Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Father and stepmother “poisoned 6 year old boy with salt before murdering him”
An “intimidating” father and mother-in-law poisoned his young son with salt and subjected him to months of “cruel” abuse before murdering him, a court said.
Thomas Hughes, 29, and his girlfriend Emma Tustin, 32, are jointly charged with murder after leaving six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes with an “insurmountable brain injury” after his head was “repeatedly banged against a hard surface “on June 17 of last year.
It is alleged that Tustin committed the fatal assault while in Arthur’s sole custody, and retrieved his cell phone immediately after to take a photo of the boy as he died in the hallway.
Despite her phone, she took 12 minutes to call 999, telling doctors that Arthur “fell and hit his head and while he was on the floor. [and] hit his head five more times, ”prosecutors said.
Jonas Hankin QC, for the prosecution, told jurors: “You will note her account, including the suggestion that Arthur butted her during the incident, and you will also have noted that she felt Needless to say, Arthur had treated them like crap. – in this context, in these circumstances.
The couple are also charged with several counts of child cruelty after forcing Arthur to endure “cruel and systematic behavior” of “physical and psychological” abuse in the weeks leading up to his death.
A witness said the previously happy and healthy boy looked “like he was broken” on the day he died.
The same witness said that when Arthur “secretly” asked him for a glass of water while Hughes and Tustin were out of the room, “he must have brought it to Arthur’s mouth” because the child was. “Too weak to hold it on its own”.
“His clothes looked dirty, his lips cracked, he could barely open his mouth to speak, his hair was dirty, his fingernails were dirty and he looked malnourished, thin and worn out,” the prosecutor said. at Coventry Crown Court.
Arthur was “separated and isolated” for “up to 14 hours a day”, often forced to stand on the step beside the hallway near the front door, and prevented from eating and drinking, it is alleged. .
Mr Hankin said: “The evidence you will hear, according to the prosecution, indicates that Arthur was physically and verbally abused, isolated, access to food and drink was controlled or restricted, he was deprived. basic living comfort; a bed, clothes.
“And he suffered psychological abuse – harassment, in ordinary language.”
Mr Hankin told the jury that “Arthur was made to sleep on the living room floor” at Tustin’s home in Cranmore Road, Solihull, and that after his death, “a quilt was found in a closet under the stairs”.
He added: “It is striking, according to the prosecution, that there is no clear evidence of Arthur’s presence living in this house.”
Medical evidence revealed that the young boy died from an “adult head injury, the most likely mechanism being that he was vigorously shaken and his head repeatedly banged against a hard surface. “.
Jurors were shown photographs of Arthur in the house as he was “forced” to “stand in isolation by force and he would be punished for unauthorized movements, including attempts to sit”.
Tustin regularly took photos and recorded audio clips and videos of Arthur being punished and then sent them to Hughes.
In one example, the boy was shown standing near the refrigerator as punishment, and numerous audio clips were shown showing him “crying and moaning” for long periods of time.
Tustin and Hughes exchanged messages referring to Arthur in derogatory terms, and there were “many examples of threats of violence.”
On May 6, 2020, Hughes texted Tustin, telling him, “Tell him not to move a muscle – put it near the fridge, put it outside or somewhere else, give it.
“Put him outside with the trash.” “
More than 200 audio files of Arthur at “different stages of distress” have been recorded, the prosecution said.
In some of the recordings, he has been heard asking for help from his “nanny” and his paternal uncles.
In one he said, “Please help me, help me uncle, they don’t feed me, I need food and drink”.
On other occasions, Hughes has texted Tustin saying, “Just finish it” and “I’ll check it out when I get back.”
In June of last year, Hughes told a neighbor, “If you hear someone say ‘don’t kill me’ ignore them, I’m not hurting them.
Arthur was killed a few days later, shortly before 1 a.m. on June 17 – three months after his father moved in with Tustin.
Mr Hankin said emergency services were called to the house to report that Arthur had “self-injured himself in the head at his mother-in-law’s home address” as paramedics noted a “big bruise “on his forehead.
He suffered cardiac arrest, but doctors made his heart beat and rushed him to Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
Tests showed Arthur had “numerous bruises all over his body,” and a CT scan showed bleeding in the brain and “damage to the brain itself, which was due to a lack of oxygen. and blood supply ”.
Hankin said: “Abnormal biochemical results raised concerns that Arthur was also poisoned – with salt.”
Hughes and Tustin also face an allegation of child cruelty for administering salt to Arthur between June 1 and June 17 last year.
The jury also heard that Arthur was in the sole custody of his father after his birth mother, Olivia Labinjo, was convicted of murder in February 2019.
In April 2020, it emerged that children’s social services and police were alerted by his paternal grandmother to concerns about Arthur’s care.
The extended family had seen bruises on Arthur’s back, and he said Tustin had “called him a ugly, ugly kid” and pushed him headfirst up the stairs.
After Children’s Services saw Arthur on April 17, “no concerns were raised,” and although photos of the bruises were sent to police, no further action was taken, said Mr. Hankin to the jury.
On the first day of the trial, Tustin admitted cruelty to children by repeatedly abusing Arthur by “forcing him to stand up, isolating him in the family home, and physically or verbally intimidating him.”
Hughes denies a similar charge.
Both are also charged with two counts of cruelty to children through repeated assault and also with denial of food and / or drink.
The couple deny the charges and the trial continues.