The stepmum of tragic Arthur Labinjo-Hughes has been jailed for 29 years for his murder – and his killer dad has been sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter.
Thomas Hughes, 29, and girlfriend Emma Tustin, 32, brutally abused the six-year-old from the beginning of the first lockdown.
A 37-day court case heard how the two subjected the schoolboy to a horrific experience across lockdown – leaving him hurt, unloved and ultimately dead. Both have also been found guilty of several counts of child cruelty.
Arthur was fatally injured at Tustins home in Cranmore Road, Shirley, in June 2020.
The court has heard the father and son were living at Tustin’s home in Cranmore Road because they were there when lockdown was announced in March 2020.
The pair remained at the address until Arthur suffered fatal injuries on June 16.
Judge Wall said he had seen ‘no remorse’ from either Tustin and Hughes, while the statements from Arthur’s grandmothers had been ‘deeply moving’.
He then confirmed the sentences and how he had calculated them, before ordering Hughes be sent down to join Tustin who had decided not come into court.
Her barrister stated she intended to read the judge’s remarks to Tustin after the hearing.
Turning to Hughes the judge said: “Hughes, you were out of the house when your partner did what she did to your son. But she did it in part because of the encouragement you gave her. In the weeks preceding his murder you made a series of graphic and chilling threats to Arthur or about him.”
He added: “The threats of what you would do to Arthur were themselves an encouragement to Tustin to use violence of her own on him. But they were also accompanied by more direct encouragements to violence.”
Judge Wall continued: “When I sentence you, I bear in mind that the jury have convicted you of manslaughter and not murder. Therefore, I sentence you on the basis that you deliberately encouraged Tustin to use violence on Arthur but not that you intended her to do so with intent to kill him or cause him a really serious injury.
“But the evidence leads me to conclude that your words and actions were designed to encourage her to violence only just short of that which might cause Arthur grievous bodily harm.”
The Judge made reference to Tustin repeatedly recording Arthur crying, hitting himself and asking for his relatives which he says ‘anyone’ would have recognised as cries for help.
He stated Hughes watched and listened to enough of the recordings to know ‘how broken Arthur was’.
Judge Wall: “Your joint attempts at trial to say that you only realised after the event how bad your behaviour towards him had been were transparent and self-serving lies. You both knew the extent of his suffering at the time and were pitiless and indifferent to it.
“Nobody could have taken or watched the haunting videos we have seen and listened to the audio files we have listened to without rescuing that poor boy unless this was so.”
Judge Wall had condemned both killers in his sentencing.
He had said: “This is not a case in which you were inadequate people, incapable of caring properly for children. Hughes, you apparently cared properly for Arthur before you became infatuated with Tustin to the extent that it obliterated all love for your son.
“You, Tustin, gave copious amounts of love to your own two children right up until the day of your arrest.
“It is a shocking feature of this case that your children, Tustin, lived a perfectly happy normal life in that household while this appalling cruelty to Arthur was taking place.
“This cruel and inhuman treatment of Arthur was a deliberate decision by both of you to brush off his cries for help and treat them as naughtiness because it suited you not to spend time caring for him in the way he needed.
“You both knew the effect of what you were doing and yet persisted in it.”
Judge Wall stated he was sure Tustin had administered a ‘huge’ dose of salt to Arthur before the fatal attack as well as smaller doses for ‘some time’ before.
He said: “It is the only explanation that we heard Arthur crying out for food only for him to reject the food you prepared for him. It explains why you were restricting his access to free water for some time.”
Judge Wall added: “In the last three months of Arthur’s life he was subjected to unimaginable suffering at the hands of both of you.”
He stated they both ‘told lies to conceal what was happening’ by Tustin’s account to social services and Hughes’ account to the school.
Ms Hughes: “I have also listened to barbed comments by a witness that the death of Arthur did not affect him, which is sickening and abhorrent. It is clear from Miss Tustin’s evidence we, as a family will not have a definite answer or explanation of how Arthur died, yet another burden we will shoulder for our lifetime.
“It is also clear from the evidence that I have heard that Arthur was failed by the very authorities that we, as a society, are led to believe are there to ensure the safety of everyone. As a mother and grandmother it is with a profound despondency that I have failed in my sole purpose to keep my loved ones safe and ensure their life is filled with only joy, happiness and contentment.
“This, woefully, is no longer the case for any of us and it is with a heavy heart that we have all realised this will never ever be the case again.
“Finally, we as a family, are emphatic that Arthur would be alive today, a happy, contented, thriving, seven-year-old with the opportunity to reach his full potential during his lifetime, if Tom had not met Emma Tustin.
“We believe this now and for evermore.”
Joanne Hughes, Arthur’s grandmother and Thomas Hughes’ mother, was the next to read a statement. She said: “I write this on behalf of my family and with their authority.
“Arthur was the sunlight in all our lives, bringing joy, laughter and love to all of us. His death has turned the colour in our lives into a perpetual grey. Whilst our cherished and much loved 11-year-old granddaughter brings us joy and laughter, there is always the reminder that there should be double the joy, laughter and happiness, with the additional reminder that, as our granddaughter grows and blossoms into a young lady, Arthur is always missing in physical form, but never forgotten and remains constantly in our thoughts with the knowledge that any special moments in our lives will be forever tainted with forlorn contemplations.
“Throughout this trial I have heard of Arthur’s challenging and disruptive behaviour. We, as a family, want it recorded that the Arthur we knew was the model of a happy, joyous, exuberant and loving six-year-old and we will always remember him so. He bought laughter and happiness to those who loved him and he reflected that love and joy back to those who treasured him.”
Judge Wall says he is troubled by whether Tustin had an intent to kill at the moment she inflicted the fatal injuries.
He lists a number of factors including the level of force required to cause Arthur’s injuries, the comment she made the previous day that it would be ‘the last time he will bite me’, the significant amount of salt Arthur consumed in an hour or two before his death and the fact that Tustin sought to ‘cover up’ what had happened after rather than help Arthur.
Judge Wall says taking those together he is entitled to find she had an intent to kill.
Police bodycam footage shows the moment Tustin lies on camera to cops moments after she had inflicted his final fatal injuries.
The evil stepmum tells a police officer that six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes headbutted her when she tried to stop him headbutting the floor.
Police body worn footage reveals 32-year-old Tustin say: “Done my best for that kid he f****** hates me. I couldn’t get him off the floor.” He died hours later.