‘Emma had no maternal instincts whatsoever. She wanted children for the attention they brought – and the child benefit’: What kind of woman could torment and abuse a six-year-old child in her care? Emma Tustin’s former partner gives a disturbing insight
Arriving at the home of Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes, social workers were greeted by a ‘playful and boisterous’ six-year-old, his cheeks flushed from running around in the garden.
As for the severe bruising on Arthur’s left shoulder that had prompted his worried grandmother to call in the authorities, all they later recalled seeing was a faint mark.
E, anyway, any lingering concerns were calmed when they quizzed Arthur about the injury. He and one of Tustin’s other sons claimed it had been caused by a play-fight with boxing gloves.
For the social workers, that was good enough. They concluded it was a ‘happy household’ where everyone got on well. Case effectively closed.
Less than two months later, Arthur was dead, having suffered an ‘unsurvivable’ trauma to his head. Un totale di 130 lesioni, both old and new, were found all over his body. He had also been tortured, poisoned with salt and forced to stand on his own for up to 14 ore al giorno.
A happy household? More like hellish.
The apparent failures of the authorities to safeguard this little boy were numerous and shocking. His school, the police and social workers all had opportunities to intervene.
Why they did not will form the basis of multiple investigations. And at their heart will be their interactions with one individual. Not Arthur, but with Emma Tustin, his stand-in mum.
Emma Tustin, 32, (sinistra) killed six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes by slamming his head on a hard surface after she and 29-year-old Thomas Hughes (giusto) subjected him to months of torture which included starving him and poisoning him with salt
Nella foto: Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was beaten to death by 32-year-old Tustin following months of abuse by her and his father Thomas Hughes. His trial hear how relatives repeatedly raised concerns with social services and police but were rebuffed
Nella foto: Six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes with father Thomas Hughes and Thomas’ partner Emma Tustin. Emma Tustin has been convicted of murder and Thomas Hughes is guilty of manslaughter after a harrowing trial at Coventry Crown Court
Sick Tustin fetched her mobile phone immediately after she beat Arthur to take a photograph of the youngster (nella foto, with his father Hughes) mentre giaceva morente nel corridoio della sua casa in Cranmore Road, Solihull, West Midlands, a giugno dell'anno scorso
Because it was she who coached Arthur to lie to the social workers about the cause of his injury. And it was she who had ensnared his father in a twisted, toxic relationship in which the pair had completely lost their ‘moral compass’.
That is not to say Hughes is not also to blame. But what has emerged is that he was far from the first man to fall foul of Tustin. In court the 32-year-old was described as a ‘ruthless predator’. She saw Arthur as her prey because she wanted something he had – his dad.
Speaking exclusively to the Daily Mail, the father of one of Tustin’s four own children uses a similar description. ‘She’s a black widow,' Egli ha detto. ‘She sucks the life out of each man she gets together with.’
L'uomo, che ha chiesto di non essere nominato, aggiunto: ‘She had no maternal instinct whatsoever. She wanted children for the attention they brought her as newborns, and for the child benefit. But once the attention died away and she was left at home with a baby, she didn’t want to know.’
Money meant for the children was spent on tattoos, capi di abbigliamento, jewellery and the latest smartphones for herself. As for the authorities, she was an old hand at dealing with them. Ahead of visits the home would be tidied and toys brought out for the kids.
When the ex-partner and his family alerted social workers to Tustin, she simply ‘turned on the water works’, inflicting injuries on herself and accusing him of beating her and the children instead.
‘Wicked’ Tustin called 999 and told the operator Arthur had ‘banged his head’. After police arrived at her home, the self-pitying stepmother cried and tried to convince the officers who attended the stick-thin boy had ‘headbutted’ sua (nella foto)
Nella foto: Arthur’s mother Olivia, who is currently in prison, described her son’s murder as ‘harrowing and incomparable’
‘Social services have blood on their hands,' Egli ha detto. ‘If they had heeded our warnings then little Arthur might still be alive. Sfortunatamente, in terms of child welfare and social services, it is a woman’s world. The man is never believed.’
Following the birth of their child, Tustin threw herself out of the bedroom window – breaking her leg – to stop her partner going out with his best friend to wet the baby’s head.
‘I couldn’t tell social services about it because I was worried they’d take the baby away’, Egli ha detto. ‘She was unhinged.’ When another lover left her eight years ago, she jumped off the top floor of a multi-storey car park near her home in the West Midlands.
She spent five months in hospital with a shattered pelvis, fractured skull, spine and ankle. ‘She’s very manipulative and it’s easy to end up under her spell,’ the man said. ‘Thankfully I came to my senses.’
Tragicamente, Arthur Labinjo-Hughes found himself in a situation over which he had no control – the final misfortune in a life marked by misfortune. But it could have been so different.
