A boy accused of murder in a brutal “campaign of cruelty” was poisoned with a “massive dose” of salt before he collapsed, a court heard.

Jurors were told that Arthur Labinjo Hughes (6 years old) was ‘forced into eating’ 34 grams salt before suffering fatal head injury.

After suffering systemic abuse, the youngster is said to have been killed by his stepfather and stepmother. Prosecutors claim that this was consistent with the medical definition of child torture.

It is claimed that the youngster was starved, forced to stand for 14 hours per day, and poisoned with salt. He was then attacked at his home in June 2020.

Thomas Hughes, 29 and Emma Tustin 32, both deny murder and multiple charges of child cruelty. 

Prosecutors say that Arthur was killed by Tustin when they were alone at her Solihull, West Midlands council house, and that Hughes allegedly ‘intentionally supported’ the killing. 

Today’s trial heard that Arthur had the equivalent of six teaspoons salt in his blood. This resulted in hospital readings that were deemed ‘off the scale’. 

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, six, was allegedly killed after suffering systemic abuse which matched the 'medical definition of child torture' a court has been told. His father Thomas Hughes, 29, (pictured with Arthur) and his stepmother Emma Tustin, 32, deny murder and child abuse

Arthur Labinjo Hughes (6 years old) was allegedly killed in a sex attack that matched the’medical definitions of child torture’ as a court was told. His father Thomas Hughes, 29 (pictured with Arthur), and his stepmother Emma Tustin (32) deny murdering and child abuse.

Tustin (pictured left) and Hughes are said to have subjected Arthur (right) to systematic cruelty 'designed to torture' the boy, 6. They deny murder and multiple child cruelty charges

Football mad Arthur collapsed with 'unsurvivable brain injuries' on Tuesday, June 16, and died the following day

Hughes (pictured left) is said to have subjected Arthur to systematic cruelty ‘designed for torture’ by Tustin and Hughes. They deny murdering and multiple child cruelty charges

Coventry Crown Court was told by Arthur that his blood tests at the hospital following his admission showed sodium levels of 180 to 187.2 millimoles (mmol/L).

Jurors were informed that the sodium normal range is around 140 mg/L.

Dr Malcolm Coulthard, a pediatrician for children, stated that the results showed that the boy was given a’massive amount’ of salt and that poisoning was the only possible diagnosis.

He determined that Arthur must have consumed 34gs of salt to register a reading above 180 mg/L.

Dr Coulthard described the readings being ‘off-the-scale’ and stated that the results could only have been explained by salt poisoning.

He added: “[Arthur]Could have been slowly poisoned over several hours or days. However, he was unable to reach a sodium concentration of 184.

A court heard Arthur (pictured with Hughes) was forced to eat salt before he was killed

A court heard that Arthur (pictured with Hughes), was forced to eat salt before his death. 

A touching note was left among the floral tributes to six-year-old Arthur at his former home

A note of condolence was left with Arthur, a six-year-old boy, among the floral tributes at his former residence.

“He could have been slowly poisoned and reached an approximate level of 170, but beyond that it would be impossible because he’d have collapsed.” He would have been extremely, very sick.

Dr. Coulthard explained that Arthur’s blood levels were so high, that his sodium level did not fall below 183 even seven hours after his hospital admission.

He stated to jurors that Arthur’s sodium levels couldn’t be explained away by kidney abnormalities or dehydration, and that poisoning himself was impossible.

Dr. Coulthard answered the question of Jonas Hankin, QC if it would have needed a’significant amount salt’.

The paediatric renallogist stated that he could have reached a level close to 170. [mmol/L]You were then given one teaspoon of salt.

“Or, he may have had a normal salt level at the time he was given his final dose, which would have been at minimum 34 grams.

Arthur was allegedly murdered by Tustin in her council house near Solihull (West Mids). The court heard that Hughes ‘intentionally encouraged’ the killing.

Arthur had been living with Hughes for the entire time after Olivia LabinjoHalcrow, her new partner, was accused of murdering Gary Cunningham in February 2019.

Jurors were told Hughes then accepted Tustin’s offer ‘hook line and sinker’ and moved into Hughes’ home when the country was placed under lockdown in March 2020.

Prosecutors claim Arthur was neglected and subject to systematic cruelty by Hughes, Tustin. This included being’segregated in a hallway’ and being forced to sleep on the living room floor.

Jurors were told by another medical expert that Arthur’s low salt levels could have been explained as a result of being denied water access in a’regime where he was allowed to eat contaminated food and drink.

They were previously informed that the youngster had been’repeatedly poisoned by salt-contaminated food, fluids, and other substances’ under ‘brutal controlling conditions’.

Arthur’s salt level was so high upon her arrival at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, June 16, that one consultant suggested she wondered if her machine had failed. 

Tustin claimed that Arthur’s injuries to his head were self-inflicted, in a 999 phone call.

She claimed that he had ‘banged on his head while lying on all fours on the ground’.

Police outside a home on Cranmore Road in Shirley, Solihull, West Midlands, where Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was found injured on June 16 last year. His father and stepmother deny murder

Police outside Cranmore Road, Shirley Solihull, West Midlands. This is where Arthur Labinjo Hughes was found injured in June 2016. His stepmother and father deny murder

A medical expert stated earlier in the trial that he believed Arthur was shaken, and he was slammed with “very severe” force.

The jury was told by Daniel Du Plessis, a neuropathologist consultant, that the jury witnessed a forceful gripping and a shaking-type act. The head was slammed against a hard surface once or twice and I believe an average woman could do it.

Dr Du Plessis is a brain scan expert and said that Arthur’s chances of sustaining fatal head injuries are ‘inconceivable’.

Jurors were able to hear text messages between Hughes & Tustin earlier in the trial. They discussed alleged abuse.

Hughes threatened to take his jaw off of his shoulders’ in one message and told Tustin that he would gag him. Attach a rope to Hughes’ mouth and wrap a sock around it.

One witness told the court that Arthur was too weak for even holding a glass of water.

They also claimed that his clothes were stained, his lips cracked, his mouth was unable to open, his hair was dirty, nails were rusted, and he looked tired and malnourished.

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

‘Violence, intimidation, both verbal and physical, were a routine.

“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 do him harm.

The trial continues.