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'Bully' dad 'slapped murdered son, six, after he collapsed when new girlfriend battered him and told cops: "I'm guilty"'

A DAD slapped his six-year-old son after he collapsed and told cops "I'm guilty" after his girlfriend battered him to death, a court heard today.

Thomas Hughes, 29, and Emma Tustin, 32, are accused of murdering Arthur Labinjo-Hughes who suffered an "unsurvivable brain injury".

The youngster was allegedly subjected to a "campaign of cruelty" before his death that matched the “medical definition of child torture”.

Jurors heard today how Hughes arrived home in Shirley on June 16 to find Arthur unconscious on the sofa with his eyes "dazed…the lights were on but nobody's home".

Arthur died in hospital the next day with a cause of death given as a "head trauma inflicted on him by an adult" consistent with being "vigorously shaken and his head banged repeatedly against a hard surface".

In his police interview, Hughes recalled "slapping him on the back of the head" and giving him a Coca Cola as would "rather have him choking than have him give me nothing".

He then told officers: "I put Arthur in this position. I'm accountable."

The dad added: "There's a long ways to go but I'm guilty of it. I don't want other people to suffer for my ignorance, my neglect.

"My mum, my dad. I don't want them to suffer. I don't want Emma to suffer."

Hughes said he believed his treatment of Arthur was the cause of his death and told police he "contributed massively to Arthur's mental health", jurors heard.

The court was told previously how Hughes asked a doctor to "apologise to Arthur on his behalf to tell him that he was sorry" when told nothing could be done to save the boy.

He also told police he would give Arthur a “little clip” or a “tap to the head”, but added: “I don’t feel like I'm a bad dad.”

But the dad admitted his son once told him "I'm in danger with you", it was said.

He also told police how he should have treated his son "like a child rather than a prisoner".

On June 16, Tustin allegedly beat Arthur to death then waited 13 minutes to call 999 and tell them he was "barely breathing" after he "headbutted the floor".

Paramedics arrived at the home to find Arthur "lying on his back, completely lifeless, quite pale with purple lips", it was said.

Arthur died in hospital the next day with a cause of death given as a "head trauma inflicted on him by an adult" consistent with being "vigorously shaken and his head banged repeatedly against a hard surface".


Doctors found he was poisoned with so much salt he was "unable to put up a fight" before his death, jurors heard.

The court was told the youngster had more than six spoons worth of the substance in his system – the highest level a medic had ever seen.

He was also allegedly "segregated and isolated" for "up to 14 hours a day" and deprived of a bed, food and clothing.

Jurors heard he was covered in bruises from his head to his feet.

He had 93 areas of injury – including on his head, arms, legs, feet and torso – and 25 sites of bruising on his scalp, face, and neck that raised “serious concerns about non-accidental injury”.

The youngster was also found to have 20 areas of bruising on his arms and eight on his chest and stomach, it was said.

Giving evidence, Dr Lyle told jurors: “I’m not sure that outside of obvious traumatic situations I’ve ever seen a child found dead at home with this number of injuries to the head and face.”

The court was told Tustin recorded more than 22 pictures and videos of Arthur in distress.

Jurors have watched CCTV of Tustin tucking into McDonald's while Arthur was left in a hallway for 14 hours and forced to sleep on the floor.

They have also previously heard audio clips Tustin recorded of Arthur sobbing while allegedly being abused.

The youngster can be heard weeping in another recording for his uncle Blake, saying: "Blake no-one loves me, Blake no-one loves me."

He also cried in one clip: "Daddy's going to throw me out the window, daddy's going to throw me out the window, daddy's going to throw me out of the window."


Tustin and Hughes are accused of multiple counts of child cruelty, after forcing Arthur to endure "systematic, cruel behaviour" of "physical and psychological" abuse in the weeks before his death.

Prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC said: "Both defendants participated in a campaign of cruelty intended to cause Arthur significant harm and suffering.

"Violence and intimidation, both physical and verbal, were routine.

“Arthur’s visible injuries, his miserable physical condition and obvious despair provided each defendant with a daily reminder of the lengths to which the other would go to cause him harm.”

Arthur's death came three months after his father had moved into Tustin's home, Coventry Crown Court was told.

Before the move, the youngster was "cherished by all" and lived a "stable" life with his father and extended family, in an annexe in the garden of Arthur's paternal grandparents.

He had been placed in his dad's care after his mum Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 26, was jailed for 18 years for stabbing her boyfriend to death.

His gran Joanne Hughes told jurors how she called social services and offered to send them pictures of Arthur after noticing he was bruised but they "didn't want to see them".

Child services eventually saw Arthur but "no concerns were raised", and while photos of the bruises were sent to the police, no further action was taken, it was said.

Shortly after, Arthur and his dad moved in with Tustin at her flat in Shirley, where the youngster was allegedly tortured.

Tustin has admitted child cruelty by ill-treating Arthur on multiple occasions by "forcing him to stand, isolating him within the family home, and physically or verbally intimidating him".

Hughes denies a similar charge.

The pair also deny murder and an allegation of child cruelty by administering salt to Arthur between June 1 and 17 last year.

Both are jointly accused of two counts of child cruelty by assault on multiple occasions and also by withholding food and/or drink.

The trial continues.

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