Arriving at the home of Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes, social workers were greeted by a ‘playful and boisterous’ six-year-old, his cheeks flushed from running around in the garden.
As for the severe bruising on Arthur’s left shoulder that had prompted his worried grandmother to call in the authorities, all they later recalled seeing was a faint mark.
And, anyway, any lingering concerns were calmed when they quizzed Arthur about the injury. He and one of Tustin’s other sons claimed it had been caused by a play-fight with boxing gloves.
For the social workers, that was good enough. They concluded it was a ‘happy household’ where everyone got on well. Case effectively closed.
Less than two months later, Arthur was dead, having suffered an ‘unsurvivable’ trauma to his head. A total of 130 injuries, both old and new, were found all over his body. He had also been tortured, poisoned with salt and forced to stand on his own for up to 14 hours a day.
A happy household? More like hellish.
The apparent failures of the authorities to safeguard this little boy were numerous and shocking. His school, the police and social workers all had opportunities to intervene.
Why they did not will form the basis of multiple investigations. And at their heart will be their interactions with one individual. Not Arthur, but with Emma Tustin, his stand-in mum.
Emma Tustin, 32, (left) killed six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes by slamming his head on a hard surface after she and 29-year-old Thomas Hughes (right) subjected him to months of torture which included starving him and poisoning him with salt
Pictured: Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was beaten to death by 32-year-old Tustin following months of abuse by her and his father Thomas Hughes. His trial hear how relatives repeatedly raised concerns with social services and police but were rebuffed
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 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
Handout photos issued by West Midlands Police of Arthur. The apparent failures of the authorities to safeguard this little boy were numerous and shocking. His school, the police and social workers all had opportunities to intervene
Because it was she who coached Arthur to lie to the social workers about the cause of his injury. And it was she who had ensnared his father in a twisted, toxic relationship in which the pair had completely lost their ‘moral compass’.
That is not to say Hughes is not also to blame. But what has emerged is that he was far from the first man to fall foul of Tustin. In court the 32-year-old was described as a ‘ruthless predator’. She saw Arthur as her prey because she wanted something he had – his dad.
Speaking exclusively to the Daily Mail, the father of one of Tustin’s four own children uses a similar description. ‘She’s a black widow,’ he said. ‘She sucks the life out of each man she gets together with.’
The man, who asked not to be named, added: ‘She had no maternal instinct whatsoever. She wanted children for the attention they brought her as newborns, and for the child benefit. But once the attention died away and she was left at home with a baby, she didn’t want to know.’
Money meant for the children was spent on tattoos, clothing, jewellery and the latest smartphones for herself. As for the authorities, she was an old hand at dealing with them. Ahead of visits the home would be tidied and toys brought out for the kids.
When the ex-partner and his family alerted social workers to Tustin, she simply ‘turned on the water works’, inflicting injuries on herself and accusing him of beating her and the children instead.
‘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 the officers who attended the stick-thin boy had ‘headbutted’ her (pictured)
Pictured: Arthur’s mother Olivia, who is currently in prison, described her son’s murder as ‘harrowing and incomparable’
A handout photo issued by West Midlands Police of Arthur. With schools closed, welfare checks by Arthur’s teachers amounted only to calls, then texts and emails – exchanges in which Hughes claimed Arthur was ‘grand’
‘Social services have blood on their hands,’ he said. ‘If they had heeded our warnings then little Arthur might still be alive. Unfortunately, in terms of child welfare and social services, it is a woman’s world. The man is never believed.’
Following the birth of their child, Tustin threw herself out of the bedroom window – breaking her leg – to stop her partner going out with his best friend to wet the baby’s head.
‘I couldn’t tell social services about it because I was worried they’d take the baby away’, he said. ‘She was unhinged.’ When another lover left her eight years ago, she jumped off the top floor of a multi-storey car park near her home in the West Midlands.
She spent five months in hospital with a shattered pelvis, fractured skull, spine and ankle. ‘She’s very manipulative and it’s easy to end up under her spell,’ the man said. ‘Thankfully I came to my senses.’
Tragically, Arthur Labinjo-Hughes found himself in a situation over which he had no control – the final misfortune in a life marked by misfortune. But it could have been so different.
His privately educated birth mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, had the world at her feet. A former Solihull School pupil, where sixth form fees currently cost £14,600 a year, she was a talented debater and keen cadet who went on to become a lance corporal in the Territorial Army.
Social workers were called two months prior to Arthur’s death after concerns were raised 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
But while studying philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Nottingham, she met Thomas Hughes through Facebook, and dropped out in her final year when she became pregnant with Arthur.
The father-to-be was hardly a catch. After leaving school at the first opportunity, he became a Saturday morning football coach before working as a plasterer and then a builder’s labourer. By the time Arthur was a toddler, his mother’s life had descended into a world of drink and drugs as she struggled with declining mental health.
