‘Arthur was the light of my life, my only child and my best friend’: Arthur’s biological mother pays tribute to him from behind the bars of jail cell
Speaking after the trial, Arthur’s grandmother Madeleine Halcrow read a tribute on behalf of her daughter Olivia Labinjo Hughes, who is Arthur’s biological mum. She is currently serving a 11-year sentence for killing her partner. The statement read –
Following the conclusion of my son’s trial I want to take his opportunity to focus on the life Arthur lived and to celebrate the beautiful little boy I knew and loved deeply. The details of Arthur’s case are harrowing and incomparable but I want people to know who Arthur was, from his huge smile and his personality to his gentle and caring nature.
All mothers are biased and believe their children are the best and I’m no different. From the moment Arthur was born he was always smiling and had the most inquisitive little mind. When I think about Arthur’s life and what he loved there are always three things that I always thing about. Firstly, he loved to read or to be read to and any of the Julia Donaldson books were his favourite. He liked the Gruffalo and the Snail and the Whale.
When he started school his love of reading became a love of learning how to write new words. Every week he would be excited about the ten new words he was given to learn. Secondly Arthur loved his food. He was 10lbs 6.5oz when he was born and his love of milk soon turned to his love of food.
He would try anything and like all children he would want whatever I was having. I remember when he started school, every day on the way home he would tell me what he had at lunchtime and then ask me what we would be having for dinner.
But what Arthur loved more than anything was being outside. He loved to play football and was kicking a ball around as soon as he could walk. By the time he was four he could name some, if not all, of the England team and he always had the latest Birmingham City football kit.
I could talk for hours about what Arthur loved and who Arthur was but everyone who loved him have their own story. Talking about Arthur’s loves would not be complete without talking about his love of superheroes. Marvel or DC, Arthur loved them all.
From Batman to Black Panther. Superman to The Flash. He had every costume and action figure and loved dressing up pretending he had all of those super powers. Arthur was the light of my life, he was not only just my only child he was my best friend.
Never could I have imagined he could have been taken from this world so early in his life. If Arthur could ask for one final thing it would be that he would be remembered for his super power. That’s what I will always remember him for, his super power and Arthur’s super power was his smile.
An evil stepmother was today found guilty of murdering a defenceless six-year-old boy – and his father convicted of manslaughter – after she tortured, starved and then beat the remaining life out of him in one final, brutal attack.
Emma Tustin, 32, killed Arthur Labinjo-Hughes by repeatedly slamming his head on a hard surface after she and 29-year-old Thomas Hughes starved the youngster and force-fed him food laden with salt.
After killing Arthur, Tustin immediately fetched her mobile phone to take a photograph of him as he lay dying in the hallway to send to her boyfriend.
She called 999 and told the operator Arthur had ‘banged his head’. After police arrived at her home, the self-pitying stepmother cried and tried to convince them the stick-thin boy had ‘headbutted’ her – while several miles away he lay dying in hospital.
He passed away the next day when his life support was turned off, with medics deciding there was nothing they could do due to the catastrophic nature of his injuries.
Harrowing video taken in Arthur’s final hours showed the youngster grimacing in pain with his emaciated frame showing through his tattered pyjamas as he shouted ‘no one loves me’ four times then ‘no one is going to feed me’ seven times in 44 seconds.
Today Tustin was convicted of murdering Arthur on June 17, 2020, during the Covid lockdown. Hughes was also found guilty of manslaughter – but cleared of murder – for encouraging the killing, including by sending a text message to Tustin 18 hours before the fatal assault telling her ‘just end him’.
They were both convicted of numerous counts of child cruelty. Following the verdicts, the judge ordered a minute’s silence for Arthur at the request of the jury.
MailOnline can today reveal the shocking list of failings by the authorities at every stage of Arthur’s life, including allowing him to live with his father when his real mother was convicted of stabbing her lover – a decision that would have been made by a family court.
With seemingly little oversight from social services, he then moved him into the house of a woman he had just met despite her previously having two children taken away from her.
In the months of lockdown while Arthur was being abused, social workers and police missed four opportunities to save him, brushed away pleas from his family and even threatened them with arrest under Covid rules.
Today, his maternal grandmother Madeleine Halcrow told MailOnline: ‘Arthur was let down by social services and the West Midlands Police. There was an opportunity to save him and it wasn’t taken.’
Arthur’s maternal mother said the little boy loved nothing more than to play outside. But he was forced to wear a fluffy onesie for days during a baking heatwave and stand isolated in a hallway for 15 hours a day over six weeks in a ‘punishing regime’.
The little boy, who ‘loved his food’ and looked forward to mealtimes, was starved and forced to drink a lethal ‘salt slurry’ before he died. CCTV caught the bullies yelling at Arthur, out of sight in the hallway, as they tucked into fish and chips and McDonald’s with Tustin’s children.
The pair ‘denigrated, debased and dehumanised him’, taking everything he loved away from him as they turned Arthur into a ‘desperately sad, thin, weak, miserable child’.
One of his twisted punishments even saw Hughes cut up the boy’s favourite Birmingham City football shirt in front of him.
Arthur was put into the custody of his father after his biological mother Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 29, killed her partner Gary Cunningham by stabbing him 12 times with a kitchen knife in a drunken rage in February 2019.
