Father accused of murdering son, 6, threatened to 'take his jaw off', court hears

9 October 2021, 10:23

Arthur died last year after suffering an 'unsurvivable' brain injury
Arthur died last year after suffering an 'unsurvivable' brain injury. Picture: Family handout

By Asher McShane

A father accused of murdering his six-year-old son threatened to "take his ****ing jaw straight off his shoulders", a court heard.

A jury was played dozens of mobile phone audio recordings of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes crying, and shown pictures of bruising to his shoulders on the second day of a trial at Coventry Crown Court.

Prosecutors allege that Arthur was killed by his father, Thomas Hughes, and his girlfriend, Emma Tustin, in June last year after being poisoned with salt and exposed to months of abuse.

Jurors heard a string of audio recordings made by Tustin, some of which were sent to Hughes, as they were taken through audio, video, photo and messaging evidence from September 2019 through 2020's first lockdown and into May last year.

Presenting the evidence in chronological order, prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC showed jurors a selection of pre-lockdown photos of Arthur, including ones of him at a branch of McDonald's, playing in a park, and sitting at a table.

Mr Hankin went on to read excerpts from WhatsApp messages between Hughes and Tustin, as well as audio clips she had recorded.

In one exchange, the court heard, Hughes reacted to an audio clip by writing: "I will deal with him when I'm home and it won't be pretty."

Jurors were told that a suggestion was then made on WhatsApp to put Arthur "out with the rubbish" - before Tustin described the boy as being "on one".

Hughes, the court heard, then replied: "Won't be when I take his ****ing jaw straight off his shoulders".

Another message, sent by Tustin on May 23 last year, read: "I don't think I can do this any more. He shuts up as soon as you come through the door. He is malicious, cruel and just generally awful."

A video filmed by Tustin the following day was also played to the trial, lasting just over a minute and showing Arthur sitting on a tiled floor, wearing a Batman T-shirt, as he slapped himself in the face and raised his foot to his own head in a kicking motion.

After being sent a photo of Arthur, Hughes then responded: "He's an absolute disgrace. That's not my son."

It is alleged Tustin carried out the fatal assault while in sole care of Arthur at her home in Cranmore Road, Solihull, West Midlands, and fetched her mobile phone immediately afterwards to take a photograph of the youngster as he lay dying in the hallway.

Prosecutors claim that despite having her phone, she took 12 minutes to call 999, telling medics that Arthur "fell and banged his head and while on the floor banged his head another five times".

Hughes, 29, and Tustin, 32, deny murder and child cruelty. The trial continues.