‘Evil’ father and stepmother guilty of killing Arthur, six, after months of horrific abuse

2 December 2021, 16:14 | Updated: 2 December 2021, 18:43

Josh Giltrap

By Josh Giltrap

An evil father and stepmother have been found guilty of killing six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, who was poisoned and tortured to death in a campaign of horrifying abuse.

Arthur, six, was murdered by his stepmother. His dad was found guilty of manslaughter
Arthur, six, was murdered by his stepmother. His dad was found guilty of manslaughter. Picture: PA/West Midlands Police

Emma Tustin was convicted of murder and her partner Thomas Hughes was found guilty of Arthur's manslaughter at Coventry Crown Court today.

Tustin killed Arthur by slamming his head on a hard surface after she and Hughes, 29 starved him and poisoned him with salt.

After killing Arthur, Tustin took a picture of him as he lay dying in the hallway. 

Speaking after the verdicts, Arthur's maternal grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow, called his killers "wicked" and "evil".

Tustin carried out the fatal assault while in sole care of Arthur at her home in Cranmore Road, 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.

Arthur, six, was poisoned and tortured to death
Arthur, six, was poisoned and tortured to death. Picture: Family handout

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 "Watch you little c***, I'll bury you six feet under."

Harrowing video taken in Arthur's final hours that was played to jurors showed him grimacing in pain with his emaciated frame showing through tattered pyjamas as he wept "no one loves me" and "no one is going to feed me.

Arthur was segregated for 14 hours a day and forced to sleep on the floor. The court heard he was poisoned with so much salt he became too weak to put up a fight against the abuse he suffered.

Tragic Arthur was made to stand in the hallway for hours on end – and had food and drink withheld from him as so-called ‘discipline’.

Hughes' girlfriend Tustin abused him before murdering him on the 17th of June last year at their home in Solihull in the West Midlands.

Pathologists and paediatricians said they had never seen injuries like those suffered by Arthur outside of a car accident

In medical evidence heard during the trial they said the force required to cause injuries like those suffered by Arthur would normally only be seen in a fall from a two-storey window.

The six-year-old was found to have died of an inflicted brain injury.

When asked why he didn’t intervene to protect his son – Thomas Hughes said he was led to believe things weren’t as bad as they seemed – and simply wanted to avoid having unnecessary arguments with his girlfriend, Emma.

He also said his partner promised him love and affection – which he admitted under questioning that he “probably” valued more than the life of his own son at the time.

Arthur’s mum Olivia Labinjo Halcrowe issued the following statement, read aloud by his grandmother, after the verdicts were read out.

“Following the verdict of my son’s trial – I’d like to take this opportunity to focus on the life Arthur lived, and to celebrate the little beautiful boy I knew and loved deeply.

“The details of Arthurs case are harrowing and incomparable, but I want people to know who Arthur was – from his huge smile and personality, to his gentle are caring nature.

“All mothers are biased and believe that their children are the best, and I am no different. From the moment Arthur was born he filled my life with joy. He was always smiling and had the most inquisitive little mind.

“When I think about Arthur’s life and what he loved, there are three things I always think about. Firstly Arthur loved to read, or be read to. Any Julia Anderson books were his favourite, but he particularly loved The Gruffalo, and The Snail and the Whale.

“When he started school his love of reading became a love of learning how to write new words. Every week he would be excited about the ten new words he was going to be given to learn.

“Secondly Arthur loved his food. He was ten pounds, six point five ounces born, and his love of milk soon turned into his love of food.

“He would try anything, and like all children he always wanted whatever I was having. I remember when he started school, every day on the way home, he would tell me what he’d had to eat at lunchtime, and then he would ask me what we were having for dinner.

“But what Arthur loved more than anything was being outside. He loved to play football, and was kicking a football around as soon as he could walk. By the time he was four he could name most, if not all, of the England team, and always had the latest Birmingham City football kit.

“I could talk for hours about what Arthur loved, and who Arthur was, but everyone who knew and loved him has their own stories.

“Talking about Arthur’s loves would not be complete without mentioning superheroes. Marvel or DC, Arthur loved them all, from Batman to Black Panther, Aquaman to The Flash. He had every costume and action figure and would spend hours dressing up and pretending he had all their superpowers.

“Arthur was the light of my life. He wasn’t just my only child, he was my best friend. Never did I imagine he would have been taken from this world so early in his life.

“If Arthur could ask for one final thing, it would be that he was remembered for his superpowers. That is what I’ll always remember him for his superpower, and Arthur’s superpower was his smile.”

An investigation is now underway to find out how Arthur’s mistreatment was able to go undetected for so long, and how anything like this can be prevented from happening again.

Stephen Cullen, Independent chair of Solihull safeguarding partnership, said: “This terrible tragedy has had a shocking impact on Arthur’s family, and across the whole community. The tragic loss of a young boy in such terrible circumstances is dreadful.

“We send our heartfelt condolences to everybody affected. The circumstances around the death will now be subject to independent review; the local child safeguarding practice review.

“Clearly it would be inappropriate for the partnership to comment ahead of the findings of this review.”

The Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement: “The evidence in this case was shocking. That such a young boy could suffer such wilful, deliberate and ultimately fatal cruelty is something that people will find revolting.

“As prosecutors we often have to review cases which are awful, sadistic and chilling. We take our duties very seriously and we are professional and fair. But little Arthur’s case greatly disturbed me and is something I will never forget”.