‘Murdered’ boy, cried ‘no one loves me and no one’s going to feed me today’ as he was ‘tortured’

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

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

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

A murdered six-year-old sobbed as he tried to tell family members ‘no-one loves me’ and ‘I won’t be fed today’ before he died, a court heard today.  

‘Bullying’ parents Thomas Hughes, 29, and his girlfriend Emma Tustin, 32, are jointly accused of murder after Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was found with an ‘unsurvivable brain injury’ at his home in Solihull, Warwickshire. 

Coventry Crown Court heard how the pair ‘poisoned’ the six-year-old with salt and made him endure months of abuse before killing him by ‘banging his head against a hard surface’. 

The ‘volatile and dysfunctional’ couple encouraged each other to hurt and degrade Arthur, the court heard.  

The youngster endured a ‘campaign of abuse designed to terrorise him’ – with the the prosecution’s Jonas Hankin, QC describing his treatment as akin to ‘child torture’.

He was left alone for up to ’14 hours a day’, without a bed or clothing and was left unfed and without anything to drink.

Audio files recovered from Tustin’s phone were played to jurors today, as Arthur was heard sobbing: ‘I want to go to nanny’, and ‘no-one loves me, no-one’s going to feed me today’.

Text messages exchanged between Hughes and Tustin were also read to the court, with one from his father reading: ‘I’ll deal with him when I’m home and it won’t be pretty.’

After hearing a voice note of Arthur crying, he warned in further texts: ‘I’ll end him when I’m back.’ 

In another message, Hughes compares his son to ‘f****** Hitler’ and threatened to ‘take his jaw off his shoulders’. 

Both Hughes and Tustin deny murder.  

Thomas Hughes, 29, and his girlfriend Emma Tustin, 32, are jointly accused of murder after Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (right) was found with an 'unsurvivable brain injury' at his home in Solihull, Warwickshire

Thomas Hughes, 29, and his girlfriend Emma Tustin, 32, are jointly accused of murder after Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (right) was found with an 'unsurvivable brain injury' at his home in Solihull, Warwickshire

Thomas Hughes, 29, and his girlfriend Emma Tustin, 32, are jointly accused of murder after Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (right) was found with an ‘unsurvivable brain injury’ at his home in Solihull, Warwickshire

Emma Tustin, 32, allegedly took 12 minutes to dial 999 and took photographs of the youngster as he lay dying in the hallway

Emma Tustin, 32, allegedly took 12 minutes to dial 999 and took photographs of the youngster as he lay dying in the hallway

Emma Tustin, 32, allegedly took 12 minutes to dial 999 and took photographs of the youngster as he lay dying in the hallway

Mr Hankin QC added: ‘Both defendants participated in a campaign of cruelty intended to cause Arthur significant harm and suffering.

‘Violence and intimidation, both physical and verbal, were routine.

‘Arthur’s visible injuries, his miserable physical condition and obvious despair provided each defendant with a daily reminder of the lengths to which the other would go to cause him harm.’

The jury was previously told that Arthur had been in the sole care of his father after his natural mother, Olivia Labinjo, was convicted of a killing in February 2019. 

Tustin reportedly carried out the fatal assault while in sole care of Arthur, and fetched her mobile phone to take a photograph of the youngster as he lay dying in the hallway.

Jurors hear the harrowing last words of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and threatening text messages sent by his own father

Jurors at Coventry Crown Court heard audio clips of the six-year-old sobbing and begging for mercy in the run up to his death. 

The prosecutor said Tustin recorded more than 200 audio files of Arthur in ‘various stages of distress’, took pictures and videos of him suffering and sent them to Hughes. 

In one recording, Arthur said, ‘Please help me, help me uncle, they’re not feeding me, I need some food and a drink’. 

In another, Arthur can be heard crying: ‘I want to go to nanny’.

In others, he sobs: ‘No-one loves me. No-one is going to feed me today.’ 

Text messages exchanged between father Thomas Hughes and Tustin were also read to the court, with one from his Hughes reading: ‘I’ll deal with him when I’m home and it won’t be pretty.’

Tustin writes: ‘I don’t think I can do this any more. He shuts up as soon as you come through the door. He is malicious, cruel and just generally awful.’ 

Hughes allegedly texted Tustin, telling her: ‘Tell him not to move a muscle – put him by the fridge, put him outside or wherever, give him away. Put him out with the rubbish.’ 

After being sent a photo of Arthur, Hughes then responded: ‘He’s an absolute disgrace. That’s not my son.’

Hearing a voice note of Arthur crying, he warned in further texts: ‘I’ll end him when I’m back.’  

In another message, Hughes compares his son to ‘f****** Hitler’ and threatened to ‘take his jaw off his shoulders’.
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Prosecutors said that despite having her phone on her she took 12 minutes to call 999, telling medics Arthur ‘fell and while on the floor banged his head another five times’.

Jurors heard graphic details of the abuse the six-year-old is said to have endured, as Hughes and Tustin’s murder trial began at Coventry Crown Court on Thursday.

Arthur was allegedly left isolated for up to 14 hours a day, begged ‘help me’ before he was attacked, prevented from having food and drink and forced to sleep on the floor, jurors heard.

Hughes and Tustin are also accused of multiple counts of child cruelty, after forcing Arthur to endure ‘systematic, cruel behaviour’ of ‘physical and psychological’ abuse in the weeks before his death.  

The prosecutor said Tustin recorded more than 200 audio files of Arthur in ‘various stages of distress’, took pictures and videos of him suffering and sent them to Hughes. 