Hughes met mother-of-four Tustin on Plenty Of Fish and the couple moved with Arthur into her home near Solihull in the West Midlands when the government declared a lockdown in March 2020. Arthur’s maternal grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow, said that Tustin was ‘obsessed’ about the idea Thomas would go back to Olivia, and that ‘the only way she could get Olivia out of her life was by getting rid of Arthur’.
Tustin, who had two of her four children taken into care following a suicide attempt, repeatedly complained she could not cope with Arthur’s behaviour during lockdown and begged Hughes to let him return to his grandparents. Hughes’ barrister, Bernard Richmond, said Tustin saw Arthur as her ‘prey’.
Today it emerged she has already been attacked in jail by fellow inmates.
During a harrowing nine-week trial which recounted some of the worst instances of child abuse heard within memory in an English court, it emerged:
- Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’s biological mother is serving 11 years in jail for stabbing to death her lover;
- Even before the killing, Arthur had witnessed numerous scenes of domestic violence;
- During that heatwave Hughes would walk around eating ice-creams in front of his starving child, while Arthur was made to wear a fluffy onesie for hours;
- A relative took a picture of severe bruising to Arthur’s back on April 15 last year and phoned social services the next day… but somehow they did not see the full extent of his bruising and decided that there were no safeguarding concerns;
- Arthur had been on social services’ radar for three years.. at least five of Arthur’s relatives and a neighbour told social services that his life was in grave danger;
- An independent review is under way into the actions of social workers who found ‘no safeguarding concerns’ for a boy who was murdered just two months later by his stepmother;
- Teacher said he had become more ‘reserved and anxious’ and ‘fixated’ with his father killing him;
- Ms Halcrow revealed how her grandson’s body remains in the mortuary of Leicester Royal Infirmary, where the post-mortem was carried out 16-months ago, due to a legal dispute over who has the right to lay him to rest;
- Tustin – described as ‘wicked’ by Arthur’s grandmother – had ‘salt thrown at her’ by other inmates while on remand at HMP Peterborough for her trial, a criminal justice system source said;
- Tustin and Hughes will be sentenced tomorrow morning.
Emma Tustin, 32, (left) killed Arthur Labinjo-Hughes by repeatedly slamming his head on a hard surface after she and 29-year-old Thomas Hughes starved the youngster and poisoned him with salt
An artist’s impression of Tustin and Hughes in court not long before they were convicted of killing him today
Pictured: Six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes with father Thomas Hughes and Thomas’ partner Emma Tustin. Emma Tustin has been convicted of murder and Thomas Hughes is guilty of manslaughter after a harrowing trial at Coventry Crown Court
Sick Tustin fetched her mobile phone immediately afterwards to take a photograph of the youngster (pictured, with Hughes) as he lay dying in the hallway of her home in Cranmore Road, Solihull, West Midlands
Hughes and Tustin carried out a horrific ‘campaign of cruelty’ amounting to ‘torture’ against Arthur, in which he was force-fed salt-laced meals, kept isolated in the home, starved, dehydrated and routinely beaten.
The usually ‘chubby, happy’ and ‘always smiley’ boy moved into Tustin’s home at the start of the first national lockdown in March 2020, but one witness described how he looked ‘broken’ just before his death less than three months later.
Boy who never stood a chance: From a killer mother to father and stepmother who mocked and abused him till his dying day – timeline of tragic case
February: Arthur’s biological mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 29, kills her partner Gary Cunningham by stabbing him 12 times with a kitchen knife.
Arthur is moved into the care of his father, Thomas Hughes, 29. Later he meets Emma Tustin, 32, online.
Hughes and Arthur moved into an annexe at the back of his parent’s garden.
His grandmother said Arthur was ‘nervous’ at first but became a ‘happy, well-rounded child’.
August: Hughes met Tustin on dating website Plenty of Fish. They went on their first date in a pub.
Tustin failed to reveal that in 2013 she had tried to commit suicide.
She also failed to reveal how her first two children went to live with their fathers.
After three dates Hughes introduced Tustin to Arthur.
September: Hughes’ brother Blake said his nephew’s behaviour ‘change quite a lot’.
He said his brother became more anxious at being told off while his brother ‘became a lot stricter.’
Hughes also recalled an incident where he argued with Tustin because he bought Arthur a Subway sandwich, which she said was ‘an unnecessary treat.’
October: Aileen Carabine, a special educational coordinator at Arthur’s school, said Arthur ‘deteriorated’ that month.
She said he became more reserved, anxious and ‘not quite as smiley’.
November: Thomas and his mother Joanne met with Arthur’s school to discuss their growing concerns about his behaviour.
Teachers said Arthur was having nightmares and spoke of his father ‘killing him.’
Tustin became pregnant with Hughes, but had a miscarriage.
December: Arthur became upset during a Christmas nativity when the baby was taken out of its crib.
Hughes proposed to Tustin in the annexe.
January: Arthur’s school begin to raise concerns about him, including his ‘clinginess’ and ‘obsession’ with soft toys’.
February: Tustin took Arthur with her to have her hair done. Arthur was made to sit at a table with his hands on his knees and not move.
