Stepmum 'branded boy, 6, a "devil child" & "little f**k" in texts before his murder'

A STEPMUM branded a six-year-old boy a "devil child" and "little f**k" in texts before she murdered him, a court heard.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, six, suffered “unsurvivable brain injuries” after being abused by Thomas Hughes, 29, and his partner Emma Tustin, 32, it is alleged.

The couple had shared texts leading up to the youngster's death in Solihull, West Midlands, detailing the alleged abuse Arthur suffered.

In some read to jurors at Coventry Crown Court, Tustin refers to Arthur as a "little t**t", "little p***k" and a "little f**k".

The court was told she also messaged Hughes claiming the little boy was "screaming" and demanding to go to his grandmother's home.

She said in one: "I want you but not him. I'm not being treated like that by him."

Jurors heard how Tustin had made numerous references to being pregnant in the weeks leading up to Arthur's death and accused Hughes of "turning his back" on his unborn child.

A further text read: "You stay with the devil child."

Dad Hughes also sent messages to Tustin where he threatens to "take his jaw off his shoulders" and compares him to "f***ing Hitler" in another.

The court has also 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 a clip Tustin sent Hughes where he says: "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."

The tragic youngster was subjected to a "campaign of cruelty" before his death that matched the “medical definition of child torture”, it is said.

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

Jurors heard how on June 16 last year, he was found unresponsive at the home in Solihull.

He died in hospital the next day with a post-mortem examination giving a cause of death 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 had also been "poisoned with salt" and had suffered extensive bruising over his frail body, it was said.


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

She allegedly carried out the fatal assault and fetched her phone immediately afterwards to photograph the boy as he lay dying in the hallway.

Prosecutors said that despite having her phone she took 12 minutes to call 999, telling medics Arthur "fell and banged his head and while on the floor banged his head another five times".

She 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.

The court heard how one witness claimed Arthur was "too weak" to even hold a glass of water to his mouth.

They also 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".

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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