Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow: who is mum of murdered six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes - and why is she in prison?

Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes are serving prison sentences of more than 20 years each for killing six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

On 2 December the stepmother and father of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes - Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes - were found guilty of killing the young boy.

The six-year-old died in June 2020 having suffered an “unsurvivable brain injury” in an incident that had come after almost a year of abuse and neglect, Coventry Crown Court heard.

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Tustin, 32, was convicted of Arthur’s murder, while Hughes, 29, was found guilty of his son’s manslaughter.

Tustin has received a life sentence with a minimum term of 29 years, while Hughes has been jailed for 21 years.

But how did Arthur Labinjo-Hughes come to be in the care of Tustin and Hughes, who is his birth mother Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow - and why is she in prison?

Who was Arthur Labinjo-Hughes?

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was the son of Thomas Hughes and Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow.

The Birmingham pair split up when Arthur was a toddler and shared custody of him.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was murdered by Emma Tustin, while his father Thomas Hughes was convicted of his manslaughter (image: PA/family handout)

After Labinjo-Halcrow’s imprisonment in 2019, Arthur was solely cared for by his father, who began a relationship with Tustin in August 2019.

This “volatile and dysfunctional” relationship saw Arthur subjected to increasingly strict discipline which turned into a campaign of abuse and neglect when the couple moved in with each other at the start of the first national Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020.

Arthur was said in court to have been “de-humanised” by Tustin and Hughes, who starved, beat, manhandled and punished him from 7am onwards each day.

He would often be made to stand for up to 14 hours a day in the hallway of the couple’s home in Shirley.

Punishment also involved Hughes removing his son’s favourite teddy bear and cut up his prized Birmingham City FC football shirts in front of him.

Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes subjected Arthur Labinjo-Hughes to a campaign of abuse and neglect (image: West Midlands Police/PA)

Meanwhile, Tustin recorded more than 200 audio and video files of Arthur wailing and crying “no one loves me” and “no one’s gonna feed me”.

She would then send these files to Hughes, encouraging him to further punish and beat his son.

Social services were alerted to the abuse of Arthur by his paternal grandmother Joanne in April 2020 after she had seen bruises on his back and had been told by the boy that he had been shoved into the stairs.

But the two social workers who saw him reported no safeguarding concerns.

How was he killed?

On 16 June 2020, Arthur was murdered by Tustin while Hughes was out of their home.

It is believed she violently shook him and repeatedly banged his head against the wall of the couple’s hallway.

Six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes suffered repeated physical assaults and was harshly punished by Tustin and Hughes (image: PA/Family Handout)

In a post mortem examination, Arthur was found to have 130 injuries covering his body.

These had been caused by the boy having been hit, slapped, kicked, punched and beaten “over and over”, the court heard.

Tustin was also found to have deprived Arthur of water and poisoned him with salt in the hours leading up to his death.

Who is Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow?

Olivia Labinjo Halcrow stabbed her boyfriend Gary Cunningham 12 times in a drunken rage at their home. (Picture: SWNS)

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ mother Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow is currently serving an 11-year sentence for manslaughter in prison.

In a statement delivered on behalf of Labinjo-Halcrow, her mother Madeleine Halcrow recalled Arthur’s “beautiful smile” and his “kind, nurturing spirit”, adding that he had been “the light of my life”.

“He was let down by a person he trusted and should have protected him, left alone and isolated, and then they took him away from me,” she said.

“My child, my little love, defenceless, trusting and nothing but loving, was killed.

“His short life stolen and the hole left in me and those who loved Arthur will never be repaired.

“Sleep well, my angel – you are truly loved.”

Labinjo-Halcrow was jailed having been found guilty of killing her partner, delivery driver Gary Cunningham, 29, in their Birmingham home in February 2019.

Gary Cunningham, 29, was killed by a fatal stab wound to the back of the knee. (Picture: SWNS)

The couple had started a relationship after meeting on an alcohol awareness course.

However, they both “drank too much”, the judge at Labinjo-Halcrow’s July 2021 re-trial - Mrs Justice Amanda Tipples - said.

Labinjo-Halcrow and Cunningham had physical fights during which they beat each other.

In November 2018, she stabbed Cunningham in the arm while Arthur was inside their home.

Just months later in the fatal attack, Labinjo-Halcrow stabbed him four times - once in the chest and three times in the left leg, including a fatal 11cm-deep blow behind his knee.

When arrested, she initially claimed Cunningham had killed himself.

Mrs Justice Tipples said Labinjo-Halcrow “didn’t show a flicker of emotion” when police escorted her past her dead boyfriend’s body.

Concluding there was no element of self-defence to her crime, Mrs Justice Tipples told her: “You are an intelligent woman, academically successful in school and attended university.

“You used that intelligence to tell this jury an extensive and elaborate series of lies you made up after you killed Gary in order to describe the relationship where you had been the victim.”

Were social services involved before Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ murder?

An independent serious case review into the actions of the Solihull Council social workers who saw Arthur has begun.

The NSPCC said the convictions of Tustin and Hughes “must be just the start of the process to uncover the full chain of events that ultimately led to Arthur’s death and to establish the lessons that need to be learned to prevent this awful case from happening again”.

Meanwhile, in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, former children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield suggested the state needed to improve its systems and processes for vulnerable children.

“For anyone who looks at the serious case reviews, or hears about them, that come after a child’s death, you will see the same things coming up time and time again – missed opportunities, lack of coordination, lack of data-sharing – the things that professionals need to have at hand to be able to protect these children, which still aren’t in place.”

Longfield added that very vulnerable children “have continued to slip from view”, and that she was “heartbroken” and “sickened” by the killing of Arthur.

Additional reporting by PA

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