'Bully' dad 'went to buy birthday cake' as 'starved son, 6, lay dying after murder'

A DAD was out buying a birthday cake for his partner when his six-year-old son was murdered by her, a court heard today.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, six, was allegedly subjected to a "campaign of cruelty" before his death that matched the “medical definition of child torture”.

His dad Thomas Hughes, 29, and his partner Emma Tustin, 32, are accused of murdering the youngster, who suffered an "unsurvivable brain injury".

Tustin allegedly beat Arthur to death then waited 13 minutes to call 999 and tell them the youngster was "barely breathing" after he "headbutted the floor".

Coventry Crown Court today heard details from Arthur's tragic final moments after he collapsed at home in Shirley on June 16.

As paramedics battled to revive the youngster, his dad was heard telling police: "I went to Sainsbury's to get a cake, it's my partner's birthday tomorrow.

“As I was coming back she phoned and said 'you need to come back because he's bumped his head and knocked himself out – thrown himself on the concrete floor'."

Jurors were told how Tustin had run to the home of her neighbour Carol Millar, who is a nurse, after Arthur collapsed claiming he "knocked himself out".

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When she rushed over to help, she said she was “absolutely distraught” at seeing Arthur unresponsive but said of Tustin: “Not once did she ask how Arthur was.”

She added: “She [Tustin] was quite erratic – what sounded to me like trying to make excuses.

“It was just constant. Her mouth was just going.”

Paramedics arrived at the home to find Arthur "lying on his back, completely lifeless, quite pale with purple lips", it was said.

They managed to restart his heart and take the "malnourished" boy to hospital.

Medic Sarah Haddada told jurors: "He appeared very petite. The size of him compared to an average six-year-old was very, very small. He didn't appear well-nutritioned."

She also said Arthur's teeth were "not at all in a straight line" and "disfigured", and that his gums were bleeding.

Arthur died in hospital the next day with a cause of death given as a "head trauma inflicted on him by an adult" consistent with being "vigorously shaken and his head banged repeatedly against a hard surface".


Doctors found he was poisoned with so much salt he was "unable to put up a fight" before his death, jurors heard.

The court was told the youngster had more than six spoons worth of the substance in his system – the highest level a medic had ever seen.

He was also allegedly "segregated and isolated" for "up to 14 hours a day" and deprived of a bed, food and clothing.

Jurors heard he was covered in bruises from his head to his feet.

He had 93 areas of injury – including on his head, arms, legs, feet and torso – and 25 sites of bruising on his scalp, face, and neck that raised “serious concerns about non-accidental injury”.

The youngster was also found to have 20 areas of bruising on his arms and eight on his chest and stomach, it was said.

Giving evidence, Dr Lyle told jurors: “I’m not sure that outside of obvious traumatic situations I’ve ever seen a child found dead at home with this number of injuries to the head and face.”

The court was told Tustin recorded more than 22 pictures and videos of Arthur in distress.

Jurors have watched CCTV of Tustin tucking into McDonald's while Arthur was left in a hallway for 14 hours and forced to sleep on the floor.

They have also previously heard audio clips Tustin recorded of Arthur sobbing while allegedly being abused.

The youngster can be heard weeping in another recording for his uncle Blake, saying: "Blake no-one loves me, Blake no-one loves me."

He also cried in one clip: "Daddy's going to throw me out the window, daddy's going to throw me out the window, daddy's going to throw me out of the window."


Tustin and Hughes are 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.

Prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC said: "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.”

Jurors heard how Arthur's death came three months after his father had moved into Tustin's home.

Before the move, the youngster was "cherished by all" and lived a "stable" life with his father and extended family, in an annexe in the garden of Arthur's paternal grandparents.

He had been placed in his dad's care after his mum Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 26, was jailed for 18 years for stabbing her boyfriend to death.

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

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, it was said.

Tustin has 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.

The pair also deny murder and an allegation of child cruelty by administering salt to Arthur between June 1 and 17 last year.

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

The trial continues.

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