Birmingham & Black Country

Santino Balaz murder: Marek Holub and Tereza Lackova jailed

Tereza Lackova and Marek Holub Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Tereza Lackova and Marek Holub said ghosts were to blame for the baby's death

A man has been jailed for a minimum of 20 years for the "agonising" murder of a 14-month-old baby.

Marek Holub had admitted murder and two counts of child neglect over the death of Santino Balaz who died on New Year's Day in Balsall Heath, Birmingham.

The 27-year-old was sentenced along with his partner Tereza Lackova, 20, Santino's half-sister.

She received a five-year jail term after admitting allowing the death of a child and child neglect.

Holub was given a life sentence at Leicester Crown Court and told he would serve at least 20 years.

Santino's mother is believed to have returned to the Czech Republic, their home country, in September last year, having arrived with her son three months earlier.

'Ghosts were responsible'

West Midlands Police were called to the couple's home in Brighton Road, Balsall Heath, by paramedics responding to a call about a baby not breathing.

Santino was taken to Birmingham Children's Hospital where he died shortly after arriving, police said.

The couple were arrested after several injuries, including bruises to his face, chest, legs and arms, were discovered.

Det Insp Justin Spanner said the couple shared photos of his injuries on social media saying ghosts were responsible.

"Santino was supposed to be in a safe environment and in the care of his own family.

"The evidence tells us that Santino was assaulted on at least three occasions between November and New Year's Day; these assaults ultimately led to his death.

"The couple claimed that either the spirit of Lackova's grandmother who had died a short time ago or the death of the woman who occupied their flat before them had come back to injure Santino."

He said the agony Santino would have endured was "truly dreadful".

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