‘Skeletal’ boy, six, allegedly murdered in ‘campaign of cruelty’ by his father was made to call him ‘sir’ and stand in a hallway while other children played outside, court hears 

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  • Emma Tustin charged with murder of partner’s six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes
  • She and her partner Thomas Hughes are accused of ‘poisoning’ baby with salt
  • The pair denies murdering Arthur, who had fallen at Tustin’s home in Shirley, Solihulo.
  • Tustin and Hughes are now on trial for murder at Coventry Crown Court
  • Court heard that Tustin had previously sent Hughes a text saying ‘I want you but not him’

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A six-year-old boy, who was allegedly murdered by his father and his accomplice after an “expedition of brutality”, felt “skeletal” and “drowsy” and too weak to climb stairs, told a court today. Was told.

One witness said he lacked the normal brilliance of children and instead seemed to have ‘fear’ inside him.


He said she tried to bow down when he comforted her and appeared ‘cowardly’.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, 29, was shouted ‘aggressively’ by Thomas Hughes, 32, and Emma Tustin, 32, on their way to a barber’s home, it was said.

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Giving evidence, beautician Katherine Milinch recalled seeing the child’s condition and how her boyfriend offered her a glass of water to face the front door.

She told jurors at Coventry Crown Court today how Arthur was forced to call his father ‘sir’, adding: ‘I hated it. I wanted to throw them out.’

Tustin is accused of killing Arthur at his home in Shirley, near Solihull, West Mids, on June 16 last year.

He died the next day in hospital from ‘strange brain injuries’.

Prosecutors allege that the child suffered systematic child neglect, including being forced to stand for hours on end, being denied food and drink, and salt poisoning.

The jurors were told that the alleged abuse by Hughes and Tustin was designed to “deliberately terrorize” Arthur.

The pair of Shirley, near Solihull in the West Mids, are denied multiple counts of manslaughter and child cruelty.

Thomas Hughes (left), 29, also asked his girlfriend, Emma Tustin, to silence Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (right) while she lamented that he was giving her ‘attitude’ during a beauty appointment, It was said so.

Coventry Crown Court heard how Tustin (pictured), 32, was taken to a house to have her hair and eyelashes removed when she sent a message to her boyfriend: 'I had to tell Arthur to mess up'

Coventry Crown Court heard how Tustin (pictured), 32, was taken to a house to have her hair and eyelashes removed when she sent a message to her boyfriend: ‘I had to tell Arthur to mess up’

His trial heard how, on the morning of 16 June, Tustin returned to Ms Milhench’s home with Hughes to finish her hair appointment from the previous day.

The mother-in-law told jurors that she saw Hughes ‘dragging Arthur by the hoof of his neck’ and called him a ‘little s***’.

When his own son ran into the house, causing Arthur to withdraw from his position in front of the front door, he claimed that Hughes had threatened to chop off his head and ‘use it as a football’.

She said: ‘He screamed a lot of other stuff. ‘Look you little s***, I’ll bury you six feet down’.

Ms Milhinch said: ‘It was constant; to attack, to abuse Just continuous.

She said: ‘I was doing Emma’s hair and I don’t remember how it started but Tom was there, closed the door and Arthur started screaming. I turned around and said ‘what’s going on’. ‘ And he said ‘he is pressuring her’.

He said ‘yes, because it hurts’. The hairdresser, who had known Tustin for a year as a client after advertising her beauty services on Facebook, described how Arthur came to her house in the same pajamas as the previous day,

He parked most of the meeting in a hallway while the other children played outside.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes died in hospital several hours after being found unresponsive at a home on Cranmore Road in Shirley, near Birmingham

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes died in hospital several hours after being found unresponsive at a home on Cranmore Road in Shirley, near Birmingham

Hughes (left) is accused of forcing his son to endure 'physical and psychological' abuse in the weeks leading up to his death

Hughes (left) is accused of forcing his son to endure ‘physical and psychological’ abuse in the weeks leading up to his death

She said that Tustin and Hughes were “constantly calling her a little c***” and yelling “back and forth… like a game of tennis.”

‘Arthur will only speak when they say something and must respond by saying ‘okay’ or ‘yes’.

‘ If he didn’t answer correctly, Tom would say ‘Yeah, what?’. Arthur must say ‘Yes, sir’.

