The stepmother of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 29 years for starving, poisoning and then murdering the six-year-old boy.
Arthur was left with an unsurvivable brain injury while in the sole care of “evil” 32-year-old Emma Tustin.
She fatally assaulted him with severe force in the hallway of her home in Solihull on 16 June 2020 before he died in hospital the following day.
“Wicked” Tustin was unanimously convicted of Arthur’s murder after an eight-week trial, with the boy’s “pitiless” father, Thomas Hughes, 29, found guilty of his manslaughter, after encouraging the killing.
He was jailed for 21 years during their sentencing hearing at Coventry Crown Court on Friday.
Jailing the pair, Mr Justice Mark Wall QC said the trial had been “without doubt one of the most distressing and disturbing cases I have had to deal with”.
The court previously heard how Tustin repeatedly banged Arthur’s head on a hard surface in the hours leading up to his death, after she and Hughes carried out a campaign of abuse, including starvation and then force-feeding him food covered in salt.
After his death, Arthur was found to have 130 injuries all over his body, after being hit, slapped, kicked, punched and beaten “over and over”.
It emerged at trial that Arthur had been seen by social workers just two months before his death, after concerns were raised by his paternal grandmother Joanne Hughes, but they concluded there were “no safeguarding concerns”.
In her victim impact statement, which she read in court ahead of the sentencing, Ms Hughes said Arthur, as a “happy, contented, thriving seven-year-old”, would “be alive today” had her son not met Tustin.
The secondary school teacher added: “It is also clear that Arthur was failed by the very authorities that we, as a society, are led to believe are there to ensure the safety of everyone.”
Arthur’s maternal grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow, read a victim impact statement on behalf of the boy’s natural mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, who recalled his “beautiful smile” and his “kind, nurturing spirit”, adding that he had been “the light of my life”.
“He was let down by a person he trusted and should have protected him, left alone and isolated, and then they took him away from me,” she said.
“My child, my little love, defenceless, trusting and nothing but loving, was killed.
“His short life stolen and the hole left in me and those who loved Arthur will never be repaired.”
As the hearing began, Mr Wall revealed Tustin had been brought to court for her sentencing but had “refused to come up” to the dock.
Jailing the pair, he said: “This cruel and inhuman treatment of Arthur was a deliberate decision by you to brush off his cries for help as naughtiness.”
Addressing Tustin, whom he said had made a “calculated” decision to kill, he said: “You are a manipulative woman who will tell any lie, and shift the blame onto anyone, to save your own skin.”
He added: “You wanted Thomas Hughes so he could provide for you and your own children, but did not want to be troubled by Arthur any longer.”
The judge called Hughes’s “encouragement” of his girlfriend’s actions “chilling”.
He added: “You were Arthur’s father, in a position of trust and bore primary responsibility for protecting him.
“He was extremely vulnerable and you lied to his school in the last days of Arthur’s life to protect both you and Ms Tustin.”
An independent review is currently under way into the actions of social workers who found “no safeguarding concerns” for Arthur.
In all, social workers and police are accused of missing four key opportunities to help Arthur last year.
Boris Johnson said “no child should ever suffer” in the way Arthur did, and that there were questions that need to be answered over the case.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “The prime minister found the details of this case deeply disturbing and his thoughts are with those who loved Arthur, and no child should ever suffer in the way that he did.
“It’s clear there are questions that need to be answered to get to the bottom of how this happened.
“You’ll be aware that a local child safeguarding practice review is under way to fully assess the circumstances surrounding Arthur’s tragic death at the hands of those who should have been looking after him, and that review will look at local safeguarding, including police, children’s social care, health and education professionals in the local area.
“We won’t hesitate to take any action off the back of that review.”
Additional reporting by Press Association
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