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Friday, July 1, 2022

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Local social services had no concerns despite poor boys prolonged abuse resulting in his murder

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Local authorities failed to intervene and protect Authur who was found unconscious in June 2020 after a period of prolonged and evil abuse described as the most distressing child abuse case in recent history.

Every time his awful abuse was reported to local social services they claimed they had no concerns. Despite having no concerns Arthur Labinjo-Huges would become another child to be murdered and let down by the system that is supposed to project children just like Arthur.

Arthur Labinjo-Huges was murdered he suffered an unsurvivable brain injury and his body was covered in 130 bruises he had been poisoned with salt at his home when police found him unconscious on 16 June 2020.

The murder of Arthur has been described as one of the most “distressing” child abuse case in recent history.

Emma Tustin, 32, has been jailed for life with a minimum of 29 years after she was found guilty of murdering Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.  His father Thomas Hughes has been convicted of his manslaughter and jailed for 21 years.

Arthur’s death on 17 June last year, came after a campaign of cruelty inflicted by both Tustin and Hughes during which Arthur was forced to stand for hours on end and suffered repeated assaults.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Local social services had no concerns despite poor boys prolonged abuse resulting in his murder 1

On 16 June 2020, officers were called to Tustin’s home in Cranmore Road, Shirley, where Arthur was unconscious on the floor. Paramedics tended to him having arrived to find a neighbour performing CPR on the six-year-old.

Arthur had bruising to his head and body, appeared under-weight and his gums were bleeding. He was taken to hospital but sadly despite the best efforts of medical staff he died at 1am the following morning.

The accounts given by Hughes and his partner Tustin, differed but revolved around Arthur’s behaviour being poor and him banging his own head off the floor. 

But due to the nature of Arthur’s injuries and the accounts given by Tustin and Hughes, they were arrested on suspicion of murder.

We were able to painstakingly piece together what had happened with investigators trawling through hours of CCTV from inside the home in Cranmore Road. 

We also studied hundreds of videos, audio files and photos found on Tustin’s and Hughes’ mobile phones, and analysed thousands of messages they sent each other.

And the compelling evidence they revealed clearly illustrated the systematic cruelty inflicted on Arthur by both Tustin and Hughes.

We worked painstakingly with medical experts from various areas of clinical medicine and pathology to show that the six-year-old’s death had been caused by a head trauma inflicted on him by an adult. 

And that the most likely way that happened was by him being vigorously shaken and his head banged repeatedly against a hard surface.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Local social services had no concerns despite poor boys prolonged abuse resulting in his murder 2

Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Laura Harrison, said: “This has been a truly heartbreaking case and has deeply affected everyone who has been involved in it.

“An innocent boy was subjected to a campaign of cruelty by the very people who were meant to be loving and protecting him.

“Despite the lies they told, we carefully built a case against the two of them. We were able to seize their phones and found the messages they exchanged which showed their anger towards Arthur.

“As part of our investigations we were able to access their home where we found a CCTV camera set up in their living room. And the footage from that helped us build up a picture of the grim reality of Arthur’s life inside that house.”

Campaign of cruelty

The court was shown footage of Arthur spending hours at a time forcibly standing in isolation and he would be punished for unauthorised movement including attempts to sit down, to ease his discomfort.

And they heard many examples of audio recordings, where Arthur is being sworn at, insulted, and subjected to numerous threats of violence.

Sadly we found no evidence of a space in the house in Cranmore Road that Arthur could have called his own. Officers found his duvet shoved in a cupboard under the stairs, because he was made to sleep on the floor in the living room each night.

Tustin alone had more than 200 audio recordings of Arthur on her phone. In many he can be heard asking to go and see other members of his family. In others he can be heard begging for help; saying that he’s not being fed and he needs food and a drink.

After Arthur’s death a neighbour told us that she’d heard Tustin shouting ‘face the wall’. On another occasion Hughes told her that if she heard someone saying ‘don’t kill me’ she should ignore it, assuring her that he wasn’t hurting Arthur.

We took evidence from another witness who commented that when she’d seen Arthur in February he’d seemed healthy, but by June he appeared physically weak, struggling to stand and he had difficulty in climbing stairs. 

Another described the child as ‘broken’. 

We also found a string of furious text messages between Tustin and Hughes on the day before Arthur was fatally injured. Then evidence of a short phone call, before another text from Hughes to Tustin’s saying: “Just end him”.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Local social services had no concerns despite poor boys prolonged abuse resulting in his murder 3

Det Insp Harrison said: “It’s not clear why Tustin and Hughes started to make Arthur’s place in his family home so truly awful and why they caused him such harm and suffering – but that harm and suffering was sustained and escalated over time. 

“Nor is it clear why the couple installed a CCTV camera in their own living room, but sadly that footage has proved invaluable in demonstrating some of the hardships, emotional abuse and physical violence Arthur endured behind closed doors.”

Fatal blow

On the day Arthur was fatally injured Hughes had left the house at just after 1pm, leaving his son alone with Tustin. So it is only she who will ever know exactly how Arthur suffered the blow that killed him. 

But we used CCTV, as well as the calls and messages the couple exchanged, to provide the court with a compelling case that she had inflicted that injury and then failed to call an ambulance for 12 minutes.