His privately educated birth mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, had the world at her feet. A former Solihull School pupil, where sixth form fees currently cost £14,600 a year, she was a talented debater and keen cadet who went on to become a lance corporal in the Territorial Army.
Social workers were called two months prior to Arthur’s death after concerns were raised but no further action was taken
Hughes ha incontrato la madre di quattro figli Tustin (nella foto) online before the couple moved with Arthur into her home near Solihull
But while studying philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Nottingham, she met Thomas Hughes through Facebook, and dropped out in her final year when she became pregnant with Arthur.
The father-to-be was hardly a catch. After leaving school at the first opportunity, he became a Saturday morning football coach before working as a plasterer and then a builder’s labourer. By the time Arthur was a toddler, his mother’s life had descended into a world of drink and drugs as she struggled with declining mental health.
She began two-timing Hughes, but the new relationship was volatile and violent and in February 2019 – in a ‘drink and drug-fuelled rage’ – she fatally stabbed her new lover. Her arrest and jailing for manslaughter meant Arthur found himself in the full-time care of Hughes, chi è adesso 29.
He and his son moved into an annexe of his parents’ home in Solihull. Hughes’s mother Joanne is a secondary school teacher.
But in August 2019 the fuse was lit when Hughes met Tustin through the Plenty of Fish dating website, quickly falling into her thrall. The court heard Tustin had left school with no qualifications and never worked.
All'età di 14 she was reprimanded over a brawl with another girl and at the age of 16 was cautioned for shoplifting. A year later she had her first child. Her second arrived two years after that. She would go on to have four children with three different men.
La madre biologica di Arthur, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 29, (nella foto a sinistra) killed her partner Gary Cunningham (giusto) by stabbing him 12 volte con un coltello da cucina in preda a una rabbia ubriaca a febbraio 2019 and is currently serving an 11 year prison sentence
The Solihull home where Arthur was abused by Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes who have been convicted over his death
Days before his death: Arthur attempts to pick up a duvet from the floor where he slept in video footage shown to jurors
Nella foto: Arthur, pictured here in his Spiderman hat, loved dressing up as superheroes according to his biological mother
After she jumped from the car park, the two older children went to live with their fathers. When the two younger children were born, they stayed with her and Arthur, but had regular contact with their dad. The father who spoke with the Mail said each relationship followed a pattern. ‘She gets pregnant very quickly after starting a relationship because it gives her a degree of control over the man,' Egli ha detto. ‘Then she isolates him from his friends and family.
‘From what I’ve read of the court case, she seems to have done this to Hughes too.’
Indeed she did.
This image was taken by Arthur’s grandmother Joanne Hughes as part of a desperate attempt to convince the authorities he was in danger
Hughes and his son moved in to Tustin’s council house in Cranmore Road, Shirley, when the country entered lockdown in March 2020. She quickly fell pregnant – later aborting her unborn baby at 21 weeks when in custody.
Relatives noticed that both Hughes and his son’s behaviour rapidly changed.
‘Arthur used to come to stay with me,’ Madeleine Halcrow, the boy’s maternal grandmother, ha detto al Mail. ‘But when Tom came to collect him Arthur would ask if “she”, meaning Tustin, was in the car. He would be in tears getting in to the car, asking if he could stay with me. It was heart-breaking.’
Arthur’s other grandmother was also concerned. Following a row with Tustin, Hughes moved back in with his mother for three days in April. Arthur told her that Tustin had shoved him into a wall and called him ‘ugly’.
When Mrs Hughes checked his body, she saw severe bruising from the front of his left shoulder to the rear, and photographed the injuries. The images were sent to Solihull Council’s social services department and two social workers attended Tustin’s home for a spot check the next day. But they were not shown the photographs in advance and the visit came to nothing after Tustin and Hughes coached the kids to play the part of happy children.
A key opportunity missed – and, as we highlight elsewhere, far from the only one.
Lockdown clearly did not help. With schools closed, welfare checks by Arthur’s teachers amounted only to calls, then texts and emails – exchanges in which Hughes claimed Arthur was ‘grand’, ‘enjoying the garden’ and ‘decorating his bedroom’.
The reality could not have been more different and much of it was captured by Tustin’s own security cameras.
Heart-breaking images show the six-year-old bedding down for the night alone on the lounge floor where he was made to sleep. Each morning Tustin would drag the covers off the bewildered boy to wake him with a fright.
Arthur with his father. The youngster died after his head was repeatedly smashed against a hard surface
‘I’LL TAKE HIS HEAD OFF’: VILE MESSAGES SHARED BETWEEN THE EVIL PAIR
Mother’s Day 2020:
Arthur’s stepmother Emma Tustin messaged her mother, referring to the little boy as a ‘nagging little s***’
Arthur’s father Thomas Hughes: ‘Kid is a selfish little c***. I’ll dash my food off his head.
