A father accused in the murder of his son was accused of lying to school staff after a campaign of cruelty’. He claimed that he was ‘playing happily inside the garden’ when school staff called to check on him during lockdown, after his grandmother contacted Social Services, a court heard today.

Arthur Labinjo Hughes, six, was allegedly murdered after he suffered systemic abuse that matched the “medical definition” of child torture. He was made to stand for 14 hours, starved, and then poisoned with salt.

His father Thomas Hughes, 29 and his stepmother Emma Tustin 32, both deny the murder of Arthur at their Solihull, West Midlands home in June 2020. They also pleaded non guilty to multiple charges of child cruelty.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, six, was allegedly killed after suffering systemic abuse which matched the 'medical definition of child torture'. His father Thomas Hughes, 29, and stepmother Emma Tustin, 32, deny murder and child abuse

Arthur Labinjo Hughes (6 years old) was allegedly killed in the aftermath of suffering systemic abuse that met the’medical definitions of child torture’. His stepfather Thomas Hughes, 29 and his stepmother Emma Tustin 32, both deny murder and child cruelty. 

Tustin (pictured) and Hughes are said to have subjected Arthur to systematic cruelty 'designed to torture' the youngster

Hughes and Tustin (pictured), are believed to have subjected Arthur ‘designed to torture’ to systematic cruelty. 

Coventry Crown Court heard that staff from Arthur’s primary school called Hughes to request welfare checks during the first Covid lockdown.

Sarah Turrell, a teaching assistant, called Hughes two months before his death to learn that Arthur’s grandmother Joanne Hughes had referred him for social services help.

She testified that Hughes said he had ‘no worries’ and that Arthur was ‘playing happily’ in the garden.

Ms. Turrell stated that Hughes had told her that Arthur was being rude towards Tustin and that she was not getting on with her children.

However, she stated that her calls to Hughes were still unanswered by the end of the month.

He replied to an email sent by the school, stating that he had lost my phone.

Arthur did not return to school when it reopened on June 8, 2021. Hughes called the school three more days later to report that his son was not eating well and ‘didn’t want anything’.

Gemma Cordrey, pastoral support coordinator, said that Arthur had lost a lot weight and that he did not want his chunky monkey back.

“He said that he was concerned that Arthur would feel sick or faint if he returned to school. He wouldn’t eat.

Arthur was also concerned about which group he would be placed in his class. Because we had broken them into smaller bubbles, Arthur wasn’t sure who his friends would be.

“He said that he would watch Arthur’s weekend and think about his return on Monday or Tuesday the following week. 

A trial at Coventry Crown Court heard how staff at Arthur's primary school contacted Hughes for welfare checks when schools were closed during the first Covid lockdown. Pictured is the family home

Coventry Crown Court heard that Arthur’s primary school staff contacted Hughes to request welfare checks after schools were closed during the first Covid lockdown. Pictured is the family house 

Arthur suffered ‘unsurvivable brain traumas’ and collapsed on Tuesday, June 16. He died at Birmingham Children’s Hospital the next day.

Hughes shared his thoughts with Dickens Heath primary school staff via its messaging platform in April 2020. Hughes stated that his son was ‘enjoying his garden’ and he was ‘decorating the bedroom’.

He wrote, “Arthur is plodding along enjoying the sunshine and messing around in the garden.”

“We might have an outdoor barbecue at the weekend. He misses his friends and wants to see them now. Thank you for checking in.

The school said, “Keep enjoying the great outdoors Arthur. We are sorry to hear that you are missing us, but we will all be back together when it is safe. Enjoy the weekend.

Hughes also wrote another message: “Arthur has been doing great. It’s been quite difficult for him not to be at school, but we’ve been decorating his room.

“He has done little bit of schoolwork and did PE with Joe.” [Wicks]Take care and stay safe. Take care and be safe.

Hughes and Tustin, a mother-of-2, are both accused of neglecting and abusing Arthur. They also poisoned him with salt.

Arthur spent hours in a hallway, and was then made to sleep on the living room floor.

Prosecutors claim that Tustin killed the youngster, and that Hughes ‘intentionally encouraged the killing.

Jurors were also informed that Arthur was a happiest and most content child who became obsessed with death after the conviction of his biological mother for murder.

After Olivia LabinjoHalcrow was accused in February 2019 of killing Gary Cunningham, Arthur had been living with Hughes full-time. 

Arthur collapsed with 'unsurvivable brain injuries' on Tuesday, June 16, and died the following day at Birmingham children's hospital

Arthur succumbed to ‘unsurvivable’ brain injuries on Tuesday, June 16, and was pronounced dead at Birmingham Children’s Hospital the next day. 

Coventry Crown Court heard Arthur was ‘fixated by death, murder, and guns’ after being convicted and sentenced.

Aileen Carabine is a Dickens Heath primary school special education needs coordinator. She agreed that Arthur was showing signs of being very vulnerable in autumn 2019.

She said that the youngster had shown a “fixation with death, guns, and murder” and that his father had disappeared from him like his mother.

Mrs Carabine said: ‘[Hughes]Finally, we had a conversation about where mom was and why she wasn’t here.

“I believe she had not been convicted for long and he was becoming fixated upon death and worrying about his future and having nightmares.

“We didn’t always see those behaviours at school, but the teacher noticed that he had become more reserved.

The court heard that Arthur’s personality changed after he was dismissed from school in late 2019.

Miss Turrell described Arthur as bright-eyed and energetic at the beginning of his Year 1 term.

“He was a cheeky little chap when moved out of the classroom. He was able to open his personality a little more.

“Respectful. He had a wonderful sense of humor – bubbly. A delightful little boy.’

Hughes (left) is accused of forcing his son to endure 'physical and psychological' abuse in the weeks before his death

Hughes (left), is accused of forcing his son to suffer ‘physical and mental’ abuse in the weeks leading up to his death.

According to medical experts, Arthur sustained fatal brain injuries when he was shaken and slammed by’severe force.

Tustin claimed that Arthur’s head injuries were self-inflicted in a 999 call 12 minutes after Arthur was discovered unresponsive. Tustin claimed that he had ‘banged on his head on all fours while lying on the ground’.

Tustin pleaded guilty to child cruelty, but denies any further charges. Hughes denies all charges.

Jurors heard text messages between Hughes, Tustin discussing alleged abuse.

Hughes threatened to take his jaw off of his shoulders’ in one message and told Tustin that he would gag him. Tie a rope around his mouth with a sock or something.

Opening the trial, Mr Hankin said to jurors: “Both defendants participated a campaign of cruelty meant to cause Arthur significant harm.

‘Violence was a common form of intimidation, verbal and physically.

“Arthur’s obvious injuries, his poor physical condition, and apparent despair served as a reminder to each defendant of the extremes that the other would go to to cause him harm.

The trial continues.