March: Hughes and Arthur move into Tustin’s home in Solihull.
April 16: Arthur’s paternal grandmother, Joanne Hughes, made a call to Solihull council’s emergency team to report bruises on his shoulders.
April 17: Social worker Jayne Kavanagh and support worker Angela Scarlett-Coppage visit Tustin’s home but report ‘no concerns’.
April 20: A desperate Joanne Hughes tells Arthur’s school about the referral to social services she had made four days earlier. Michelle Hull, safeguarding lead at Dickens Heath Community Primary School, contacts social services but is told they have ‘no concerns’.
April (specific date unclear): Thomas Hughes fobs off Arthur’s school in online messages, insisting he is ‘doing grand’.
April (specific date unclear): Arthur’s uncle, Daniel Hughes, tries to alert police to Arthur’s bruises.
May/June (specific date unclear): When John Dutton, Tustin’s stepfather, says he made an anonymous call to social services.
June 8: Arthur’s school re-opened but Hughes did not send him back. He claimed his son had a bad night’s sleep and would send him back the next day.
Arthur would never return to school.
June 12-15: Arthur spent more than 35 hours in isolation in the hallway.
On Friday Arthur was made to stand in hall for 14 hours, 19 minutes, as Tustin ate McDonald’s with her son in the living room.
On Saturday Arthur was made to stand in the hall for 11 hours and 49 minutes.
In the video, Hughes can be seen slapping him around the head while Tustin grabbed him by the scruff of the neck as she marches him from the kitchen to the hallway.
The couple spent time in their garden hot tub and eating ice creams.
On Sunday Arthur was in the hallway for 10 hours and 54 minutes and made to wear a fleece onesie.
June 15: Tustin is seen waking Arthur up at 7.06am by ripping his bedding from underneath him.
Horrific final video shows an emaciated Arthur struggling to pick up a duvet from the living room floor where he had been forced to sleep.
June 16: Arthur suffered an ‘unsurvivable injury’ caused by Tustin repeatedly banging his head on a hard surface.
June 17: Arthur’s life support was switched off and he died in hospital.
July 2, 2021: Labinjo-Halcrow is jailed for 11 years for killing Mr Cunningham.
Tests later revealed Arthur had also been ‘poisoned with salt’ in the hours before his collapse, while a post-mortem examination found the youngster had suffered about 130 separate injuries.
Tustin admitted two counts of child cruelty during the harrowing trial in Coventry, including carrying out three assaults on the boy and also making him sit or stand in her hallway for up to 14 hours a day as part of a behavioural regime.
She accepted making 200 audio recordings of Arthur, often crying and moaning during these punishments, claiming she did so only to send them to Hughes in order to demonstrate the boy’s ‘naughty’ behaviour while he was absent.
Some of these extracts have been played to the court, including one in which the boy can be heard saying ‘no-one loves me’, and another in which he cried ‘no-one’s gonna feed me’.
Hughes, in evidence, had alleged Tustin ‘mentally abused’ and ‘gaslighted’ him into complying with the punishing disciplinary regime, but also admitted lying to school staff who were checking on Arthur’s progress during the first Covid lockdown.
He previously said he had ‘probably’ placed the couple’s relationship above the welfare of his son.
Tustin, who has accepted being cruel to Arthur on occasions and was pregnant with Hughes’ unborn child at the time, has said she was ‘disgusted and ashamed’ by her admitted behaviour.
But she callously claimed that Arthur’s fatal head injury must have been self-inflicted, possibly caused by him throwing himself down the staircase in her hallway, and describing how she heard a ‘bang’ and a ‘crack’.
During her evidence, she said that just because medical experts had concluded Arthur’s death had been caused by head trauma ‘inflicted upon him by an adult’, that ‘doesn’t make it true’.
During one audio clip recorded during the period when Arthur was being forced to ‘stand like a statue’ near the front door for hour after hour, Tustin was heard loudly repeating ‘do it, do it’.
On another recording, from more than a month before Arthur’s murder, he could be heard screaming and moaning: ‘I’m scared, I’m scared.’
CCTV from an in-lounge camera captured Arthur on the morning before he was fatally injured, appearing to limp and cry, and struggling to fold up a duvet he had been given to sleep downstairs.
During the trial, Mr Hankin asked Tustin: ‘You are not a camp guard following the rules are you?
‘You relished policing Arthur, we can hear it in your voice.’
Arthur’s murderer answered: ‘I did follow the rules.
‘You don’t hear anything in my voice.
‘If you want to make suggestions, I can’t stop you doing that but that’s not the case.’
Around two weeks before Arthur’s death, Tustin recorded herself commanding Arthur to put his arms by his side.
She agreed with Mr Hankin that Arthur had been made to stand in a ‘model posture’ likened in court to a soldier on guard outside Buckingham Palace.
After Mr Hankin said the recordings painted a picture of a child in utter distress, Tustin told the court: ‘I can hear that now but when I was there I just thought he was acting like a baby.
‘At the time because of how much we had going on with Arthur, I didn’t recognise it.’
Tustin, who was unclear as to when Arthur had last been given a treat like an ice cream or allowed to play outside, admitted she had been deliberately cruel but claimed her actions had left her ‘feeling like absolute crap’.