‘I’ll take his c****** head right off his shoulders.’
Hughes: ‘Just take his jaw off’
Hughes: ‘Kid’s getting ended when I get back.’
Tustin: ‘He’s screaming at me again, little f*****.’
Hughes: ‘Let him read this: I’m not in the mood for your games tonight. Stay awake crying and being rude to everyone when I get back you can stand up and I’ll go to town on you. Fed up of your silly games and attitude. Best be asleep when I get back or watch what happens.’
Tustin to Hughes: ‘Please hurry up I’ve had enough of the cheek, little t***’
In a text conversation about separating:
Tustin says: ‘Tell him he’s won… I want you but not him. I’m not being treated like that by him.’
Hughes: ‘It can’t be one and not the other. Unfortunately it’s got to be both or none.’
End of May:
Tustin describes Arthur as: ‘malicious, cruel and just plain awful’.
Tustin refers to Arthur as a ‘cheeky little t***’ and ‘d*******’ before saying: ‘I’m going to chin this little c***.’
Hughes: ‘Kid’s getting ended when I get back’ to which Tustin replies with an audio recording of Arthur moaning.
Tustin: ‘It’s still going. It’s getting boring.’
Hughes to Tustin: ‘I’ll sort him out when I’m home.’
giugno 15, day before the fatal assault:
Hughes to Tustin: 'Bastagli imbavagliarlo o qualcosa del genere.
‘Tie some rope round his mouth with a sock in it or something.’
Tustin: ‘I’m going to be knocking him out if he continues.’
Tustin: ‘Kida (sic) bit me for the last time.’
The footage also showed the defendants tucking into takeaway food in the living room while ‘isolated’ Arthur was deprived of food and water and banished to the ‘thinking step’ at the foot of the staircase – his punishment for what they perceived to be his poor behaviour.
During one two-day period he was confined to a cramped hallway for 26 ore, while the defendants ate ice creams or bathed in a hot tub.
Tustin recorded 200 audio clips of the boy in distress, which she gleefully forwarded to her lover.
Some were of Arthur wailing while one captured him saying ‘Daddy’s going to throw me out of the window’. In other clips Arthur cried ‘nobody loves me’ and ‘no one is going to feed me’.
Prosecutors said the systemic abuse meted out to Arthur, which included feeding him salt-laden food, matched the medical definition of child torture. By the end he was too weak even to hold a glass of water to his mouth. On the day he died – June 16 – prosecutors believe Tustin shook and then slammed Arthur’s head on a hard surface, possibly after pushing him down the stairs, while alone with the boy.
Hughes was at the supermarket at the time but returned home seven minutes after the fatal assault. It was a further five minutes before the pair called an ambulance.
Prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC said the ‘pitiless’ father ‘encouraged’ the killing in a phone call less than three minutes before Arthur sustained his fatal head injuries, having previously sent Tustin text responses, telling her to ‘fill him in’, ‘take his neck off’ and ‘get nasty’. Jurors were also shown a picture of Arthur, dressed in Marvel Avengers pyjamas, slumped and crying by the front door – which Tustin admitted was ‘because he had no strength left in him’.
It was taken just minutes before he suffered the brain damage which killed him.
In their defence, the pair either claimed Arthur was an unruly boy whose injuries were self-inflicted, or blamed each other.
Dare prove, Hughes admitted he was ‘besotted’ with Tustin, who threatened to end the relationship if he didn’t punish Arthur.
But Mr Hankin told the court that could not excuse his behaviour, describing him as ‘wicked’ and ‘utterly ruthless’ in his willingness to hit Arthur ‘over and over and over again’.
Hughes removed his son’s favourite teddy bear, cut up his prized Birmingham City FC football shirts in front of him, and on another occasion duped the child into thinking he was going to see his grandparents – before turning the car around. ‘He was malevolent,’ the barrister said. ‘He relished causing Arthur distress. That level of cruelty is difficult to comprehend, let alone in a father towards his own son.’
Tustin, nel frattempo, told jurors Arthur was so out of control he threatened to stab her with a knife. It was part of a ludicrous defence in which she claimed Arthur ‘threw himself’ into cupboards or doors.
While on remand awaiting trial, Tustin told a cellmate that Arthur died when ‘the little f***er tried to get out the front door and I stopped him trying to follow his dad’.
The boy’s life support machine was switched off at 1am on June 17, 2020, the morning after he was brutally assaulted for the final time.
According to a source, Arthur’s body still lies in a hospital morgue as relatives of his incarcerated mother and father battle each other for the right to bury him.
Even in death, the innocent, defenceless little boy cannot find the peace he was denied in life.