She began two-timing Hughes, but the new relationship was volatile and violent and in February 2019 – in a ‘drink and drug-fuelled rage’ – she fatally stabbed her new lover. Her arrest and jailing for manslaughter meant Arthur found himself in the full-time care of Hughes, who is now 29.
He and his son moved into an annexe of his parents’ home in Solihull. Hughes’s mother Joanne is a secondary school teacher.
But in August 2019 the fuse was lit when Hughes met Tustin through the Plenty of Fish dating website, quickly falling into her thrall. The court heard Tustin had left school with no qualifications and never worked.
At the age of 14 she was reprimanded over a brawl with another girl and at the age of 16 was cautioned for shoplifting. A year later she had her first child. Her second arrived two years after that. She would go on to have four children with three different men.
Arthur’s biological mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 29, (pictured left) killed her partner Gary Cunningham (right) by stabbing him 12 times with a kitchen knife in a drunken rage in February 2019 and is currently serving an 11 year prison sentence
The Solihull home where Arthur was abused by Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes who have been convicted over his death
Days before his death: Arthur attempts to pick up a duvet from the floor where he slept in video footage shown to jurors
Pictured: Arthur, pictured here in his Spiderman hat, loved dressing up as superheroes according to his biological mother
After she jumped from the car park, the two older children went to live with their fathers. When the two younger children were born, they stayed with her and Arthur, but had regular contact with their dad. The father who spoke with the Mail said each relationship followed a pattern. ‘She gets pregnant very quickly after starting a relationship because it gives her a degree of control over the man,’ he said. ‘Then she isolates him from his friends and family.
‘From what I’ve read of the court case, she seems to have done this to Hughes too.’
Indeed she did.
This image was taken by Arthur’s grandmother Joanne Hughes as part of a desperate attempt to convince the authorities he was in danger
Hughes and his son moved in to Tustin’s council house in Cranmore Road, Shirley, when the country entered lockdown in March 2020. She quickly fell pregnant – later aborting her unborn baby at 21 weeks when in custody.
Relatives noticed that both Hughes and his son’s behaviour rapidly changed.
‘Arthur used to come to stay with me,’ Madeleine Halcrow, the boy’s maternal grandmother, told the Mail. ‘But when Tom came to collect him Arthur would ask if “she”, meaning Tustin, was in the car. He would be in tears getting in to the car, asking if he could stay with me. It was heart-breaking.’
Arthur’s other grandmother was also concerned. Following a row with Tustin, Hughes moved back in with his mother for three days in April. Arthur told her that Tustin had shoved him into a wall and called him ‘ugly’.
When Mrs Hughes checked his body, she saw severe bruising from the front of his left shoulder to the rear, and photographed the injuries. The images were sent to Solihull Council’s social services department and two social workers attended Tustin’s home for a spot check the next day. But they were not shown the photographs in advance and the visit came to nothing after Tustin and Hughes coached the kids to play the part of happy children.
A key opportunity missed – and, as we highlight elsewhere, far from the only one.
Lockdown clearly did not help. With schools closed, welfare checks by Arthur’s teachers amounted only to calls, then texts and emails – exchanges in which Hughes claimed Arthur was ‘grand’, ‘enjoying the garden’ and ‘decorating his bedroom’.
The reality could not have been more different and much of it was captured by Tustin’s own security cameras.
Heart-breaking images show the six-year-old bedding down for the night alone on the lounge floor where he was made to sleep. Each morning Tustin would drag the covers off the bewildered boy to wake him with a fright.
Arthur with his father. The youngster died after his head was repeatedly smashed against a hard surface
‘I’LL TAKE HIS HEAD OFF’: VILE MESSAGES SHARED BETWEEN THE EVIL PAIR
Mother’s Day 2020:
Arthur’s stepmother Emma Tustin messaged her mother, referring to the little boy as a ‘nagging little s***’
Arthur’s father Thomas Hughes: ‘Kid is a selfish little c***. I’ll dash my food off his head.
‘I’ll take his c****** head right off his shoulders.’
Hughes: ‘Just take his jaw off’
Hughes: ‘Kid’s getting ended when I get back.’
Tustin: ‘He’s screaming at me again, little f*****.’
Hughes: ‘Let him read this: I’m not in the mood for your games tonight. Stay awake crying and being rude to everyone when I get back you can stand up and I’ll go to town on you. Fed up of your silly games and attitude. Best be asleep when I get back or watch what happens.’
Tustin to Hughes: ‘Please hurry up I’ve had enough of the cheek, little t***’
In a text conversation about separating:
Tustin says: ‘Tell him he’s won… I want you but not him. I’m not being treated like that by him.’
Hughes: ‘It can’t be one and not the other. Unfortunately it’s got to be both or none.’
End of May:
Tustin describes Arthur as: ‘malicious, cruel and just plain awful’.
Tustin refers to Arthur as a ‘cheeky little t***’ and ‘d*******’ before saying: ‘I’m going to chin this little c***.’