Mr Hankin also suggested Tustin had developed a hatred for Arthur and viewed him as an ‘obstacle’ to her relationship with his father.
The Crown’s barrister put it to Tustin: ‘You subjected him to a campaign of appalling cruelty didn’t you. Day after day, taking multiple forms.
‘Standing, being assaulted, restricting his food, restricting his drink, assaulting him… the list goes on.’
Although she disputed that Arthur had been denied drinks, Tustin told the jury: ‘Even though I knew it was cruel, I convinced myself that it had to be done.’
Today it emerged that Tustin had already been attacked by inmates ‘throwing salt’ at her while on remand at HMP Peterborough.
An HMP Peterborough spokesman said: ‘We do not comment on individual prisoners.’
At a pre-trial hearing in April 2021, Tustin’s barrister said her client had been receiving ‘significant and substantial threats’, although it is unclear if she was at the same prison at the time.
Speaking at a hearing on April 15, Mary Prior QC said: ‘She has had a significant deterioration in her mental health.
‘There are significant difficulties for her in that she is currently housed in an environment where she is not receiving medication. And she is receiving substantial and real threats – and violence.’
Ms Prior said Tustin’s legal team had ‘done all we can’ to urge the prison authorities to ‘make it plain’ to safeguard their client’s health and wellbeing, including writing to the governor.
She added: ‘There are weekly conferences and they consist almost entirely of an overwhelmed young lady who is receiving significant and substantial threats and minimal medication.’
Ms Prior told the presiding judge at the time, Recorder of Birmingham Judge Melbourne Inman QC, she had felt it ‘necessary to say it in open court’ because ‘nothing is changing’.
Speaking at the time, Judge Inman said: ‘The prison estate, I know, are very good at maintaining medication and treatment for those in their care.
‘All I would say is, if there are concerns and problems, the court should be kept informed and, if necessary, we can make inquiries to assist.
‘That is not meant as a criticism of anybody but, obviously, if matters of concern are raised with the court, we will do everything we can to assist – to make sure they are resolved.’
‘Wicked’ Tustin called 999 and told the operator Arthur had ‘banged his head’. After police arrived at her home, the self-pitying stepmother cried and tried to convince them the stick-thin boy had ‘headbutted’ her (pictured)
Tustin with Hughes as she tried to blame Arthur for attacking her – while several miles away he lay dying in hospital
Pictured: Arthur’s mother Olivia, who is currently in prison, described her son’s murder as ‘harrowing and incomparable’
Social workers were called to the home two months prior to Arthur’s death after his grandmother raised concerns about bruises on his back, but no further action was taken
Hughes met mother-of-four Tustin (pictured) online before the couple moved with Arthur into her home near Solihull in the West Midlands after the government announced the lockdown
The little boy who never stood a chance: How authorities missed FOUR opportunities to save Arthur, ignored pleas from his family and even threatened them with ARREST under Covid rules
Relatives of tragic Arthur Labinjo-Hughes today hit out at the failings of social workers and police who missed a raft of opportunities to save the six-year-old’s life.
His maternal grandmother Madeleine Halcrow told MailOnline: ‘Arthur was let down by social services and the West Midlands Police. There was an opportunity to save him and it wasn’t taken.’
The nurse spoke out as Arthur’s stepmother, Emma Tustin, 32, was found guilty of murder for beating him to death, while his father Thomas Hughes, 29, was convicted of manslaughter.
They were both found guilty of numerous counts of child cruelty for subjecting him to systematic abuse which matched the ‘medical definition of child torture’, including being deprived of food, made to stand for 14 hours a day and poisoned with salt.
The boy’s family squarely blame Solihull Council’s children’s services, which failed to grasp a series of chances to stop Arthur’s ‘unimaginable’ torture before he was murdered with 130 separate injuries.
Arthur’s grandmother, Joanne Hughes, told the trial how she felt there was ‘no one else to go to’ after repeatedly raising her concerns with the authorities, while his uncle, Daniel, was even threatened with arrest over lockdown rules if he went back to the youngster’s house to check up on him.
The child moved into his father’s care after his mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 28, killed her new partner in February 2019. Hughes met mother-of-four Tustin online before the couple moved with Arthur into her home near Solihull in the West Midlands when the government declared a lockdown in March 2020.
Madeleine Halcrow said that Tustin was ‘obsessed’ about the idea Thomas would go back to Olivia, and that ‘the only way she could get Olivia out of her life was by getting rid of Arthur’.
Tustin, who had two of her children taken into care following a suicide attempt, repeatedly complained she could not cope with Arthur’s behaviour during lockdown and begged Hughes to let him return to his grandparents.
Arthur died on June 16, 2020 after suffering an ‘unsurvivable head injury’. These are the four key chances the authorities missed to avert the tragedy:
- ONE – Arthur’s grandmother, Joanne Hughes, called social services on April 16 to say she had seen the youngster covered in bruises. However, social workers failed to spot them during a visit to his home.
- TWO – On April 20, Joanne also told Arthur’s school what she had seen. A member of staff called social services but was told the bruises had been caused by ‘play’.
- THREE – Arthur’s uncle, Daniel Hughes, reports his concerns to police but is threatened with arrest if he tries to go back to the youngster’s home.
