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.
Arthur was able to calm any remaining concerns when the boys quizzed him about his injury. He and one of Tustin’s other sons claimed it had been caused by a play-fight with boxing gloves.
The social workers thought that this was sufficient. They concluded it was a ‘happy household’ where everyone got on well. Thus, the case is closed.
Less than two months later, Arthur was dead, having suffered an ‘unsurvivable’ trauma to his head. His body was stricken with 130 new and old injuries. His body had also been subjected to torture, including salt poisoning and forced to stand for 14 hours per day.
What makes a happy family? More like hellish.
Numerous and alarming failures by the authorities in protecting this boy’s safety were evident. The school, police and social workers had all the opportunity to intervene.
The basis for multiple investigations will revolve around why they failed. They will focus on their relationships with one other person. Emma Tustin will be his mum, and Arthur is not the one.
Emma Tustin (32) killed Arthur Labinjo/Hughes (6 years) by smashing his head onto a hard surface. Thomas Hughes (29) had previously tortured Arthur with salt and starvation for months.
Pictured: Arthur Labinjo Hughes died after being beaten to death in the 32-year old Tustin’s beating. This was following years of abuse suffered by his mother and Thomas Hughes. The trial heard how his relatives raised numerous concerns with the police and social services, but were denied.
Pictured: Arthur Labinjo Hughes, six years old with his father Thomas Hughes. Thomas’ partner Emma Tustin is also in the picture. Emma Tustin is convicted for murder, while Thomas Hughes was found guilty of manslaughter following a difficult trial at Coventry Crown Court.
When Arthur died, Sick Tustin grabbed her cell phone and took a photo of Arthur. (See Hughes with Arthur)
She was the one who encouraged Arthur to tell the social workers the truth about his injuries. And it was she who had ensnared his father in a twisted, toxic relationship in which the pair had completely lost their ‘moral compass’.
Hughes can also be blamed. It is clear that Hughes was not the only one to be afflicted by 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. For the benefits of the children and the attention she received as babies, she wanted to have children. But once the attention died away and she was left at home with a baby, she didn’t want to know.’
Spending money intended for the children’s benefit was used to buy tattoos, clothes, jewellery, and new smartphones. Her skills with dealing with authorities were well-known. Before the visit, the house would be cleaned and toys provided for the children.
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 dialed 999 to inform the operator Arthur had allegedly ‘banged his heads’. The stepmother, a self-pitying victim of her own guilt, tried to persuade the police officers that the boy was ‘headbutting’ her.
Pictured is Arthur’s mother Olivia who is currently being held in prison and described the murder of her son as ‘harrowing’ and ‘incomparable.
‘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.
Five months later, she was still in the hospital, with an injured pelvis and fractured spine, ankle, spine, and skull. ‘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. It could have turned out differently.
Olivia LabinjoHalcrow, his birth mother and privately educated, was a woman who had everything. 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.
Two months before Arthur’s death, social workers were called after there were concerns. However, no further action was taken.
Hughes met mother-of-four Tustin (pictured) online before the couple moved with Arthur into her home near Solihull in the West Midlands after the government announced the lockdown
While studying at Nottingham University in philosophy, politics, and economics she found Thomas Hughes on Facebook. She dropped out of her final year to become pregnant with Arthur.
He was not a very attractive father-to be. 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. Arthur, now 29, was taken into full-time custody by Hughes after her arrest for manslaughter.
He and his son moved into an annexe of his parents’ home in Solihull. Hughes’s mother Joanne is a secondary school teacher.
Hughes and Tustin met on the Plenty of Fish dating site in August 2019. They quickly fell for each other. Tustin, who had no education and never worked, was told by the court.
When she was 14, she was disciplined after a brawl between two girls and, at 16, was cautioned about shoplifting. One year later, she gave birth to her first child. The second baby she had was two years later. Four more children would follow her with different men.
Arthur’s biological mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 29, (left) killed her partner Gary Cunningham (right) by stabbing him 12 times with a kitchen knife in a drunken rage in February 2019
Arthur’s home in Solihull was visited by Daniel Hughes with the intention of confronting Emma Tustin (and Thomas Hughes) about their abuse.
The two older children, who had jumped out of the carpark, went to live in the home with their fathers. They stayed with Arthur and her two older children when they were born. However, their father was always in contact. Mail spoke to a father who said that each relationship was consistent. ‘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.
Joanne Hughes, Arthur’s grandmother took this picture in desperate attempts to convince authorities that he was dangerous.
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’d be crying as soon as he saw me get in to my car asking for my permission. It was heart-breaking.’
Arthur’s other grandmother was also concerned. Hughes moved in to live with his mother after a fight with Tustin for three consecutive days in April. Arthur told her that Tustin had shoved him into a wall and called him ‘ugly’.
Mrs Hughes examined his body and saw that there was severe bleeding from his front shoulder to his rear. She also took photographs of the wounds. 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. The children were not shown the images in advance. After Hughes and Tustin trained them, the visit was abandoned.
A key opportunity missed – and, as we highlight elsewhere, far from the only one.
Lockdown did nothing to 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.
These heartbreaking photographs show how the 6-year-old boy slept alone in his lounge room, where he was forced to rest. Tustin used to drag the sheets off of the boy each morning in an attempt to get him up.
Arthur and his father. Arthur died from injuries sustained when his head was repeatedly struck against hard surfaces.
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.
He was held in confinement for 26 hours during a two-day period, where he was restricted to a narrow hallway while defendants enjoyed ice creams and hot tubs.
Tustin took 200 audio clips of the distressed boy and sent them to her partner.
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’.
According to the prosecution, Arthur was subjected to systemic abuse that included salty food and other cruelties. He was unable to even hold water in his mouth by the final hours. 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, who was in the supermarket at that time, returned to his home just seven minutes following the attack. The pair then called the ambulance five more minutes later.
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’.
This was just minutes before he died of brain damage.
They either claimed Arthur was an unruly child whose injuries were self inflicted or they blamed one another.
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, however, claimed that Arthur had threatened to kill her by using 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.
In death, an innocent little boy, defenseless, cannot attain the same peace as he experienced in life.