Hughes: ‘Kid’s getting ended when I get back’ to which Tustin replies with an audio recording of Arthur moaning.
Tustin: ‘It’s still going. It’s getting boring.’
Hughes to Tustin: ‘I’ll sort him out when I’m home.’
June 15, day before the fatal assault:
Hughes to Tustin: ‘Just gag him or something.
‘Tie some rope round his mouth with a sock in it or something.’
Tustin: ‘I’m going to be knocking him out if he continues.’
Tustin: ‘Kida (sic) bit me for the last time.’
The footage also showed the defendants tucking into takeaway food in the living room while ‘isolated’ Arthur was deprived of food and water and banished to the ‘thinking step’ at the foot of the staircase – his punishment for what they perceived to be his poor behaviour.
During one two-day period he was confined to a cramped hallway for 26 hours, while the defendants ate ice creams or bathed in a hot tub.
Tustin recorded 200 audio clips of the boy in distress, which she gleefully forwarded to her lover.
Some were of Arthur wailing while one captured him saying ‘Daddy’s going to throw me out of the window’. In other clips Arthur cried ‘nobody loves me’ and ‘no one is going to feed me’.
Prosecutors said the systemic abuse meted out to Arthur, which included feeding him salt-laden food, matched the medical definition of child torture. By the end he was too weak even to hold a glass of water to his mouth. On the day he died – June 16 – prosecutors believe Tustin shook and then slammed Arthur’s head on a hard surface, possibly after pushing him down the stairs, while alone with the boy.
Hughes was at the supermarket at the time but returned home seven minutes after the fatal assault. It was a further five minutes before the pair called an ambulance.
Prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC said the ‘pitiless’ father ‘encouraged’ the killing in a phone call less than three minutes before Arthur sustained his fatal head injuries, having previously sent Tustin text responses, telling her to ‘fill him in’, ‘take his neck off’ and ‘get nasty’. Jurors were also shown a picture of Arthur, dressed in Marvel Avengers pyjamas, slumped and crying by the front door – which Tustin admitted was ‘because he had no strength left in him’.
It was taken just minutes before he suffered the brain damage which killed him.
In their defence, the pair either claimed Arthur was an unruly boy whose injuries were self-inflicted, or blamed each other.
Giving evidence, Hughes admitted he was ‘besotted’ with Tustin, who threatened to end the relationship if he didn’t punish Arthur.
But Mr Hankin told the court that could not excuse his behaviour, describing him as ‘wicked’ and ‘utterly ruthless’ in his willingness to hit Arthur ‘over and over and over again’.
Hughes removed his son’s favourite teddy bear, cut up his prized Birmingham City FC football shirts in front of him, and on another occasion duped the child into thinking he was going to see his grandparents – before turning the car around. ‘He was malevolent,’ the barrister said. ‘He relished causing Arthur distress. That level of cruelty is difficult to comprehend, let alone in a father towards his own son.’
Tustin, meanwhile, told jurors Arthur was so out of control he threatened to stab her with a knife. It was part of a ludicrous defence in which she claimed Arthur ‘threw himself’ into cupboards or doors.
While on remand awaiting trial, Tustin told a cellmate that Arthur died when ‘the little f***er tried to get out the front door and I stopped him trying to follow his dad’.
The boy’s life support machine was switched off at 1am on June 17, 2020, the morning after he was brutally assaulted for the final time.
According to a source, Arthur’s body still lies in a hospital morgue as relatives of his incarcerated mother and father battle each other for the right to bury him.
Even in death, the innocent, defenceless little boy cannot find the peace he was denied in life.
Social worker, police and teachers face damning questions after Little Arthur’s step-mum is found GUILTY of his murder and father is convicted of manslaughter after pair tortured, starved and beat boy, 6, to death
By Rory Tingle, Home Affairs Correspondent, James Fielding, Ross Slater and Nick Craven for MailOnline
‘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.
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, 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.
MailOnline can now 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.
Arthur’s grandmother, Joanne Hughes, called social services on April 16 to say she had seen the youngster covered in bruises. However, two social workers failed to spot them during a visit to his home.
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’.
Arthur’s uncle, Daniel Hughes, then reported his concerns to police but was threatened with arrest if he attempted to go back to the youngster’s home.
Lastly, John Dutton, Emma Tustin’s stepfather, made an anonymous call to social services weeks before Arthur’s death.
Asked why he made the referral – which he chose to keep anonymous – Mr Dutton said: ‘I thought he was in danger.’
Yesterday, 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’.
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.
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’.
On Thursday 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.
Yesterday it emerged she has already been attacked in jail by fellow inmates.
An artist’s impression of Tustin and Hughes in court not long before they were convicted of killing him yesterday
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.’
Yesterday 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.’
Tustin with Hughes as she tried to blame Arthur for attacking her – while several miles away he lay dying in hospital