Evil stepmum who murdered little Arthur, 6, jailed for life and his dad given 21 years

3 December 2021, 14:09 | Updated: 4 December 2021, 09:09

  • Killer stepmother jailed for life for the horrific abuse and murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, 6
  • Emma Tustin, 32, refuses to come to the dock to face the judge at her sentencing
  • The judge said Tustin "will tell any lie and shift blame onto anyone to save her own skin"
  • Arthur's father who abused and mocked him until the day he died handed 21 years for manslaughter
  • PM says "questions need to be answered" by child services after Arthur’s murder
Tustin was jailed for life while Hughes got 21 years for the killing of little Arthur
Tustin was jailed for life while Hughes got 21 years for the killing of little Arthur. Picture: West Midlands Police

By Will Taylor

An "evil" stepmother has been jailed for life for murdering six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes following months of horrific abuse.

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Emma Tustin was told to serve a minimum of 29 years for killing her stepson.

The boy's father, Thomas Hughes, was sentenced to 21 years in prison for manslaughter and cruelty to his boy.

He tragically died in Solihull last year after being left with an unsurvivable brain injury after a campaign of "cruel and inhuman" abuse.

Tustin, 32, slammed Arthur's head onto a hard surface in June 2020, after starving him and poisoning him with salt along with her partner, Hughes.

Tustin was unanimously convicted on Thursday of Arthur's murder after an eight-week trial at Coventry Crown Court, with the boy's "pitiless" father, Thomas Hughes, 29, found guilty of his manslaughter, after encouraging the killing.

On Friday, the court was told Tustin had tried to take her own life twice during the trial.

Read more: Police bodycam footage shows 'evil' murderer stepmum claim Arthur, six, attacked her

Read more: PM says "questions need to be answered" after murder of 6-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

Distressing video sees Arthur Labinjo-Hughes struggle to pick up duvet

She had been brought to court for sentencing but "refused to come up" to the dock, the judge, Mr Justice Mark Wall QC, said.

It was found that Arthur had died of an inflicted brain injury.

He was found to have 130 injuries over his body, having been hit, slapped, kicked, punched and beaten, "over and over".

After lying to responding medics, Tustin would later claim the child must have thrown himself down the stairs even though evidence suggested he was barely strong enough to stand or pick up his duvet.

Justice Wall, jailing the pair, said their cruel abuse was "without doubt one of the most distressing and disturbing cases I have had to deal with".

Killer stepmother cries to police in body-cam footage

He said: "This cruel and inhuman treatment of Arthur was a deliberate decision by you to brush off his cries for help as naughtiness."

Tustin had made a "calculated" decision to kill, the judge said, telling her: "You are a manipulative woman who will tell any lie, and shift the blame onto anyone, to save your own skin."

"You wanted Thomas Hughes so he could provide for you and your own children, but did not want to be troubled by Arthur any longer."

The judge told Hughes his "encouragement" of Tustin's actions was "chilling". The court heard Hughes sent a text about his son to Tustin less than a day before the killing which said "just end him", and told Arthur to "watch you little c***, I'll bury you six feet under".

He said: "You were Arthur's father, in a position of trust and bore primary responsibility for protecting him.

"He was extremely vulnerable and you lied to his school in the last days of Arthur's life to protect both you and Ms Tustin."

Tustin and Hughes were described by Arthur's maternal grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow, as "wicked" and "evil" while prosecutors called them "utterly ruthless, unthinking and pitiless".

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".

At the start of the pair's sentencing hearing at Coventry Crown Court on Friday, Ms Hughes read a victim impact statement on behalf of her family.

The secondary school teacher said Arthur, as a "happy, contented, thriving seven-year-old" would "be alive today" had her son not met Tustin.

But she added: "It is also clear that Arthur was failed by the very authorities that we, as a society, are led to believe are there to ensure the safety of everyone."

Earlier on Friday, a spokesman for Boris Johnson said the PM found the case "deeply disturbing" and his thoughts were with those who loved the tragic six-year-old.

The spokesman said: "It's clear there are questions that need to be answered to get to the bottom of how this happened.

"You'll be aware that a local child safeguarding practice review is under way to fully assess the circumstances surrounding Arthur's tragic death at the hands of those who should have been looking after him, and that review will look at local safeguarding, including police, children's social care, health and education professionals in the local area.

"We won't hesitate to take any action off the back of that review."