- FOUR – John Dutton, Emma Tustin’s stepfather, makes an anonymous call to social services weeks before Arthur’s death.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was beaten to death following months of abuse. His trial hear how relatives repeatedly raised concerns with social services and police but were rebuffed
MISSED CHANCE 1 –
Grandmothers reports bruises to social services – but they fail to spot them during visit
This image was taken by Arthur’s grandmother Joanne Hughes as part of a desperate attempt to convince the authorities he was in danger
Arthur’s paternal grandmother, Joanne Hughes, made a call to Solihull council’s emergency team on April 16 to report bruises on his shoulders.
She also told them Arthur had said the injuries were caused by Tustin, who ‘grabbed him to the face, called him names and pushed him and he bumped his head on the stairs’.
In response to her report, social worker Jayne Kavanagh and support worker Angela Scarlett-Coppage were dispatched to the family home in Shirley, Solihull, the following day.
Mrs Kavanagh told jurors she arrived to find Arthur playing outside and he appeared ‘clean’, ‘very happy’ and ‘boisterous’. She was unable to spot any bruising other than a ‘faint yellow’ mark in the middle of his back.
After speaking Tustin and Hughes, she and Ms Scarlett-Coppage formed the view that Arthur was being cared for in a ‘happy household’ who were ‘all getting along’.
They reported ‘no safeguarding concerns’ and the case was not referred for a full social services assessment. Instead they offered to put a support worker in touch under the Early Help scheme, but no work took place.
Mrs Kavanagh said she was left ‘in shock’ when she eventually saw the photo of dark bruises on Arthur’s shoulder blades.
Asked in court if she could explain why she was unable to spot bruises which had been noticeable a day earlier, she replied: ‘No’.
Revealed: How twisted stepmother’s overdose forced trial to be halted
By James Fielding for MailOnline
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’s stepmother’s trial was halted for several days after she took an overdose and was rushed to hospital.
Emma Tustin, 32, swallowed several painkillers she had apparently hidden in her bra. She was taken from her cell at Coventry Crown Court last Monday afternoon and taken to hospital, where she remained until last Thursday.
Tustin and ex-boyfriend Thomas Hughes, 29, inflicted a ‘cruel and systematic’ campaign of cruelty’ against Arthur, which included forcing him to stand for up to 14-hours a day alone, depriving him of food and water and poisoning him with salt.
A source told MailOnline: ‘The case was held up for three days because Tustin was rushed to hospital after overdosing on pills. She swallowed a load of painkillers in one of the court cells during a lunch break last Monday. She’d earlier spent the morning in the dock alongside her co-accused as he gave evidence.
‘She confessed to a member of her legal team about what she had done and an ambulance had to be called to take her to hospital. She was still conscious when she left the cell at Coventry Crown Court in the ambulance. It appears as though she may have been given pills by the prison over a number of days but rather than take them she’d been saving them up and hid them in her bra.’
She added: ‘I was shocked and in disbelief that these photos could have been taken the day before and my colleague and I hadn’t seen anything the day afterwards.’
Arthur’s maternal grandmother Madeleine Halcrow, said Joanne Hughes and her husband, Chris, visited her at her home in Birmingham in April to show her the photo of Arthur’s bruises and ask if she knew how Arthur had got them.
She told MailOnline: ‘I had no idea whatsoever because I’d been blocked from having any contact with Arthur by Thomas and I hadn’t seen him since October 21, 2019.
‘I immediately called Solihull social services but they told me that they’d already been to see Arthur and they didn’t have any issues.
‘I sent them the photographs of his back and then called the police who said they’d also gone to the house and like social services they had no worries as the property was ”immaculate”.
‘My response was to say ”so an immaculate house doesn’t constitute child abuse then?” As far as I’m aware there were no more visits after that.
‘Both the police and social services were lied to by Thomas and Emma who told them that the bruise was from ‘boisterous play’. I know it’s difficult because there hadn’t been previous contact with Arthur but nothing was done when it should have been.’
The nurse added: ‘The whole social services department failed Arthur. They must have seen how poorly Arthur was, how fatigued and weak he was. He died just eight weeks later.’
Solihull’s £122,294 Director of Children’s Services at the time, Louise Rees, 60, left in August before the trial began. Rees’ LinkedIn profile boasts that she is now ‘retired and loving it’.
Arthur had been on social services’ radar for three years. In 2018 he was referred to them twice over concerns about his mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, an alcoholic and drug user who was eventually jailed for stabbing to death her lover.
Solihull’s £122,294 Director of Children’s Services at the time of Arthur’s death, Louise Rees, 60, (pictured) left in August before the trial began
MISSED CHANCE 2 –
Worried teacher calls social services about bruises – but is told they were caused by ‘play’
‘He’s doing grand’: How evil father fobbed off concerned school workers checking up on Arthur over lockdown
Staff at Dickens Heath primary school contacted Arthur’s father Thomas Hughes for welfare checks when it shut during the first Covid lockdown in April 2020.
In response, Thomas painted an idyllic picture of his son’s life – a jarring contrast to the twisted abuse he was actually suffering during this time.
Replying to messages sent on the school’s messaging platform, Hughes told staff his son had been ‘enjoying the garden’ and ‘decorating his bedroom’.
