Harrowing video footage shows the monstrous stepmother of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes devouring a McDonald’s takeaway while the doomed six-year-old boy starves in the hallway.
Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes, the pair who were sentenced to more than 20 years each for their roles in the death of little Arthur this week, can be seen tucking into ice creams at her Solihull home in West Midlands, last year.
While the couple relax on the sofa, Arthur is left to stand by himself in the hallway, wearing a fluffy onesie in sweltering temperatures.
In other clips, recorded on the couple’s home security footage, Tustin scoffs into two separate boxes of McDonald’s, while a starving Arthur is left to his own devices.
Tustin and Hughes starved the youngster, force-fed him salt-laden dishes and made him stand alone for more than 14 hours a day, in a degrading, punishing and hellish regime over the last painful months of his life.
Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes can be seen tucking into ice creams at her Solihull home in West Midlands, last year
While the couple relax on the sofa, six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes is left to stand by himself in the hallway, wearing a fluffy onesie in sweltering temperatures
In other clips, recorded on the couple’s home security footage, Tustin scoffs into two separate boxes of McDonald’s, while a starving Arthur is left to his own devices.
Six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (above) was subjected to a campaign of horrendous abuse that saw him tortured, starved and beaten in one of the most grim instances of child abuse in history
Social workers, police and teachers are facing damning questions after a six-year-old boy’s stepmother was found guilty of his murder – and his father convicted of manslaughter – after the pair tortured, starved and beat him to death.
Emma Tustin 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 Solihull home, the self-pitying stepmother cried and tried to convince them the stick-thin boy had attacked 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.
After concerned relatives told the council about bruises on the youngster’s back, social worker Jayne Kavanagh and support worker Angela Scarlett-Coppage visited Tustin’s home but reported ‘no concerns’ after carrying out cursory checks.
Tustin and Hughes had ‘coached’ Arthur and one of Tustin’s other children to pretend his injuries were the result of a play-fight.
A day before Arthur died of ‘unsurvivable’ head injuries inflicted by Tustin, he had been rendered ‘too weak’ even to hold a glass of water to his mouth. The 130 areas of bruising found on the little boy’s body after his death equated to ‘nearly a bruise for every day of lockdown’.
Meanwhile, social workers wanted to be anonymous when they gave evidence to the court, it can be revealed.
Jailing Tustin and Hughes on Friday, Mr Justice Mark Wall QC said the couple’s campaign of cruel abuse against the defenceless youngster had been ‘without doubt one of the most distressing and disturbing cases I have had to deal with’.
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
Sick Tustin fetched her mobile phone immediately after she beat Arthur to take a photograph of the youngster (pictured, with his father Hughes) as he lay dying in the hallway of her home in Cranmore Road, Solihull, West Midlands, in June last year
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
Ex-children’s minister: ‘We have a duty to put this right’ after Arthur’s murder
The murder of a six-year-old boy by his stepmother should prompt change around social care, a former children’s minister has suggested.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was left with an unsurvivable brain injury while in the sole care of 32-year-old Emma Tustin, who was on Friday jailed for life after being convicted of murder by assaulting the defenceless child in Solihull on June 16, 2020.
Ex-children’s minister Tim Loughton said ‘we’ all have a ‘duty’ to make sure other vulnerable children are not let down by social care in the same way as Arthur, whose body was found to be covered in 130 bruises following his death.
‘Funding for children’s social care has lagged behind and social workers are overstretched and undervalued, when in truth they should be revered as our fourth emergency service,’ the Tory MP wrote in The Sun.
‘Early interventions to stop the causes of safeguarding problems have been diluted to late interventions to firefight symptoms.
‘This is a false economy where in this case a child paid with his life. We all have an interest in putting this right urgently and a duty to make sure it is.’
Solihull’s Local Child Safeguarding Partnership launched an independent review after it emerged in court that the boy had been seen by social workers just two months before his death, but they concluded there were ‘no safeguarding concerns’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said ministers will leave ‘absolutely no stone unturned’ to establish what went wrong in the ‘appalling’ case.
Speaking during a by-election campaign visit in north Shropshire, Mr Johnson said: ‘It is early days, but I can tell you this, we will leave absolutely no stone unturned to find out exactly what went wrong in that appalling case.’
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said he would be making a statement on the case to Parliament on Monday.
Tustin’s life sentence delivered on Friday carries a minimum term of 29 years, while Arthur’s father Thomas Hughes was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter.
