Arthur Labinjo-Hughes murder: grandmother says six-year-old had ‘lost sparkle in his eyes’ ahead of death

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ maternal grandmother spoke of the last time she saw the six-year-old before he was fatally assaulted by his stepmother Emma Tustin

The grandmother of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes has told of how he “lost the sparkle in his eyes” before his murder.

Arthur’s maternal grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow gave a heartbreaking account of the last time she saw him prior to him being in intensive care after his stepmother left him with an “unsurvivable” brain injury.

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Ms Halcrow said his killers Emma Tustin and Arthur’s dad Thomas Hughes will “burn in hell”, while the six-year-old’s grandfather said they should never “see the light of day ever again”.

Tustin, 32, was jailed for life at Coventry Crown Court on Friday, with a minimum term of 29 years, after being found guilty of the six-year-old’s murder.

Hughes, 29, was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter for encouraging the killing.

Arthur died on 17 June the day after he was assaulted while in the sole care of his stepmother who had carried out a campaign of cruelty against the youngster.

His body was covered in 130 bruises.

Madeleine Halcrow said her grandson was “the happiest child” but had “lost the sparkle” in his eyes prior to his death.

Arthur was in his father’s custody after his mother Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, was jailed for killing her boyfriend.

Hughes and Labinjo-Halcrow had shared custody of their son, until her arrest for killing 29-year-old delivery driver Gary Cunningham in February 2019.

‘They will never go to heaven...they will burn in hell’

The pair showed “no remorse, no sympathy”, Arthur’s maternal grandmother said, as she branded them “depraved, sadistic, torturous, evil, calculating people”.

During an emotional interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Madeleine Halcrow said of the jail sentences: “Life should mean life. They took Arthur’s life, he’s not going to get his life back, he’s not going to have children of his own.

“They will never go to heaven. They will burn in hell.”

Ms Halcrow, said she saw Arthur on her birthday on 21 October, 2019, and it was the last time she saw him until he was in intensive care.

She said: “He was the happiest child, very, very much loved by everyone.

“He was my daughter’s baby bear and my sunny delight. He was gentle, caring, compassionate, he had a wicked sense of humour, he really did, he was just adorable.

“I saw him on 21 October which was my birthday, as I say he was very happy go lucky. As my daughter said it’s only something a mother would notice, he’d lost the sparkle in his eyes if that makes sense.

“His dad came to pick him up and he said to his dad “Is she in the car?” and he said yes and Arthur started to cry, which isn’t like Arthur.

“He said: ‘Grandma, can I stay with you?’”

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes with his mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow.

‘There’s new bruises on top of old’

Ms Halcrow said that Arthur was due to see his mother, the following week and was “so excited”.

She continued: ‘Out of the blue I receive a WhatsApp from his dad saying “you are never seeing him again, he is not seeing his mother again, he will never receive letters off his mum again”.’

Ms Halcrow spoke of seeing pictures of Arthur’s bruises shown to her by his paternal grandparents Joanna and Chris Hughes who had alerted social services.

As a nurse Ms Halcrow said she knew they were “non-accidental” injuries, and had been caused by an “adult hand”.

She went on to say: “The most disturbing thing to me.. I said there’s new bruises on top of old, which tells me this has been going on. There was yellow bruises and purple bruises all over his back.

“I saw them and just imagined the pain Arthur would have been in receiving those bruises.

“Joanna and Chris said they’d phoned social services. At 9.30 at night there wasn’t a lot I could do so the following day I phoned social services and I was told they’d been out the day previously and they didn’t find anything untoward, there was no bruises visible.

“So with that I phoned the police. I was told by the police “we were there yesterday, the house was immaculate”.’

‘I said “so an immaculate house house doesn’t constitute child abuse then?”.

He said “we’ve got nothing to answer to” and that was that.’

Ms Halcrow said she felt anger towards the organisations responsible for monitoring his safety.

“I am angry with the inter agencies because somewhere along the line communication hasn’t been passed along. The old adage, ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’. Well something is broken in this system and something needs fixing.”

Emma Tustin (right) was found guilty of Arthur's murder, while Thomas Hughes (left) was found guilty of his manslaughter, after encouraging the killing

Killers shouldn’t ‘see light of day ever again’

Arthur’s maternal grandfather, Peter Halcrow said someone should have stepped in when “alarm bells” were ringing.

Asked what he would like reviews into the six-year-old’s situation to consider, he told Today: “It’s not as if it was a kind of ‘passing by’ thing. I mean, people were flagging up there were problems and social services got involved and said there was nothing to worry about, and then ‘hey ho’, three or four months later, the boy is dead.

“How can you ask me what I would like them to consider? I mean, they must have a tick-list to do, ‘house is clean, everything’s tidy, blah, blah, blah, so we’ll not worry about it’.

“If alarm bells are ringing all around, even neighbour statements, then surely, there must be someone or some kind of body that can step in and say: ‘Right, we’re taking that child out of that situation,’ you know?

“If the father is not man enough to do that himself then someone has to say: ‘This child is suffering and needs help,’ and take them out of the situation. And I guess that’s what social services are for.”

Speaking of the couple responsible for his grandson’s death, Peter Halcrow, Arthur’s maternal grandfather said the pair had committed a “heinous crime” by killing a “defenceless, innocent boy”.

Mr Halcrow said: “I wouldn’t give them the time of day and I wouldn’t want them to see the light of day ever again.”

Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, said they will be starting work on their investigation into services involved with child protection in Solihull, where Arthur Labinjo-Hughes died, next week.

She told Today: “It’s not an investigation of the case itself, which is a separate piece of work, but we’ll be looking at how those services jointly are dealing with child protection at the moment and what improvements can be made.”

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