In one exchange, he wrote: ‘Arthur is plodding along, enjoying the sunshine and messing about the garden.
‘We might have a barbecue at the weekend. He just wants to see his friends now as he misses them a bit. Thank you for checking in.’
The school replied: ‘Keep enjoying the great outdoors, Arthur. We miss you too but we’ll all be back together soon when it is safe. Enjoy the weekend. ‘
In another message, Hughes added: ‘Arthur has been doing grand. He’s found it quite challenging not being at school and not having that routine but we’ve been decorating his bedroom.
‘He’s done little bits of schoolwork and doing PE with Joe [Wicks]. Take care and stay safe.’
On April 20, a desperate Joanne Hughes told Arthur’s school about the referral to social services she had made four days earlier.
Michelle Hull, safeguarding lead at Dickens Heath Community Primary School, then contacted social services to alert them to Joanne’s report but was told they had ‘no concerns’.
Ms Hull told jurors: ‘[Mrs Hughes] phoned to make us aware she had concerns about Arthur and made a MASH (multi-agency safeguarding hub) referral.
‘She said that she had seen Arthur and he had bruises on, I think, it was his back. She said she had seen bruises.’
Ms Hull said Arthur’s grandmother had also voiced concerns about Tustin’s ‘mental health’ and said that she was a ‘coercive’ partner.
She added: ‘She was concerned the relationship wasn’t a positive one.
‘She was worried about Thomas and Arthur because the partner that he had – she was worried about her mental health. She felt his partner, Emma, was coercive.’
Jonas Hankin QC, prosecuting, asked Ms Hull whether social services had explained to her the nature of the checks they carried out on Arthur while visiting him at home.
‘What, if any, information were you given about the nature of the checks that social services said had been performed?’ the barrister asked.
Ms Hull replied: ‘They said they’d seen Arthur and that the injuries were from boisterous play.
‘That the family relationship seemed OK. And they had no concerns.’
Asked if the support worker had given further detail about the injuries she had seen, Ms Hull said: ‘I think she referred to the bruises on the back.’
Ms Hull said the social worker ‘didn’t have any concerns about parenting’ by Tustin.
The teacher added that social services told her she ‘wasn’t allowed to share any information with Arthur’s grandmother because (parental) consent hadn’t been given’.
Instead, Ms Hull volunteered for the school ‘to stay involved and just do check-ins with the family’, which Mr Hughes consented to.
Speaking after the trial, Arthur’s grandmother Madeleine Halcrow (pic) read a tribute on behalf of her daughter Olivia Labinjo Hughes, who is Arthur’s biological mum. She is currently serving a 11-year sentence for killing her partner
Asked why she had made that offer, Ms Hull said: ‘Because they were a family we had taken in and nurtured and that’s very much how our school works.’
Dickens Heath had previously raised concerns about Arthur’s mental state.
He started at the school in February 2019. At the time he had been told that his mother, on remand for killing her boyfriend, had left to join the army.
By October 2019, his teacher Aileen Carabine said that he had learned that his mother was in prison and had become more ‘reserved and anxious’. She said he had become ‘fixated’ with his father disappearing from his life, being taken away from his father and his father killing him.
Hughes and his mother had a meeting with both the school and a paediatrician in November 2019 at which they spoke of their concerns for how vulnerable Arthur was, how he was clingy, babyish and obsessed with cuddly toys.
They were told by both the school and the medic that these were normal symptoms for a child in Arthur’s situation and they should respond with love and understanding and not to punish him or take away his toys.
The school made a referral to mental health services and in March 2020 Arthur met with Kerry Forsyth-Benson, a CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) practitioner.
MISSED CHANCE 3 –
Youngster’s uncle tells police about his injuries – only for officer to threaten HIM with arrest over Covid rules if he goes to check on nephew
Arthur’s uncle, Daniel Hughes, said he also had photos of the youngster’s bruises and showed them to police, but never heard anything back.
Daniel said he and other relatives tried to visit Arthur at home to confront Tustin and Hughes.
After the attempted visit, he contacted West Midlands Police to report his concerns, but instead of taking any action an officer threatened him with arrest for breaking Covid rules if he tried to visit the house again.
The Solihull home where Arthur was abused, which his uncle, Daniel Hughes, tried to visit with other relatives to confront Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes about what they were doing to him
Daniel told jurors that a reluctant police worker eventually agreed to receive photos of the child’s bruises but he never heard anything back.
He said: ‘I went on the police webchat to enquire as to what I could do for the safety of my nephew.
‘I had a webchat with an operative. He gave me a case number and within ten minutes a private number called me.
‘A police officer identified himself, who said he had been around to the address and spoke with Tustin and Tom [Thomas Hughes]. We were advised if we were to return to the address we would be arrested.
‘I said I had photos of Arthur’s injuries and I didn’t believe that if he had seen those injuries, he would be happy that he was okay. He reluctantly received the photos and said he would speak to his sergeant and get back to me. He never did.’
Daniel did not reveal the specific date of the call and it is not clear who took the photos.
After Arthur’s death, a neighbour wrote on Facebook claiming they had also informed police he was being abused.
