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Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Dad and stepmother guilty of killing six-year-old boy

Emma Tustin was found guilty of her stepson’s murder, while his dad Thomas Hughes was convicted of his manslaughter

A “wicked” stepmother and a “pitiless” father have been convicted of cruelly abusing and killing his six-year-old son.

Emma Tustin, 32, was unanimously convicted of murdering Arthur Labinjo-Hughes at Coventry Crown Court on Thursday.

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Her partner and Arthur’s father, 29-year-old Thomas Hughes, was found guilty of manslaughter, after his son suffered an “unsurvivable brain injury” on June 16 2020.

Emma Tustin was found guilty of her stepson’s murder, while his dad Thomas Hughes was convicted of his manslaughter

In harrowing video and audio clips Arthur could be heard crying “no one loves me” and “no one is going to feed me”.

It 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.

Tustin and Hughes will both be sentenced on Friday (3 December).

At a glance 5 key points

  • Emma Tustin has been convicted of murder and her partner Thomas Hughes of manslaughter
  • Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, 6, died after sustaining an “unsurvivable” brain injury
  • Arthur had been seen by social workers before his death - but there were “no safeguarding concerns”
  • Independent review now under way
  • Jurors held a minute’s silence in memory of Arthur after delivering their verdicts
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

How has Arthur’s family reacted to the verdicts?

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

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”.

“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 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.

What was said during the trial?

Audio and video clips recorded in the final weeks of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ life revealed that he was “scarcely able to articulate his words” and could no longer support his own weight by the time of his murder.

Emma Tustin admitted in court that it was “horrendous” to listen to and watch footage of him captured on her mobile phone and CCTV cameras inside her lounge.

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 that he would bury him “six feet under.”

On one occasion before his death, Arthur told his father: “I am in danger with you, dad”.

Jurors 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.

It 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”.

What have the police said?

West Midlands Police Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Laura Harrison, said: “This has been a truly heartbreaking case and has deeply affected everyone who has been involved in it.

“An innocent boy was subjected to a campaign of cruelty by the very people who were meant to be loving and protecting him.

“Despite the lies they told, we carefully built a case against the two of them. We were able to seize their phones and found the messages they exchanged which showed their anger towards Arthur.

“As part of our investigations we were able to access their home where we found a CCTV camera set up in their living room. And the footage from that helped us build up a picture of the grim reality of Arthur’s life inside that house.”

Police say when they searched Tustin’s home on Cranmore Road in Shirley, officers found Arthur’s duvet shoved in a cupboard under the stairs, because he was made to sleep on the floor in the living room each night.

Det Insp Harrison said: “It’s not clear why Tustin and Hughes started to make Arthur’s place in his family home so truly awful and why they caused him such harm and suffering – but that harm and suffering was sustained and escalated over time.

“Nor is it clear why the couple installed a CCTV camera in their own living room, but sadly that footage has proved invaluable in demonstrating some of the hardships, emotional abuse and physical violence Arthur endured behind closed doors.”

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