In one recording, Arthur said, ‘Please help me, help me uncle, they’re not feeding me, I need some food and a drink’. 

In another example the boy was shown standing by the fridge as punishment, and numerous audio clips were played of him ‘crying and wailing’ for long periods.   

Hughes allegedly texted Tustin, telling her: ‘Tell him not to move a muscle – put him by the fridge, put him outside or wherever, give him away. Put him out with the rubbish.’   

Jonas Hankin QC, for the prosecution, told those in attendance: ‘You’ll note her [Tustin’s] account including the suggestion Arthur had headbutted her during the incident, and you will also have noted she felt it necessary to say Arthur had treated them like s***, in that context, in those circumstances.’

One witness said the previously happy and healthy boy looked ‘as though he were broken’ on the day of his death on June 16, 2020.

The same witness said that when Arthur ‘secretly’ asked him for a drink of water, while Hughes and Tustin were out of the room, ‘he had to hold (the glass) to Arthur’s mouth’ because the child was ‘too weak to hold it himself’.

Opening the case on Thursday, Mr Hankin said: ‘His clothes looked dirty, his lips cracked, he could barely open his mouth to speak, his hair was dirty, his nails were dirty and he looked malnourished, gaunt and worn-out’. 

Mr Hankin said: ‘The evidence you will hear, the prosecution say, indicates Arthur was physically and verbally abused, isolated, access to food and drink were controlled or restricted, he was deprived of basic living comforts; a bed, clothing.

‘And he suffered psychological maltreatment – bullying, in ordinary language.’  

Tustin and Hughes exchanged messages referring to Arthur in derogatory terms, and there were ‘many examples of threats of violence’.

In some of the audio recordings he was heard begging for help from his ‘nanny’ and paternal uncles. 

On other occasions, Hughes messaged Tustin telling her, ‘Just end him’ and ‘I’ll fill him in when I get back’.

In June last year, Hughes told a neighbour: ‘If you hear anyone saying “don’t kill me”, ignore it, I’m not hurting him.’

Days later, Arthur was dead. 

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

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

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

 Mr Hankin told the jury at Coventry Crown Court that ‘Arthur was made to sleep on the living room floor’ at Tustin’s home and that after his death ‘a duvet was found in a cupboard under the stairs’.

He added: ‘It is striking, the prosecution say, that there is no clear evidence of the presence of Arthur living in that house.’

Medical evidence revealed the youngster died from a ‘head trauma inflicted on him by an adult, the most likely mechanism being that he had been vigorously shaken and his head banged repeatedly against a hard surface’.

Notes from hospital doctors who treated him after his collapse at the two-bed house Tustin shared with Hughes also revealed he had been ‘poisoned with salt’ and had suffered extensive bruising over his frail body.

Jurors were shown photographs of Arthur in the house as he was ‘compelled’ into ‘forcibly standing in isolation and he would be punished for unauthorised movements, including attempts to sit down’.  

In June last year, Hughes told a neighbour in Solihull (above): 'If you hear anyone saying "don't kill me", ignore it, I'm not hurting him.'

In June last year, Hughes told a neighbour in Solihull (above): 'If you hear anyone saying "don't kill me", ignore it, I'm not hurting him.'

In June last year, Hughes told a neighbour in Solihull (above): ‘If you hear anyone saying “don’t kill me”, ignore it, I’m not hurting him.’ 

Mr Hankin said emergency services were called to the home to reports that Arthur had ‘sustained a self-inflicted head injury at his stepmother’s home address’, with paramedics noting a ‘large bruise’ on his forehead.

He suffered a cardiac arrest, but medics got his heart beating and rushed him to Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Examinations showed Arthur had ‘extensive bruising over all parts of his body’, and a CT scan showed bleeding on the brain and ‘damage within the brain itself, which was due to a shortage of oxygen and blood supply’.

Mr Hankin said: ‘Abnormal biochemical results raised concerns that Arthur had also been poisoned with salt.’

His head injuries were unsurvivable and Arthur died shortly before 1am on June 17, three months after his father had moved into Tustin’s home, jurors heard.

Before the move, the youngster was ‘cherished by all’ and lived a ‘stable’ life with his father, surrounded by Hughes’ extended family, in an annexe in the back yard of Arthur’s paternal grandparents. 

Mr Hankin told the jury at Coventry Crown Court that 'Arthur was made to sleep on the living room floor' at Tustin's home and that after his death 'a duvet was found in a cupboard under the stairs'

Mr Hankin told the jury at Coventry Crown Court that 'Arthur was made to sleep on the living room floor' at Tustin's home and that after his death 'a duvet was found in a cupboard under the stairs'

Mr Hankin told the jury at Coventry Crown Court that ‘Arthur was made to sleep on the living room floor’ at Tustin’s home and that after his death ‘a duvet was found in a cupboard under the stairs’ 

In April 2020, it emerged children’s social services and police were alerted by his paternal grandmother to concerns about Arthur’s care.

Extended family had seen bruises on Arthur’s back, and he said Tustin had ‘called him an ugly, horrible brat’ and shoved him headfirst into the stairs.

After children’s services saw Arthur on April 17, ‘no concerns were raised’, and while photos of the bruises were sent to the police, no further action was taken, Mr Hankin told the jury.

On the first day of the trial, Tustin admitted child cruelty by 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.

Hughes and Tustin also face an allegation of child cruelty by administering salt to Arthur between June 1 and 17 last year.

Both are also accused of two counts of child cruelty by assault on multiple occasions and also by withholding food and/or drink.

Hughes, of Stroud Road, and Tustin, of Cranmore Road, deny the charges and the trial continues.

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