A six-year-old boy had warned people “for well over a year” before his death that his father would kill him but “nobody listened”, a murder trial has heard.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes died in June last year after suffering an “unsurvivable” head injury while solely in the care of his step-mother.
His father Thomas Hughes, 29, and step-mother Emma Tustin, 32, are on trial at Coventry crown court accused of murder – which they both deny.
Medical evidence shows Arthur would not have been able to inflict the injuries on himself, but Tustin maintains that she is innocent of murder.
The step-mother has pleaded guilty to two counts of child cruelty, specifically intimidation and assaults.
In her closing remarks on Monday, defence barrister Mary Prior QC said Tustin “let that little boy suffer and she accepts that, and she will pay a heavy price for that”.
Hughes regularly abused his son at their home in Solihull, she said, adding that Arthur – whose biological mother is in prison for murder – had also told people that his “dad was going to kill him”.
Since he was five-years-old, before his father and step-mother got together, Arthur had told relatives, his school, and his doctor that his father had been making death threats – Ms Prior told the court.
Arthur had warned a number of adults “for well over a year and nobody listened,” she added.
Ms Prior went on: “He was going to die and he was going to die because Thomas Hughes was in charge of Arthur’s life and Arthur’s life consisted of nothing other than misery.”
The court previously heard Hughes had made threats towards Arthur, such as to “put him six feet under”.
He had also sent Tustin messages such as “[the] kid’s getting ended when I get back”.
Watch: Signs of child abuse and how to spot it
Although he was not present at the time of the injuries that led to his son’s death, Hughes is being accused of being equally culpable for having “encouraged” violence and been physically abusive himself.
In his closing speech, prosecuting barrister Jonas Hankin QC said Arthur was “persecuted” and “dehumanised” by Hughes and Tustin who then “murdered” him.
Also on Monday, it was revealed by Tustin’s cellmate Elaine Pritchard that Arthur had 137 bruises on his body at one point.
She told the jurors that she read about the injuries on Tustin’s paperwork inside the HMP Eastwood Park cell in November 2020 while Tustin was awaiting trial, before kicking her out of the shared room.
A heartbreaking recording has also emerged in court of Arthur crying while saying “no one loves me” and “no one is going to feed me”.
Jurors have been told that Tustin would send Hughes voice notes of Arthur crying whenever the boy’s father was not home, and that Hughes would reply with messages such as “dig Arthur’s grave”.
The pair deny a count of child cruelty relating to allegations such as that they had poisoned Arthur with salt in his drinks and food, and had made him stand for 12 to 14 hours a day in their hallway.
Ms Prior said that Arthur had showed anxious and clingy behaviour, and suffered nightmares, after his mother Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow was imprisoned for 11 years for killing her boyfriend in 2019.
The barrister added that Hughes ignored advice from Arthur’s school and doctors to treat his son kindly and without harsh punishment, and that he also did not share this advice with his partner.
The court has heard that Arthur and his father were living at Tustin’s home for more than a year because they were there when the coronavirus lockdown was announced in March 2020.
The trial continues.