A dad accused of ‘murdering’ his six-year-old boy admitted he had ‘failed as a father’ and that his son did not need him, a court has heard.
Thomas Hughes told medics at Birmingham Children’s Hospital he should have ‘done more’ about Arthur Labinjo-Hughes ‘ apparent eating and behaviour problems which resulted in the boy threatening to ‘murder everyone in the house’, a jury was told. The 29-year-old, along with his then partner Emma Tustin, 32, deny murdering Arthur at their home in Cranmore Road, Shirley, where he collapsed of fatal injuries on June 16, last year. They stand trial at Coventry Crown Court where they are also accused of multiple counts of child cruelty. Giving evidence today – Monday, October 25 – Adam Belcher, staff nurse at the hospital, recalled a conversation he had with Hughes. He said: “He told me that they had been struggling with behaviour at home, there was some sort of misbehaviour and Arthur had been told to sit on the thinking step.
“I was told Arthur had been banging his head at which point Arthur was asked to stop and he refused and continued banging his head.” Mr Belcher told the court he asked Hughes if he wanted anything to which he allegedly replied: “I just want my son, I know he’s a little s*** but he’s my son.” Adam Kealey, clinical support worker, also spoke with Hughes and recalled him saying Arthur ‘doesn’t need him and Arthur is better off with his nan and grandad’. He said Hughes lamented not believing Arthur when he claimed Tustin had hit him. Bernadette Robinson, a junior sister at the hospital, gave similar evidence. She told the jury Hughes had said ‘if Arthur survives this he shouldn’t come home with him’, that he had ‘failed as a father’ and that ‘he loved his son but Arthur needed more’. Ms Robinson stated the accused dad also told her he should have ‘done more’ about Arthur’s eating and behaviour problems.
She said Hughes had claimed Arthur had threatened to ‘stab him’ and ‘murder everyone in the house’. Hughes had also described himself as ‘the fun parent’ up until Arthur’s biological mother Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow was sent to prison, the jury was told. The court was also shown evidence of what took place on June 16 after Arthur was taken to hospital in a critical state.
Prosecutor Jonas Hankin stated around 7pm Tustin sent a WhatsApp message to Hughes which said: “How come you haven’t messaged me? Don’t say this is me they are waiting for an update about what’s happening. I can’t have a shower or f*** all. Sat here being watched. Haven’t done f*** all.” She sent another shortly after which added: “Don’t worry about it. I will sit here and deal with the consequences of something he’s done. Could get arrested for something I haven’t done.” The prosecution has previously told the jury that Hughes ‘encouraged’ violence towards his son but it was Tustin who inflicted the fatal attack while she was alone with Arthur. The pair have also been accused of subjecting the boy to ‘systematic abuse’ including forcing him to remain in the hallway for up to 14 hours a day, physical assaults, depriving him of water, intimidation and salt poisoning. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty to murder. Tustin has admitted one child cruelty offence but has denied three further counts. Hughes denies all four counts.
This is the heartbreaking CCTV of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes struggling to put his duvet away after sleeping in a living room hours before his death. By June 16 last year the six-year-old was so frail he could barely pick his bedding up from the living room floor – where he had been sleeping at a home in Cranmore Road, Shirley – a jury has heard. Hours later he would collapse of catastrophic and ultimately fatal head injuries. Prosecutors argue he had been subjected to weeks of ‘systematic abuse’ at the hands of his father Thomas Hughes, 29, and step-mother Emma Tustin, 32, which culminated in one final attack. Both deny murder and multiple counts of child cruelty. They currently stand trial at Coventry Crown Courtwhere the jury are a matter of days away from being sent out to reach verdicts following weeks of evidence.
Today – Tuesday, November 23 – CCTV footage from Tustin’s living room on June 16 last year was released. In the footage, which has been played to the jury, Arthur can be seen stirring and waking up at 8.30am. Prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC, describing the footage to the jury for the first time in the trial, said: “Arthur wakes up and stands. He appears to be struggling to fold his duvet. He appears to be crying and struggling on his feet. He drags his duvet on the floor out of the living room.” Arthur appears to stand up in stages, wearing the same onesie he had been for the fifth day in a row, it has been claimed. The two-minute footage, which did not record sound, shows how he he finally gets to his feet and appears to stumble and limp towards the door. Arthur edges out the room, tiny step by tiny step, and at one point loses grip of his bedding. After retrieving it in his hand he ushers himself out of the living room. It is alleged by that stage Arthur’s body was feeble from being made to stand in isolation in the hallway for up to 14 hours a day, being repeatedly assaulted, deprived of food and water and likely by then ‘poisoned’ with salt.
Medical experts have told the jury his thymus – an organ in the immune system – had shrunk due to a ‘period of severe prolonged physical stress’ comparable to a child with cancer. The court has also heard Arthur was made to sleep on the living room floor even on nights when Tustin’s children were staying elsewhere and their beds were free to use upstairs. The living room CCTV has featured heavily during the trial offering a unique fly-on-the-wall perspective into what was happening in the home during lockdown last year. Tustin said she had it installed to monitor Arthur’s behaviour which she and Hughes claim deteriorated significantly in his final weeks. The camera has helped detectives establish how long Arthur spent in the hallway as a ‘punishment’. In another incident it showed Tustin wake Arthur up by pulling the duvet from underneath him, which appeared to startle him and make him stand up and cry. The prosecution has argued Hughes carried out violence upon his son as well as permitted and encouraged Tustin to do the same. It is alleged she committed the fatal attack in the hallway around 2.29pm on June 16 whilst she was alone with Arthur. The court has heard Hughes arrived home shortly after and emergency services were called 12 minutes after the alleged assault. Arthur was taken to the Birmingham Children’s Hospital where doctors concluded his brain injuries were unsurvivable.