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Parents accused of murdering six-year-old son argued about abandoning him, court hears

Parents accused of murdering six-year-old son argued about abandoning him: Stepmother, 32, text partner, 29, ‘I want you, but not him’ before they ‘tortured, poisoned with salt and killed boy they branded ”devil child”’

  • Emma Tustin referred to Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, 6, as a ‘little t**t’, a court heard
  • She made remarks in messages to her boyfriend Thomas Hughes, jurors heard
  • Both deny murdering Arthur, who collapsed at Tustin’s home in Solihull
  • The court heard Tustin sent Hughes a text saying ‘I want you but not him’
  • Hughes replied ‘It can’t be one and not the other. Unfortunately, it’s got to be both or none’, and Tustin then said ‘Cya’, Coventry Crown Court was told 


Emma Tustin, 32, referred to Arthur Labinjo-Hughes as a ‘little t**t’, court hears

A woman accused of murdering her partner’s six-year-old son called him a ‘devil child’ and sent the boy’s father a text saying ‘I want you but not him’, a court heard.

Emma Tustin, 32, referred to Arthur Labinjo-Hughes as a ‘little t**t’, ‘little p***k’, ‘little f**k’ and ‘little c**t’ in messages to her boyfriend Thomas Hughes, 29, in the weeks before the boy suffered fatal injuries, Coventry Crown Court heard. 

Arthur had tried to tell family members ‘no one loves me’ and ‘I won’t be fed today’ before he died, jurors were told. 

Tustin and Hughes are accused of ‘poisoning’ the child with salt and making him endure months of abuse before killing him by ‘banging his head against a hard surface’. 

Both deny murdering Arthur, who collapsed at Miss Tustin’s home in Shirley, Solihull, West Midlands, on June 16 last year. He died at Birmingham Children’s Hospital the following day having suffered a traumatic brain injury.

The court was told Tustin sent numerous texts claiming Arthur was ‘screaming’, refusing to eat his food, demanding to go to his grandmother as well as attacking her.

The couple also spoke of separating and in one row the jury was told that Tustin sent a text saying: ‘I want you but not him. I’m not being treated like that by him.’ 

Hughes replied: ‘It can’t be one and not the other. Unfortunately, it’s got to be both or none.’

In response, the court was told, Tustin messaged: ‘Cya.’   

In the week before Arthur (right) collapsed Tustin allegedly rowed about him with Hughes (left), saying: 'There's one issue in this house. One person causing s**t'

In the week before Arthur (right) collapsed Tustin allegedly rowed about him with Hughes (left), saying: ‘There’s one issue in this house. One person causing s**t’

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

Miss Tustin has pleaded guilty to one count of child cruelty but denies further charges of the same offence. Mr Hughes, of Shirley, also denies child cruelty offences.

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

On day three of the trial yesterday the jury was shown further text messages, audio and video clips exchanged between the defendants, who rowed multiple times over Arthur.

Miss Tustin made numerous references to being pregnant in the weeks leading up to June 16 and in one message she accused Mr Hughes of ‘turning his back’ on his unborn child, the jury was told.

The court heard a further text to her boyfriend said: ‘You stay with the devil child.’

In the week before Arthur collapsed Miss Tustin allegedly rowed about him with Mr Hughes, saying: ‘There’s one issue in this house. One person causing s**t.’

In texts on June 11 she also made reference to Mr Hughes hitting Arthur as well as kicking a hole in the door, jurors heard.

In one message read to the court Miss Tustin said: ‘Take your precious child who can’t do wrong and f**k off.’

The jury was also given a virtual tour of the house as the prosecution began playing CCTV from inside the property during the days immediately before Arthur’s death.

Arthur had been in the full-time care of Mr Hughes after his mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, was accused of killing her new partner, Gary Cunningham, in February 2019.

She was jailed for 11 years in July this year after being found guilty of manslaughter.

The trial continues.

Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow (pictured), 26, was previously caged for 18 years after she knifed boyfriend Gary Cunningham 12 times in a drunken rage at their home

Pictured: Gary Cunningham

Arthur’s natural mother Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow (left), 26, was previously caged for 18 years after she knifed boyfriend Gary Cunningham (right) 12 times in a drunken rage at their home

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