They wrote: ‘I rang the police! I rang child services! They did nothing and as a result the toddler has died. Solihull child services make me feel sick.’
Besides the failings of social services, West Midlands Police have been investigated over their handling of the case by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, who are now due to release their findings.
MISSED CHANCE 4 –
‘He was in danger’: Anonymous call to social services by Tustin’s stepfather weeks before tragic boy’s murder
John Dutton, Tustin’s stepfather, told jurors he made a call to social services just weeks before Arthur collapsed with fatal brain injuries on June 16, 2020.
Asked why he made the referral – which he chose to keep anonymous – Mr Dutton said: ‘I thought he was in danger.’
Mr Dutton said Hughes ‘dished out the discipline’ on visits to his home and admitted slashing Arthur’s beloved Liverpool and Birmingham City football shirts.
Days before his death: Arthur attempts to pick up a duvet from the floor where he slept in home video footage shown to Coventry Crown Court
He also said that during one visit during the first Covid lockdown, Hughes confessed how he had ‘gone to town’ on the youngster.
Mr Dutton said: ‘He told us that he had gone to town on him and when he had done it he went up to the shower and cried his eyes out.’
Asked by prosecutor Jonas Hankin, QC, what Mr Dutton took that to mean, he sobbed: ‘Belt the life out of him.’ He added: ‘I was just shocked. He didn’t seem the type.’
Mr Dutton told the court that after the call, he stopped allowing Arthur into his house because his wife was ‘distressed’ at how he was being treated.
He said Arthur was ordered to sit at a table and face the wall ‘for hours’ like ‘a zombie’ whenever he was brought over to their home.
Revealed: Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ real mother was jailed for 11 years after stabbing her lover to death in frenzied drunken rage – leaving the little boy at the mercy of his father and his evil girlfriend
By Ross Slater and Nick Craven for MailOnline
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’s biological mother was sentenced to 11 years in jail for stabbing her lover to death – leaving the tragic six-year-old at the mercy of his evil father and stepmother.
Full details of Arthur’s horrific childhood, raised by violent alcoholic Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 29, were revealed during the harrowing nine-week murder trial of Thomas Hughes, 29, and his 32-year-old girlfriend Emma Tustin.
Arthur was pushed into his father’s custody in February 2019 after Labinjo-Halcrow killed her partner Gary Cunningham, 29, by stabbing him 12 times with a kitchen knife in a drunken rage.
Hughes met mother-of-four Tustin online and the couple moved with Arthur into her home near Solihull in the West Midlands when the government declared a nationwide lockdown in March 2020.
Madeleine Halcrow said that Tustin was ‘obsessed’ about the idea Thomas would go back to Olivia, and that ‘the only way she could get Olivia out of her life was by getting rid of Arthur’.
Tustin, who had two of her children taken into care following a suicide attempt, repeatedly complained she could not cope with Arthur’s behaviour during the period of confinement and begged Hughes to let him return to his grandparents.
Arthur’s biological mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 29, (left) killed her partner Gary Cunningham (right) by stabbing him 12 times with a kitchen knife in a drunken rage in February 2019
From Arthur’s last desperate hours: Father and stepmother tortured and tormented little boy, 6, to his dying day… as harrowing home video hears frail child’s final desperate whimpers of ‘no one loves me’
Arthur’s harrowing last recorded moments show him struggling to pick up his duvet from the floor where he was forced to sleep for days on end – just hours before he was savagely murdered by his stepmother.
The heart-wrenching clip, captured on video, shows an emaciated Arthur, whose pyjamas appear to be hanging off him, grimacing in pain as he tries to pick up his cover and a special Avengers pillow, before screaming ‘no one loves me’.
The heart-wrenching clip shows an emaciated Arthur, whose pyjamas appear to be hanging off him, grimace in pain as he tries to pick up his cover and pillow
He is seen struggling to stand before slumping to the floor of the living room. He cries ‘no one loves me’ four times as he struggles to walk to the other side of the room while appearing to be suffering from a limp.
It takes him more than two whole minutes to be able to stand up, pick up his duvet and walk the distance of about two yards to a door leading to another room. In audio clips released alongside the video by West Midlands Police, played to the court, Arthur is also heard saying ‘no one is going to feed me’ seven times in 44 seconds.
The tragic boy can be heard crying ‘nobody loves me’ as he is seen barely able to walk across the room
Even before his death, Arthur had witnessed numerous scenes of domestic violence. On one occasion Labinjo-Halcrow had stabbed Mr Cunningham while Arthur was present.
Arthur also witnessed terrible rows between his mother and his father Thomas Hughes and on one occasion ended up ‘cowering under the covers’ as they tore into one another.
Labinjo-Halcrow had been seeing Hughes and Mr Cunningham at the same time and Hughes was still having a sexual relationship with her up until the point that she killed Mr Cunningham.
They’d had a furious row on February 16 about her sleeping with Mr Cunningham and ended up physically wrestling over Arthur as Hughes took him away to his parents’ house.
Labinjo-Halcrow was originally convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and jailed for 18 years at Birmingham Crown Court.
In August last year the conviction was overturned by The Court of Appeal after judges ruled she may have been acting in self-defence.
