Stepmother pleads guilty to child cruelty but denies murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

Jurors were told how Arthur was 'repeatedly poisoned with salt-contaminated food' in 'brutal controlling circumstances'

Jurors were told how Arthur was 'repeatedly poisoned with salt-contaminated food' in 'brutal controlling circumstances'

Jurors were told how Arthur was ‘repeatedly poisoned with salt-contaminated food’ in ‘brutal controlling circumstances’

A woman accused of murdering her six-year-old stepson today pleaded guilty to cruelly beating the child in the days before he suffered a fatal head injury.

Stepmother Emma Tustin, who is accused of killing Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, changed her plea to the count of child cruelty part-way through her trial, at the end of defence evidence.

Tustin and Arthur’s father Thomas Hughes, 29, are both on trial jointly accused of murder, after the boy suffered an ‘unsurvivable brain injury’ on June 17, 2020.

In a closing address to the jury, Jonas Hankin, QC, prosecuting, said Arthur was subjected to ‘incomprehensible cruelty’ before his tragic death. 

It is alleged Tustin, 32, carried out the fatal assault while having sole care of Arthur, then fetched her mobile phone to take a picture of the little boy as he lay dying in her home in Solihull, West Midlands. 

Mr Hankin said Hughes was ‘malevolent’ and ‘relished causing Arthur distress.’ 

He told the court it was ‘almost impossible’ to imagine the suffering the boy endured while segregated and having to face a wall for up to 14 hours a day. 

Of 130 areas of bruising found on his body at post-mortem, Mr Hankin said: ‘Most of them will have been abusive. If even half of them were from assaults, that is nearly a bruise for every day of lockdown.

‘Violence was a way of life for him in lockdown.’ 

The prosecution believes Arthur was fed a ‘slurry of salt’ by Tustin, who then caused his unsurvivable brain injuries in a furious attack. 

Hughes is accused of aiding and abetting in the murder, including by sending a text message to Tustin telling her ‘kid’s getting ended when I get back’.

Prosecutors have alleged the pair carried out a ‘campaign of cruelty’, amounting to ‘torture’, against Arthur, in which he was force-fed salt-laced meals, kept isolated in the home, starved, dehydrated and routinely beaten. 

Mr Hankin accused Tustin of then ‘dressing the scene’ to make it appear as if Arthur had inflicted his own injuries. He told jurors: ‘Something did happen to this child. Emma Tustin, to use her own words, lost her ‘f***ing s***’. 

Undated family handout photo issued by West Midlands Police of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

Undated family handout photo issued by West Midlands Police of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

Undated family handout photo issued by West Midlands Police of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

Undated family handout photo issued by West Midlands Police of bruises on Arthur Labinjo-Hughes' back, in April 2020, two months before his death

Undated family handout photo issued by West Midlands Police of bruises on Arthur Labinjo-Hughes' back, in April 2020, two months before his death

Undated family handout photo issued by West Midlands Police of bruises on Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ back, in April 2020, two months before his death

Emma Tustin, 32, who allegedly fatally shook and hit six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, leaving him with an 'unsurvivable' brain injury

Emma Tustin, 32, who allegedly fatally shook and hit six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, leaving him with an 'unsurvivable' brain injury

Emma Tustin, 32, who allegedly fatally shook and hit six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, leaving him with an ‘unsurvivable’ brain injury

The child's father Thomas Hughes (pictured) and Tustin are both on trial jointly accused of murder, after the boy suffered an 'unsurvivable brain injury' on June 17, 2020

The child's father Thomas Hughes (pictured) and Tustin are both on trial jointly accused of murder, after the boy suffered an 'unsurvivable brain injury' on June 17, 2020

The child’s father Thomas Hughes (pictured) and Tustin are both on trial jointly accused of murder, after the boy suffered an ‘unsurvivable brain injury’ on June 17, 2020

Mr Hankin added: ‘Neither Emma Tustin’s limited pleas or Thomas Hughes’s partial admissions begin to reflect the evidence that proves Arthur was the victim of daily beatings.’

He said: ‘Thomas Hughes was complicit in the violence that caused Arthur’s death. Without his permission, without his assent, without his approval, Emma Tustin would not have dared lay a finger on Arthur, let alone assault him so badly.

 Thomas Hughes had the power, the right and indeed the legal duty to intervene to protect Arthur – but he deliberately failed to do so. He deliberately refrained from doing so. 

‘He didn’t merely assent. He promoted and encouraged the cruelty that Arthur was subjected to. At an early stage in the relationship with Emma Tustin Thomas Hughes made it clear which side he was on. He chose Emma Tustin over his own child. 

‘The language he used in text messages, in the presence of others, explicitly encouraged violence towards Arthur. His own aggressive behaviour and use of violence, the example he set, made it clear violence against Arthur was permitted and deliberately encouraged.’  

Tustin’s barrister, Mary Prior QC, told jurors at Coventry Crown Court that her client had admitted in her own evidence to ‘three assaults… all captured on CCTV, occurring between June 12 and 16, 2020’, leading to her change of plea.

Tustin claimed Arthur’s fatal head injury was self-inflicted, possibly by throwing himself down the staircase in her hallway, where he was forced to spend ’12 to 14 hours’ a day, as part of the couple’s behavioural regime.