‘ Similarly Tom wanted him to answer – ‘Yes, sir’.

Ms Milhinch said she was shocked by the deteriorating condition from Arthur’s previous visit in February, and described him as ‘skeletal’, ‘dry’ and ‘weak’.

He said: ‘His legs must have been trembling trying to walk the stairs. Like he couldn’t stop himself.

She said that Arthur appeared ‘completely different’ to normal six-year-olds and had no energy.

Ms. Milhench told jurors how her boyfriend, Tobias Gerry – known as T – gave Arthur some water at the sight of Tustin and Hughes.

He said: ‘My partner made him drink water without knowing it.

‘He told me he had to hold the cup for him because he couldn’t hold it.

‘He was asking for more. Since [Tobias] Did it, [Arthur] Was calling T. He wanted to be with T.’

Ms Milhench’s partner Tobias Gerry described how he went to see Arthur as he stood at the bottom of the stairs on 16 June.

He said: ‘I reached the bottom of the stairs, put my hand on his shoulder and he shook right off. I made her sit on the step and tried to reassure her. I said you don’t need to be afraid of me in any way.’

Mr Gerry said Arthur ‘looked timid’ and was without ‘the normal gleam you see in the eyes of children at that age’.

He added: ‘It looked like fear was lurking inside.’ Asked about Arthur’s physical appearance, Mr Gerry said: ‘Dry, chapped lips. The amount of plaque formed on his teeth – eg, considerable.

Dirty nails. He just seemed pretty naughty. As if he was actually playing in the garden, but it was not.

‘Malnutrition, really just unhealthy.’

Mr Gerry said he had heard a ‘pattern of abuse’ towards Arthur from Hughes and Tustin.

Giving evidence, he said he heard Hughes shouting: ‘Stand up straight. Wait until we get home, I’ll put you six feet down.’ Mr Gerry said: ‘I could hear Emma yelling at Arthur but also Tom screaming … basically asking Tom to settle her.’

Arthur died of a serious head injury. Prosecutors allege that Tustin killed the young man and that Hughes “deliberately abetted” the murder.

Tustin has pleaded guilty to one count of child cruelty but denies further charges of the same crime.

Hughes denies all allegations. Tustin’s barrister, Mary Prior, QC, asked why she had not called the police after Arthur was ‘sick’ from the couple’s treatment, Ms Milhench said: ‘I wish I did.

‘How they were was completely wrong.’ she added:

‘It’s hard to curb other people’s upbringing. In that situation I didn’t know what to do.

Mrs Prior accused Ms Milhain of ‘exaggerating’ her account.

The beautician denied the claim, saying that she had tried to encourage Tustin to take Arthur to school and his grandparents, who lived locally.

He said: ‘I suggested that they send him to school so that the time is away if things are so bad in the house.

‘They said they couldn’t because they would see bruises. Emma said that’s what Tom did to Arthur.’

She said: ‘I said take her to her nan, she will be happy and you will be happy, everyone will win.

‘ He said ‘no, because that’s what he wants’.

Ms Milhinch said when the family dropped her home they saw Arthur stumble because he was ‘physically weak’. She claimed that Tustin and Hughes were “just standing there” and did not try to help her on her feet.

The court was previously told of WhatsApp messages sent by Hughes and Tustin when she was at Ms Milhinch’s home.

On June 15, the day before Arthur was allegedly murdered, Hughes asked Tustin to silence the schoolboy after he complained of ‘backchatting’. Tustin sent a text: ‘Backchatting. a joke. threw himself on the floor and everything. While abusing. Still screaming.

Hughes replied: ‘Just him or something. Tie a rope around his mouth, a sock or something in it.’

He continued: ‘He wants to hope that by the time I get back, he’ll have thought about how ac*** he is and he wants to think about apologizing.’

Hughes said again: ‘When I come back it will be the end of the child’. He also said on WhatsApp: ‘Just ask T to dig Arthur’s grave for me.’

Ms Milhinch told the jury that she did not see Arthur being abused in her home.

Arthur, who died at Birmingham Children’s Hospital on June 17, 2020, was in the full-time care of Mr Hughes when his mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcro, was charged with the murder of her new partner, Gary Cunningham, in February 2019.

He was jailed for 11 years after being found guilty of murder in July this year.

Trial continues.

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