But following a retrial at Birmingham Crown Court, jurors once again found her guilty of manslaughter in July 2021 and this time was sentenced to 11 years.
The court heard Labinjo-Halcrow had been Mr Cunningham’s on-and-off girlfriend.
At her original trial she claimed she had been the victim of sexual abuse, including rape, at the hands of her victim.
But Judge Simon Drew, QC dismissed those allegations and described her as ‘someone who could be bullying and manipulative and prone to lies’.
After his mother’s arrest, Arthur went to live with Hughes.
In July 2019, a doctor recorded Arthur as suffering from ‘high anxiety’.
In November 2019, Arthur was in such a state that Mrs Hughes and Thomas spoke to both his school, Dickens Heath Community Primary in Shirley, and paediatrician Dr Sarah Dixon about it.
Arthur was said to be: clingy, having nightmares, obsessed with murder, anxious, babyish behaviour, trust issues. All were said to be completely normal for a child in the circumstances.
Arthur had also said he was ‘worried his Dad will kill him’. This was ‘not normal’.
The doctor told Hughes that he should love and cherish his son, care for him, not subject him to change or treat his poor behaviour as naughtiness.
Arthur had variously been told that his mother had ‘joined the army’ and been sent to jail but that she would soon be released.
The school’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator Aileen Carabine, told the hearing that Arthur was becoming ‘fixated’ with his dad disappearing from his life, being taken away from his dad and his dad killing him.
Ms Carabine said Arthur started at the school in February 2019, but in March that year he had no idea his mother was in prison.
The teacher said that by October 2019 Arthur had ‘deteriorated’, and had become more ‘reserved and anxious.’ ‘Not quite as smiley,’ she added.
The school told Hughes he should be honest with his son after Halcrow was jailed in September 2019.
Arthur with his father. The youngster died after his head was repeatedly smashed against a hard surface
Two days after Arthur’s sixth birthday, on Jan 6, 2020, Hughes went to the doctor to say the school were concerned by his clinginess and his obsession with soft toys, Tustin’s barrister Mary Prior told the court.
She said teachers had said this was completely untrue.
On March 4, Arthur sobbed at school saying his father had taken away his favourite teddy. The school spoke to Hughes and told him this was wrong and above all not to discipline him.
Grandmother: Arthur’s body has still not been buried 16 months on due to family row
Arthur’s maternal grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow, told MailOnline that her grandson’s body remains in the mortuary of Leicester Royal Infirmary, where the post-mortem was carried out 16-months ago, due to a legal dispute over who has the right to lay him to rest.
Her family want to bury him in a small quiet funeral in a churchyard in Birmingham while the Hughes family have a plot for him elsewhere and want to take charge of the service.
Ms Halcrow confirmed she had sought legal advice with a firm of solicitors and added: ‘I hope that we can reach some sort of agreement with the Hughes family – for Arthur’s sake.
‘But for the time being it doesn’t look that way and it’s looking increasingly likely the matter of will be able to lay him to rest will go to court.’
On New Year’s Eve, Hughes had gone ‘toe-to-toe’ with his father and they were screaming at one another because Hughes’s parenting had been criticised.
This led to a breakdown of Hughes’ relationship with his family.
Arthur was said to be missing his mother but Hughes banned all contact and this prompted a meltdown on Mother’s Day.
Ms Prior said that Tustin repeatedly told Hughes that she could not cope and that either Arthur or both of them should return to his parents’ house.
She said that during lockdown Hughes spent his time in bed, or playing computer games or going on long shopping trips leaving Tustin to deal with all the children.
She quoted a text sent from him to Tustin, then pregnant, at 5pm on June 13: ‘I am naked on the bed waiting for you, all prepped and waiting for you to take my soul.’
Emma replies that he will be waiting a very long time.
At this stage he had started to deprive Arthur of food and water and the boy was screaming.
The ‘noise and the cruelty’ was not stopping him from becoming aroused, Ms Prior said.
During that heatwave, he would walk around eating ice creams in front of his starving child.
During May the school reached out to Hughes offering to have Arthur in school despite the lockdown.
He told them Arthur was really happy. When the school did re-open on June 8, he told them Arthur could not come in due to a headache.
She told the jury: ‘Read the messages with care, she’s regularly asking him ‘please come back’, ‘please help’, ‘I can’t cope’, ‘I’m crying’, ‘I’m broken’, ‘please take him back to his nan’s’. ‘She was saying again and again ‘what do you want me to do with him?’.’ Ms Prior says, in reply, Hughes told her to ‘end him’, ‘finish him’ and ‘take his jaw off’ but she did not do any of those things.
In one message, Hughes threatened to ‘take his jaw off his shoulders’ and told Tustin: ‘Just gag him or something. Tie some rope around his mouth with a sock in it or something.’
She pointed out that Hughes had told police ‘I couldn’t hit a woman or her kids so Arthur took the brunt of my frustrations’.
This included head-butting him, pressure pointing his neck, putting his foot on his stomach, and assaulting him over and over again.
She quoted Hughes as saying it was a ‘clash of egos’ and that his way of crushing his son’s ego was to do stuff like telling him he would take him to see his Nan and Granddad and then driving him around and telling him it would not happen. He also cut up the boy’s favourite football strip in front of him.