United Kingdom

Stepmum compared Arthur Labinjo-Hughes to Hitler and tore up his football shirt

Emma Tustin, 32, was jailed for life with a minimum of 29 years over Arthur Labinjo-Huges’ murder (Picture: PA)

A callous stepmum who tortured her partner’s six-year-old son before eventually killing him cut up his football shirt in front of his face.

Emma Tustin, 32, was handed a life sentence with a minimum of 29 years today over the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Huges.

The defenceless child was beaten, starved, fed poisoned and tormented weeks before his death.

In June last year, Tustin inflicted ‘unsurvivable’ brain injuries on Arthur by smashing his head against a hard surface at her home in Solihull, West Midlands.

She immediately fetched her phone and took photos of the boy as he lay dying in the hallway to send to his father.

Thomas Hughes – who was jailed for 21 years for manslaughter – had sent her a text hours earlier saying ‘just end him’.

Jurors heard how Arthur was force-fed salt-laced meals and was given a potentially lethal dose before his death.

Arthur died after suffering ‘survivable’ brain injuries after he was shaken and had his head slammed against a surface at home (Picture: PA)
Tustin blamed the innocent six-year-old boy for her miscarriage and rifts between her and his dad (Picture: PA)

Until recently, the schoolboy had been living with his mum, who is now in prison for killing her partner in a drink and drug-fuelled rage.

He was feeling vulnerable, had nightmares and became anxious when people he loved left him.

But the court heard how instead of offering love and support, Tustin and Hughes, 29, sought to portray his behaviour as worsening and went on to inflict unspeakable cruelty on him.

Arthur was ‘forced to live a solitary and lonely life’ and was made to stand to attention alone in the hallway for most of the day – over 14 hours on at least one occasion.

He was not allowed any friendly interactions with his parents or their children, wasn’t allowed back to school after in June, and was made to sleep on the hard floor downstairs without a mattress.

On one of the hottest days of the year, Hughes stood in the hallway for hours in a thick onesie, only to see his dad and Tustin had bought themselves ice creams without getting him one.

Thomas Hughes, 29, regularly made violent threats about his own son and said he would ‘end him’ (Picture: PA)

Sentencing the pair at Coventry Crown Court, Mr Justice Wall said this was ‘one of the most distressing and disturbing cases’ he had dealt with.

He said a number of cruel accounts, including Tustin tearing up Arthur’s Birmingham City football shirt ‘will live with anyone who attended this trial for a very long time’.

He added: ‘Your behaviour towards him was often spiteful and at times sadistic.

‘In your texts to one another you regularly referred to Arthur in terms such as a c*** or a shit, or as being like Satan or Hitler.

‘The prosecution suggested that your behaviour dehumanised Arthur in your eyes. In my judgment that is an accurate depiction of your behaviour.

‘The less human he seemed to be, the more freedom you had to abuse him. 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.’

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Arthur with his biological mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, who is in prison for killing her partner (Picture: PA)

He added: ‘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.

‘You blamed him for your miscarriages and for causing rifts between Hughes and yourself. Effectively, you held Arthur responsible for any problems in your life.

‘You showed no emotion or compassion for Arthur’s condition. Rather, you lost no time in starting to tell anyone who would listen a false narrative in which Arthur was the villain of the piece – making your life unbearable and being responsible for his own injuries.

‘You are a manipulative woman who would tell any lie and shift the blame on to anyone to save her own skin.’

The judge went on to detail a ‘series of graphic and chilling threats’ made by Hughes about Arthur.

He sent texts to Tustin promising to ‘take his c** jaw off his shoulders’, to ‘fill him in’, to ‘dash his food off his head’ and to ‘end him’.

Sometimes these threats were heard by people the dad hardly knew. Tustin’s hairdresser and partner overheard him threatening to take Aruthur’s head off his shoulders and use it as a football hours before he died.

During the trial, it emerged at trial that Arthur had been seen by social workers just two months before his death.

They visited after concerns were raised by his paternal grandmother, Joanne Hughes, but concluded there were ‘no safeguarding concerns’.

Ms Hughes, a secondary school teacher, said Arthur was ‘failed by the very authorities’ tasked with keeping him safe.

She said she believed her ‘happy and thriving’ grandson would ‘be alive today’ had her son not met Tustin.

The Government has said it will not hesitate to take action off the back of a review into failings around Arthur’s death.

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