Arthur’s harrowing last hours: Starving boy cries ‘no one loves me’ in heartbreaking video

The harrowing last recorded moments of a ‘tortured’ six-year-old boy show him struggling to pick up his duvet from the floor where he was forced to sleep for days on end – just hours before he was allegedly murdered by his father and stepmother.

The heart-wrenching clip, captured on CCTV, shows an emaciated Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, whose pyjamas appear to be hanging off him, grimace in pain as he tries to pick up his cover and special Avengers pillow.

The distressing footage was shown to jurors at Coventry Crown Court on Tuesday, where Thomas Hughes, 29, and Emma Tustin, 32, are accused of killing Arthur at their home in Solihull, West Midlands, on June 17 last year.

In the haunting video, filmed just hours earlier on June 16, the tragic boy is seen struggling to stand before slumping to the floor of the living room. 

Arthur cries ‘no one loves me’ four times as he struggles to walk to the other side of the room while appearing to be suffering from a limp. 

It takes him more than two whole minutes to be able to stand up, pick up his duvet and walk the distance of about two metres to a door leading to another room.   

In audio clips released alongside the video by West Midlands Police, played to the court today, little Arthur is also heard saying ‘no one is going to feed me’ seven times in 44 seconds.  

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During his evidence, Hughes claimed Tustin ‘mentally abused’ and ‘gaslighted’ him into complying with the punishing disciplinary regime, but also admitted lying to school staff who were checking on Arthur’s progress during the first Covid lockdown.

Earlier on Monday, the jury heard the last of the evidence in Hughes’ defence, from a woman who shared a cell with Tustin while she was awaiting trial for Arthur’s murder.

Elaine Pritchard was Tustin’s ‘padmate’ at HMP Eastwood Park in Gloucestershire in November last year.

She said she trashed the cell and ordered Tustin out after reading that Arthur had suffered about 130 separate injuries.

Ms Pritchard, 48, told jurors she has an extensive record of offending linked to drug and alcohol abuse, including assaults and drink-driving.

In May 2007, she had also admitted two counts of neglecting her children, who were removed from her care in 2007, as she told the jury the drugs had ‘taken over everything’ in her life at the time.

Ms Pritchard was asked about an argument she had while sharing a cell with Tustin in November 2021, which ended with her calling the prison’s guards to have her cellmate removed.

In evidence, she said she had spotted Tustin’s case paperwork lying on a side table.

She said: ‘I saw a comment from the paramedics, and 137 bruises. On his body. And that she showed no emotion.’

Bernard Richmond QC, representing Hughes, asked: ‘How did she know that you had seen that?’

Ms Pritchard replied: ‘Because I ended up throwing her out of the cell.’

She added: ‘I asked her, why wouldn’t she know that a boy had all those injuries?

‘I asked her about when she had bathed him or showered him.

‘She said ‘Oh, I didn’t do that, I just used to give him a towel’.

‘I was quite angry at the fact someone had 137 bruises on their body.’

Asked what Tustin did when Ms Pritchard got angry, she claimed: ‘She was sat on her bed or on the chair, with her knees up, and I just started throwing her stuff into the corner of the room, saying ‘You’re getting out, you’re going’.

‘I pressed the alarm bell for the staff, I feared I would end up staying in the prison.’

Tragic Arthur Labinjo-Hughes attempts to pick up duvet from floor where he slept in CCTV footage shown to Coventry Crown Court

Tragic Arthur Labinjo-Hughes attempts to pick up duvet from floor where he slept in CCTV footage shown to Coventry Crown Court

Tragic Arthur Labinjo-Hughes attempts to pick up duvet from floor where he slept in CCTV footage shown to Coventry Crown Court

Emma Tustin, who is accused of killing her stepson, changed her plea to the count of child cruelty today at the end of defence evidence

Emma Tustin, who is accused of killing her stepson, changed her plea to the count of child cruelty today at the end of defence evidence

Emma Tustin, who is accused of killing her stepson, changed her plea to the count of child cruelty today at the end of defence evidence

Ms Pritchard then alleged: ‘She said to me ‘You had your kids taken off you’ and I said ‘Yeah, I did, but you’re not going to get your kids back, you’ve murdered a little boy, you’ve killed a boy’.

‘She wasn’t interested; the only thing she spoke about was her own children, she never spoke about Arthur.’

Ms Pritchard was also asked about an alleged remark Tustin made to her, describing Arthur as a ‘little f*****’, when she had ‘stopped him’ leaving the house to go after his father.

However, Ms Pritchard was unable to tell jurors if the words allegedly used by Tustin had been about an incident on the day of Arthur’s fatal collapse.

Tustin previously pleaded guilty on the first day of the trial to another count of child cruelty – ill-treating Arthur on multiple occasions by ‘forcing him to stand, isolating him within the family home, and physically or verbally intimidating him’.

Hughes denies a similar charge, as well as a further child cruelty allegation of ‘wilfully assaulting Arthur on multiple occasions’.

The pair also both deny allegations of child cruelty by administering salt to Arthur between June 1 and 17 last year, and by withholding food and drink.

Hughes and Tustin also both deny murder and the trial continues with the judge now giving the jury legal directions.

Link hienalouca.com

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