Boy, 6, allegedly murdered by father and girlfriend ‘was skeletal in days before his death’

Thomas Hughes and Emma Tustin accused of mistreating Arthur Labinjo-Hughes before he suffered ‘unsurvivable’ brain injury

Tom Batchelor
Thursday 14 October 2021 16:00 BST
Arthur was ‘skeletal’ before his death, a court has heard
Arthur was ‘skeletal’ before his death, a court has heard (Family handout)
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A six-year-old boy allegedly murdered by his father and partner after months of cruelty was “skeletal”, had shaking legs and collapsed into a car a day before he was fatally injured, a witness has told court.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’s father, Thomas Hughes, 29, and his partner Emma Tustin, 32, are accused of mistreating the boy before he suffered an “unsurvivable” brain injury at his home in Cranmore Road, Solihull, West Midlands, on 16 June 2020.

Arthur died in hospital the following day. Mr Hughes and Ms Tustin deny murder charges.

Jurors at Coventry Crown Court were told that the adult pair took turns to shout at the youngster “like a game of tennis” as he was made to stand facing a door.

Giving evidence on the sixth day of the couple’s trial, Ms Tustin’s hairdresser, Catherine Milhench, said she wished she had called police after seeing Arthur on 15 and 16 June.

Ms Milhench, who works from home and first cut Ms Tustin’s hair in the summer of 2019, said she met Arthur later that year and he seemed “absolutely fine, healthy, a normal boy”.

Describing a hair appointment at her home in February 2020, Ms Milhench said of Arthur: “He was still, I would say, healthy-looking but not happy.

“He was made to sit down (at a child’s table and chair) with his hands on his knees and not move.”

Ms Milhench told the court: “I just thought he’s obviously been naughty at home. When you go to other people’s you don’t want your child to misbehave.”

Answering questions from prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC, Ms Milhench said at another six-hour hair appointment on 15 June 2020, Arthur was told by Ms Tustin to stand by and face the front door.

Mr Hankin asked Ms Milhench: “Throughout the time that she was there in your home, how did she [Ms Tustin] interact with Arthur?”

The witness answered: “Telling him to stand, not to lean on the door, to face the door… not to move.”

Ms Tustin then went to the bathroom to have her hair washed, Ms Milhench said, adding of Arthur: “He was made to come upstairs and face another door upstairs. She said he couldn’t be trusted.”

Asked for her view of Arthur’s state during the visit, Ms Milhench said: “Deteriorated. You could see his collar bones. He was wearing a pyjama onesie and you could just see his collar bones sticking out.

“I didn’t remember that from last time. He had lost weight.”

Using the phrase “like skeletal” to describe what Arthur’s condition made her think of, Ms Milhench said the boy appeared to be drained and weak, adding: “It wasn’t nice to see.

“His legs trying to walk up the stairs would be shaking, like he couldn’t hold himself up.”

Asked what happened when Hughes arrived at her home to pick up Ms Tustin, Ms Milhench added: “He parked on my drive. Tom had him [Arthur] by the scruff, took him out.

“I remember Arthur falling on the floor. He just collapsed and fell into the car.”

The court heard Ms Tustin returned to complete her hair appointment on 16 June, arriving at around 9.45am.

During the visit, Ms Milhench said Ms Tustin and Mr Hughes were constantly swearing at Arthur “like a game of tennis”, with Ms Tustin going on to claim that Arthur was being “pressure-pointed”.

Ms Milhench said she had suggested Arthur should be sent to live with his grandmother, but was told that would be “what he wants” and would allow him to “win”.

The court was also told that Ms Milhench’s partner, Tobias Jarman, snuck a drink of water to Arthur without Ms Tustin and Mr Hughes knowing.

Mr Jarman, who said Arthur looked “malnourished” and had cracked lips, told the court: “I tried to reassure him. I said, ‘you have not got to be scared of me in any way’.

“He looked petrified. It was not the normal glow you see in a kid’s eyes of that age.

“It looked like there was fear ingrained inside of there.”

The trial continues.

Additional reporting by PA

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