.

“We may never know why or what caused Christina Robinson to do what she did.

“Her actions are unforgivable and sadly nothing will bring Dwelaniyah back but at least she is now facing the consequences of what she has done.

“This has been a truly heartbreaking and emotional case for everyone involved, including my investigation team, who have worked tirelessly to bring Robinson to justice.

“My thoughts remain with those who loved and cared about Dwelaniyah.”

After sentencing, Helen Westerman, NSPCC campaigns manager, said: “Every child should be able to grow up in a safe and happy environment and we all have a responsibility to make our voices heard if we suspect anything that could put a child in harm’s way.

“If you’re worried about a child’s safety or wellbeing visit the NSPCC’s website for assistance. Remember, if you think a child or young person’s safety is at an imminent risk, call 999 immediately.”