Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Stepmother and partner found guilty of killing son, 6, after months of abuse

·News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes murder trial
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes murder trial

A stepmother and father who abused and poisoned six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and left him with an 'unsurvivable' brain injury have been found guilty over his death.

Emma Tustin, 32, and 29-year-old Thomas Hughes, killed 'happy and smiley' Arthur Labinjo-Hughes following a 'campaign of cruelty' which they'd claimed was part of a behavioural regime.

Tustin was convicted of murder at Coventry Crown Court, while Hughes was convicted of manslaughter.

The pair abused Arthur for months during the start of the first national lockdown in 2020 by poisoning him with salt-laced meals, starving, dehydrating and beating him.

He died from a head trauma in June that year. A post-mortem examination found Arthur had suffered about 130 separate injuries.

In court, the pair had been described by prosecutors as "utterly ruthless, unthinking and pitiless".

Speaking after the verdicts, Arthur’s maternal grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow, called them “wicked” and “evil”.

She also described the couple’s behaviour, which included Tustin poisoning the youngster by force-feeding him salt-laced meals, as “unfathomable”.

 Heartbreaking: Audio was played to the murder trial jury in which Arthur could be heard saying “no-one loves me”, and another in which he cried “no-one’s gonna feed me”. (SWNS)
Heartbreaking: Audio was played to the murder trial jury in which Arthur could be heard saying 'no-one loves me', and another in which he cried 'no-one’s gonna feed me'. (SWNS)

“I think they are cold, calculating, systematic torturers of a defenceless little boy. They’re wicked, evil. There’s no word for them, especially your own child,” said the grandmother.

Tustin carried out the fatal assault while in sole care of Arthur at her home in Cranmore Road, Solihull, callously taking a photograph of the youngster on her mobile phone as he lay dying in the hallway, then sending the image to Hughes.

She then took 12 minutes to call 999, instead first ringing Hughes, then lying to medics that Arthur “fell and banged his head and while on the floor banged his head another five times”.

Tustin later claimed he must have thrown himself down the stairs, despite evidence he was barely strong enough to pick up his own bedding, or stand.

Hughes, of Stroud Road, Solihull, was convicted of encouraging the killing, including by sending a text message to Tustin 18 hours before the fatal assault telling her “just end him”, then later saying to his son “Watch you little c***, I’ll bury you six feet under.”

This photograph taken by his paternal grandmother of Arthur two months before his death prompted a referral to social services, however the bruises were put down to
This photograph taken by his paternal grandmother of Arthur two months before his death prompted a referral to social services, however the bruises were put down to 'play-fighting' with another youngster. (PA)

Jurors on Thursday also convicted Tustin of two counts of child cruelty, including salt-poisoning and withholding food and drink from Arthur.

She had already admitted two other cruelty counts; wilfully assaulting Arthur on three occasions and isolating him, including by forcing him to stand in the hallway for up to 14 hours a day as part of a draconian punishment regime.

Hughes, who had denied any wrongdoing, was also convicted of the cruelty offences which Tustin had admitted – but cleared of withholding food and drink, or of poisoning his own son with salt.

Heartbreaking audio extracts of Arthur, which Tustin claimed she took as evidence of his 'naughty' behaviour, were played in court where the boy can be heard saying “no-one loves me”, and another in which he cried “no-one’s gonna feed me”.

Hughes, in evidence, has alleged Tustin “mentally abused” and “gaslighted” him into complying with the punishing disciplinary regime, but also admitted lying to school staff who were checking on Arthur’s progress during the first COVID lockdown.

He previously said he had “probably” placed the couple’s relationship above the welfare of his son.

The house in Solihull where Arthur, aged six, suffered 'unsurvivable' head trauma. (SWNS)
The house in Solihull where Arthur, aged six, suffered 'unsurvivable' head trauma. (SWNS)

Tustin, who has accepted being cruel to Arthur on occasions and was pregnant with Hughes’s unborn child at the time, has said she was “disgusted and ashamed” by her admitted behaviour.

However, during her evidence, she said that just because medical experts had concluded Arthur’s death had been caused by head trauma “inflicted upon him by an adult”, that “doesn’t make it true”.

Jurors took just six hours and 15 minutes to deliver verdicts and afterwards held a minute's silence in Arthur's memory.

It also emerged at trial that Arthur had been seen by social workers just two months before his death, after concerns were raised by his paternal grandmother Joanne Hughes, but they concluded there were "no safeguarding concerns"

An independent review is now under way into the authorities' contact with Arthur before his death.

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