During those 12 minutes, Tustin is seen to carry Arthur into the living room, into the kitchen and back into the living room, before propping him up on the sofa

Hughes then arrives back home, and the pair try to give Arthur a drink and some children’s paracetamol medicine, before 999 is finally called. 

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Local social services had no concerns despite poor boys prolonged abuse resulting in his murder 4

Det Insp Harrison said: “We believe that both Tustin and then Hughes, understood how seriously Arthur was injured. Only the pair of them can explain why it took so long for an ambulance to be called, but we’d suggest it was the final act of cruelty they inflicted on Arthur.”

Medical evidence

Hospital tests revealed Arthur had abnormally high salt-levels and he was seen to have bruising in many areas uncommon for accidental bruising in a child.

A post mortem later revealed that Arthur had over 100 marks and bruises on his head, body and limbs including bruising of different ages.

A number of medical experts told the court that they did not believe the injuries Arthur had could have been self-inflicted; that a child of six simply could not have generated enough force to have caused the fatal injury to his own head. 

A specialist kidney consultant, said that for Arthur to have had such high levels of salt in his system could only be explained by one of two situations. 

Either Arthur had ingested at least six and half tablespoons of salt on the day he was fatally injured; and the expert couldn’t see how a child would have done this, other than if he was deliberately force-fed a mix of salt and water by an adult. 

Or that Arthur had repeatedly been poisoned with heavily contaminated food and/or water over a longer period of time.

The conviction

The jury at Coventry Crown Court today found Emma Tustin, aged 32, of Cranmore Road, Solihull guilty of the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Thomas Hughes aged 29, of Stroud Road, Solihull, guilty of manslaughter.

The couple also faced four charges of cruelty to a child. 

On the opening day of the trial on 5 October Tustin pleaded guilty to one of those charges – wilfully ill-treating Arthur on multiple occasions by forced standing, isolation and intimidation. 

In the final days of the trial Tustin admitted a second charge of child cruelty, namely assaulting Arthur on multiple occasions.

Today she was convicted of two further charges of cruelty by withholding food and drink and by administering salt. 

Hughes was also convicted on two counts of cruelty, by forced standing, isolation and intimidation, and also by assaulting Arthur. Hughes was cleared of murder, cruelty by withholding food and drink and by administering salt.

The key events leading upto the Murder.

August 2019 

Huges and Emma Tustin met each other the online dating website called Plenty of Fish and they started a relationship with each other

December 2019

Teachers started noticing a change in Arthur’s behaviour.

March 2020

The UK went into lockdown on 23 March, Arthur and his father moved into Tustin’s home to lockdown with her in Cranmore Road, Solihull.

16 April 2020

Arthur’s grandmother Joanne Hughes noticed bruises on Arthur’s back and said that Authur said that Tustin had called him an “ugly, horrible brat” and had pushed him down the stairs.

This was reported to social services especially over the concerns of brusining.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Local social services had no concerns despite poor boys prolonged abuse resulting in his murder 5

17 April 2020

A day later two social workers had visited Arthurs home and reported that they had “no safeguarding concerns.

20 April 2020

Despite social services doing nothing, Mrs Hughes still felt distressed by what she had seen and heard and contacted Arthur’s School, The Dickens Heath Community Primary.

The school’s safeguarding lead contacted social services and was told they had “no concerns”.

Further concerns were raised about the bruises by Arthur’s uncle Daniel who said he was aware of the bruises and he had images of the bruises and contacted police to report them by got no response.

May 2020 

Tustin’s Stepfather John Dutton made an anonymous report was made to social services after claiming to witness the treatment of him, he claimed this was not followed us and there was no response.

June 2020

Arthur’s school was re-opened but he did not return to school, instead he is believed to have been subjected to endless abuse.

Police had found CCTV has been installed in the living room.

That CCV showed that he was forced to stand on his own in the hallway for more than 14 hours at a time and punished for trying to sit down.

During that investigation police finally found that there was no evidence he had his own bedroom or anywhere comfortable to sleep.

It was found that he had his duvet crumpled in a cupboard under the stairs, footage showed he slept on the living room floor every night.

an audio clip was played to the jury who saw Arthur saying “no one loves me” and “no one’s going to feed me”.

When Arthur died he had exceedingly high levels of salt in his system.

15 June 2020 

Police analysis of text messages between Tustin and Hughes on the day before Arthur’s death revealed that 18 hours beforehand Hughes instructed Tustin to “just end him”.

16 June 2020

Huges left the address at 1PM on June 16th leaving Tustin alone with Arthur. Tustin told police Huges had gone out to get a birthday card.

The CCTV set up inside the house, combined with analysis of text messages and phone calls exchanged between the couple, suggests that Tustin attacked Arthur and then failed to call an ambulance for 12 minutes.

Jurors heard Tustin violently shook him and banged his head repeatedly, most likely against the wall where he was previously made to stand in punishment.

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Trevor Sherwood
Trevor Sherwood
Trevor Sherwood is the editor and news reporter covering national and international news crime and policing news. Tweet your news and views to @TrevSherwoodPH

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