Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Murder-accused step mum admits child cruelty

Published
Image source, Family handout
Image caption,
The court previously heard Arthur Labinjo-Hughes appeared to be drained and weak on the days before he died

A woman accused of murdering her boyfriend's son has admitted child cruelty offences.

Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes are on trial accused of subjecting Mr Hughes' six-year-old son Arthur Labinjo-Hughes to months of abuse.

Arthur sustained fatal head injuries while alone with Ms Tustin at her home on Cranmore Road in Shirley, Solihull, on 16 June 2020.

Both Ms Tustin and Mr Hughes deny murdering Arthur.

Image source, Helen Tipper
Image caption,
Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes are both charged with murder over Arthur's death

Ms Tustin, 32, had previously admitted one count of child cruelty - ill-treating Arthur by forcing him to stand for hours on end, as well isolating him from his family, and verbally or physically intimidating him.

However, she has now admitted a further charge of child cruelty.

It follows the court being shown CCTV evidence of her assaulting Arthur three times between 12 and 16 June 2020. Prosecutors, however, do not accept this to be the full extent of the assaults.

Ms Tustin still denies child cruelty by way of poisoning Arthur with salt-laced drinks and meals.

Image source, West Midlands Police
Image caption,
Video was shown to the court of Arthur struggling to pick up his pillow and blanket at his home

Ms Tustin's former cell-mate, Elaine Pritchard, gave evidence in which she said the defendant never spoke about Arthur until a row erupted between them. Ms Pritchard said she had discovered court papers detailing the boy's injuries in their cell and was "disgusted" by what she read.

She said Ms Tustin had told her how, on the day Arthur died, he was in the hallway "because he had been naughty" and that while he was out there he would bang his head on the floor and she would film him on her phone.

Ms Pritchard, who at the time had been recalled to prison for battery and criminal damage, said Ms Tustin used a swear word to describe Arthur on that occasion, but otherwise barely mentioned him.

Mr Hughes, 29, denies three counts of child cruelty in addition to his murder charge.

Image caption,
Arthur was fatally assaulted at Ms Tustin's home on Cranmore Road in Shirley

In his closing statement, prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC said both defendants were equally culpable of murdering Arthur.

"In the weeks preceding Arthur's death, he had been subjected to incomprehensible and escalating cruelty that was intended to, and did, cause him significant harm and suffering," Mr Hankin said, branding the abuse "a team effort".

While Ms Tustin is accused of carrying out the fatal assault by violently shaking him and repeatedly banging Arthur's head on a hard surface after poisoning him with a "salt slurry", Mr Hughes was "complicit in the violence," Mr Hankin told jurors.

"Thomas Hughes had the power and the right and indeed the legal duty to intervene to protect Arthur but he deliberately failed, he deliberately refrained," he said. "He didn't just assent, he promoted and he encouraged the cruelty Arthur was subjected to."

The trial continues.

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