Fairy tales nearly always end in a happy way. Cinderella’s story is the best, and especially this season.

You can find many versions of the story going back as far as the 9th century. There is also an alternate Chinese version that has a similar theme and uses a shoe with magical properties.

Every version has a ‘wicked stepmother’ — invariably a cruel and dominating personality.

Every version of Cinderella has a 'wicked stepmother' — invariably a cruel and dominating personality

Every version of Cinderella has a ‘wicked stepmother’ — invariably a cruel and dominating personality

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, six, was murdered by his father's partner Emma Tustin

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, six, was murdered by his father’s partner Emma Tustin

This winter we saw two horrifying, real-life horrors. We witnessed the deaths of Star Hobson (16 months) and Arthur Labinjo Hughes (6 years old), both by their female parents.

Star died after being beaten by Savannah Brockhill her mother, and Arthur by Emma Tustin his father. These two killers were the dominant force in the house.

Tustin had a particularly haunting echo of Cinderella’s story and its “ugly sister” who allow the stepdaughter to suffer while she is pampered.

Emma Tustin was jailed for life with a minimum term of 29 years

Emma Tustin was imprisoned for life, with a maximum term of 29 year.

Justice Mark Wall stated that Arthur was being subjected to unimaginable abuse while Tustin was sentenced to a minimum term of 29 year imprisonment.

Are You Shocked?

Particularly, this case reminds me about Maria Colwell who, at seven, was brutally beaten by William Kepple in a Brighton-based council estate.

Maria was the biological child of Kepple’s mother. She had many children with him after her husband died.

The couple loved these offspring and court was told how Kepple bought his biological children icecream and forced Maria to eat it, while starving Maria (she was called a “walking skeleton”).

Maria was killed from her injuries which also included brain damage. It was shocking and disconcerting to see the country’s reaction when the trials ended. The social services failed to protect the child who had been brutalized, even though at least thirty neighbors called reporting the incident. 

Star Hobson, just 16 months old, was beaten to death by her mother's girlfriend Savannah Brockhill

Star Hobson, a 16-month-old baby, was killed by Savannah Brockhill, her mother’s girlfriend

An inquiry into the public was conducted. It identified three major elements as the lack of communication among the agencies, the poor training of social workers who deal with “at-risk” children, and the “changes in society”.

Numerous articles stated that this must not happen again after the report was published by the committee.

However, similar cases continue to occur again and, as further public inquiries have shown, nearly always involve the same failures by authorities.

Savannah Brockhill beat 16-month-old Star Hobson to death

Savannah Brockhill beat 16-month-old Star Hobson to death

However, this does not negate the fact that the only ones who should be punished are the murderers of children.

Daniel Pelka, a four-year-old boy from Connecticut, was another recent example of this familiar pattern of abuse and government incompetence.

Even though his Coventry school reported him as being emaciated, he wasn’t taken in care.

Mariusz Krezolek beat him to death and convicted Daniel’s mother Magdalena Luczak for murder in 2012.

Maria Colwell, who at seven-years-old, in 1973, was murdered by her stepfather in Brighton

Maria Colwell was seven years old when her stepfather murdered her in Brighton in 1973.

Four years before that, there was ‘Baby P’ — Peter Connelly — whom social services, despite more than 60 visits, left to be battered and mutilated by his mother’s sadistic boyfriend, Stephen Barker.

Peter was reported by a local GP to have bruises on his head and chest after Barker had moved in in November 2006 with Barker.

Barker was often called the “stepfather”, but this term is highly inappropriate.

He was not only unmarried for Peter’s mother Tracey Connelly, but he was also the latest in a line of men who moved into and out of the home. It truly was broken.

But, we can use “step-parent” to refer to anyone who is the child’s biological mother or father. This blindingly obvious fact becomes apparent.

These cases show that murders of children are more likely in homes where one or both parents live with their offspring than in families in which they reside.


Martin Daly (Canadian academic) and Margo WILSON, Canadian academics, set this out in peer-reviewed detail in their 1994 paper: “Some different attributes of lethal attacks on small children by genetic fathers or step-fathers”.

The researchers analyzed decades worth of data and found that children under two had a 100-time greater chance of being abused by step-parents than their biological parents.

The authors also stated that the homicide rate from stepfathers in murder of children under five years old was 60 percent higher than the risk from genetic fathers.

Study concluded that ‘excessive risks to stepchildren can not be attributed either to detection biases or reporting biases. . . poverty.

The relevant risk factor is ‘Stepparenthood as a whole. . . This is due to the fact that parents can be solicited by their children. [care for a child’s wellbeing]It is often higher than the step-parents.

In terms of child abuse fatalities, adoptive parents were not as prominent as step-parents. This is because these parents chose to care for children who were not biologically related.

Professor Daly created a term for the phenomena he had studied with his colleague. This phenomenon was known as the “Cinderella Effect.”

Although given that more than 90 per cent of murderous step-parents are male — whereas Cinderella’s ‘abuser’ was the evil stepmother — the term predominantly applies to the more violent of the sexes.

Daly’s basic point about the overwhelmingly greater risks from step-parents is irrefutable — even though, as he later remarked: ‘There are people who desperately want to say it isn’t so.’

This denial can be due to many reasons. One is that we all know of stepmothers (and stepfathers) who are wonderful and care deeply for the children of their partners — just as we will also have come across a biological parent who treats his or her children appallingly.


Another reason to be denial is that the modern, so-called “non-judgmental” outlook has failed to recognize the severity of marital dissolutions and the proliferation of temporary sexual relationships as a threat to the well-being of many children.

Separation of parents is now easier than ever. However, it’s not easy to repair broken homes.

In this dark context it is vital to point out that children who live with so-called temporary step-parents are at greater risk than those whose mothers remain alone with their children.

Do social workers take the Cinderella Effect into consideration when visiting homes of a newly acquired stepfather (or even stepmother), such as Brockhill, the ex-bouncer who killed Star Hobson?

Peter Connelly, 17-months-old, died in 2007. He was battered and mutilated by his mother's sadistic boyfriend, Stephen Barker

Peter Connelly was 17 months old when he died in 2007. Stephen Barker, Connelly’s boyfriend at his mother, battered him and then mutilated him.

This was a gift I gave Lord Herbert Laming. He is a man I greatly admire. Laming, now 85, chaired the public inquiry into the murder in 2000 of eight-year-old Victoria Climbié by an aunt and her boyfriend, and also the official investigation into how the authorities failed Baby P.

Laming responded, “I think you’re onto something very important.” My career began in 1960 and most families were based on a common structure.

“Families come in all shapes and sizes these days. I suspect social workers are now trained to accept the family structure as presented without question, and that in current practice the adults in the life of the child are invited to define their family — and this is accepted without question in an effort to be non-judgmental.

“I believe that in most cases, a complete family history is not recorded. Although I do not believe that I am correct, the evidence seems to support my suspicion.

“In every case reported so far, it was clear that the family structure had raised many concerns about safety and well being of the child.

It did.

These were true-life stories in which nobody ever lived happily ever again.