He said of little Arthur: ‘He was a healthy, happy young boy. He enjoyed his food, liked school, loved playing cricket and football and adored spending his time with his extended family.
‘He had been poisoned with so much salt that the levels of sodium in his blood could not be accurately and reliably measured. I am sure that you had also been poisoning him with smaller doses of salt for some time.
‘It is the only explanation for Arthur being heard regularly to cry out for food while rejecting the food that you prepared for him and offered him. It explains why you had been restricting his access to free water for some time.
‘He had been completely isolated from his extended family. He was forced to live a solitary and lonely life within your home, including being made to stand to attention alone in the hallway of the house for most of the day.
‘He was made to sleep downstairs on the hard floor without a mattress.
‘In the last three months of Arthur’s life he was subjected to the most unimaginable suffering at the hands of both of you.
‘You both told lies to conceal what was happening in that house.’
Addressing Hughes, he said: ‘You, I am sure, researched pressure pointing Arthur and then did it. Not in the playful way you suggested but as an attempt to cause maximum pain with minimum injury.’
Arthur’s maternal grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow, said Arthur 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’.
Harrowing footage 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.
One of his twisted punishments even saw Hughes cut up the boy’s favourite Birmingham City football shirt in front of him.
On Friday it emerged she had tried to take an overdose and hang herself in prison after already being attacked in jail by inmates dousing her with salt.
Tests revealed Arthur had 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.
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’.
Arthur should have been the top priority of local social services, the Director of Association of Child Protection Professionals has said.
Asked if the six-year-old should have been at the top of social services’ priority list, Wendy Thorogood told Times Radio: ‘He should and you would have expected them to actually look at his history, but unfortunately they go on what they see at that moment in time.
‘I can’t comment on what they actually witnessed but you have to remember he was at the hands of quite cruel people who could manipulate him, his environment and professionals.
‘I would have expected any assessment to really take account of the grandmother’s photos, I would have expected join conversations and real conversation with Alfie, and that appears to have been missed.’
Ms Thorogood added: ‘We have to remember this was under Covid, so he wasn’t actually getting additional oversight from school and education.
‘I feel they took probably the assessment he was out happy, playing, a boy being boisterous.
‘I would have expected any bruises that had been shown would have actually been shared with health to actually have a view as well as to where the injury was.
‘The biggest thing is to actually speak with the child and I can’t say whether or not that actually happened.
‘Equally, it’s a society responsibility, in relation to his cries were so abnormal if we’d had an anonymous call from one of the neighbours that could have given them more power to do the investigation.
‘He wasn’t on a child protection list, he wasn’t one of the children that you would have considered to be a priority.’
It comes as the ex-head of the council department that failed Arthur Labinjo-Hughes announced she was retiring weeks after his murder – but refused to apologise yesterday.
Louise Rees, 60, tendered her resignation to Solihull Council chiefs shortly after the six-year-old’s death sent shockwaves around the children’s services department, sources said.
But she was allowed to keep working, and drawing her £123,000 salary, for another 12 months while a replacement was sought. Mrs Rees refused to apologise when contacted by the Daily Mail.
Louise Rees (pictured), 60, tendered her resignation to Solihull Council chiefs shortly after the six-year-old’s death sent shockwaves around the children’s services department, sources said
The ex-head of the council department that failed Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (pictured) announced she was retiring weeks after his murder – but refused to apologise yesterday
Mrs Rees is likely to have left with a generous lump sum and an annual pension of at least £40,000. According to her LinkedIn profile, she is currently ‘retired and loving it’.
The career civil servant also left her previous job at Stoke City Council, where she was the £140,000-a-year director of children and family services, a week before it too was lambasted for serious failings.
Ofsted inspectors found that, during Mrs Rees’s tenure, services for children ‘seriously declined’ as a result of ‘poor leadership, management oversight and an absence of performance inspection’.
Children were ‘not being protected’ and ‘widespread and serious failures’ left them at ‘risk of serious harm’.
Although inspectors did not single out individuals for criticism, their report in February 2019 was unequivocal.
‘Leaders and managers failed to recognise and manage risk at every level of the organisation,’ they said.
An inspection in 2015 had noted that services required improvement or were good, and council chiefs had no idea things had got ‘so bad’.
In the wake of the report, government commissioner Eleanor Brazil, who helped turn around Haringey Council in north London following the Baby P scandal, was sent in to review the department.
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.