Little Arthur is denied peace, even in death: Six-year-old’s body still lies in hospital morgue as relatives of his mother and father battle each other for the right to bury him
Lawyers could be brought in to settle a family dispute over who should bury little Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’s body, relatives have told MailOnline.
A split has developed between the murdered six-year-old’s biological relatives over the location of the youngster’s final resting place, family members say.
Arthur’s maternal grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow, told MailOnline that her grandson’s body remains in the mortuary of Leicester Royal Infirmary – where the post-mortem was carried out 16-months ago – due to a legal dispute over who has the right to lay him to rest.
Her family want to bury him in a small quiet funeral in a churchyard in Birmingham. However the Hughes family have a plot for him elsewhere and want to take charge of the service.
Ms Halcrow confirmed she had sought legal advice with a firm of solicitors and added: ‘I hope that we can reach some sort of agreement with the Hughes family – for Arthur’s sake.
‘But for the time being it doesn’t look that way and it’s looking increasingly likely the matter of will be able to lay him to rest will go to court.’
The dispute comes after a court heard was told how Arthur’s ‘wicked’ stepmother Emma Tustin and his ‘pitiless’ father Thomas Hughes subjected him to a horrific campaign of ‘evil’ abuse during the Covid lockdown last year.
Jurors heard that Tustin violently shook the child and repeatedly banged his head, likely against the hallway wall, while in the sole care of Arthur at her home in Cranmore Road, Solihull on June 16, 2020.
She then callously took a photo of the unconscious youngster on her mobile phone – while he lay dying – and sent the image to Hughes. Tustin then took 12 minutes to call 999, instead first ringing Hughes, before lying to medics and later police that Arthur ‘fell and banged his head’.
The six-year-old had suffered ‘unsurvivable’ brain damage and a total of 130 injuries 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 hours a day.
Arthur’s birth mother Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow is in jail after fatally stabbing her lover in a ‘drink and drug-fuelled rage’ in 2019. Arthur’s father Hughes then met Tustin through the Plenty of Fish dating website and fell into her thrall. In March 2020, they moved into Tustin’s council house, where Arthur was tortured, poisoned with salt, and eventually beaten to death.
It has now emerged that Labinjo-Halcrow and Hughes’s relatives are fighting each other for the right to bury Arthur, a source told the Mail last night – meaning the six-year-old’s body continues to lie in a hospital morgue.
Yesterday, Tustin was convicted of murder and Hughes was found guilty of manslaughter after encouraging the killing by his actions, including sending a text message to Tustin 18 hours before the fatal assault telling her ‘just end him’. They will be sentenced at Coventry Crown Court later today.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, six, pictured with his ‘pitiless’ father Thomas Hughes. Hughes has been convicted of manslaughter after encouraging the killing by his actions
Arthur’s maternal grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow, told MailOnline that her grandson’s body remains in the mortuary of Leicester Royal Infirmary – where the post-mortem was carried out 16-months ago – due to a legal dispute over who has the right to lay him to rest
Arthur’s birth mother Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow (left) is in jail after fatally stabbing her lover in a ‘drink and drug-fuelled rage’ in 2019. Her and Hughes’s relatives are fighting each other for the right to bury Arthur – meaning the six-year-old’s body continues to lie in a hospital morgue. His stepmother Emma Tustin (right) was convicted of murder yesterday
Jurors heard that Tustin violently shook the child and repeatedly banged his head, likely against the hallway wall, while in the sole care of Arthur at her home in Cranmore Road, Solihull on June 16, 2020. She then callously took a photo of the unconscious youngster on her mobile phone – while he lay dying – and sent the image to Hughes
‘I’ll take his head off’: Vile messages shared between 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.’
June 15, day before the fatal assault:
Hughes to Tustin: ‘Just gag him or something.
‘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.’
Speaking after the trial, Arthur’s grandmother Madeleine Halcrow read a tribute on behalf of her Labinjo-Hughes.
She said: ‘Following the conclusion of my son’s trial I want to take his opportunity to focus on the life Arthur lived and to celebrate the beautiful little boy I knew and loved deeply.
‘The details of Arthur’s case are harrowing and incomparable but I want people to know who Arthur was, from his huge smile and his personality to his gentle and caring nature.
‘All mothers are biased and believe their children are the best and I’m no different. From the moment Arthur was born he was always smiling and had the most inquisitive little mind.
‘When I think about Arthur’s life and what he loved there are always three things that I always thing about.
‘Firstly, he loved to read or to be read to and any of the Julia Donaldson books were his favourite. He liked the Gruffalo and the Snail and the Whale.
‘When he started school his love of reading became a love of learning how to write new words.
‘Every week he would be excited about the ten new words he was given to learn. Secondly Arthur loved his food. He was 10lbs 6.5oz when he was born and his love of milk soon turned to his love of food.
He would try anything and like all children he would want whatever I was having. I remember when he started school, every day on the way home he would tell me what he had at lunchtime and then ask me what we would be having for dinner.
‘But what Arthur loved more than anything was being outside. He loved to play football and was kicking a ball around as soon as he could walk.
‘By the time he was four he could name some, if not all, of the England team and he always had the latest Birmingham City football kit. I could talk for hours about what Arthur loved and who Arthur was but everyone who loved him have their own story.
‘Talking about Arthur’s loves would not be complete without talking about his love of superheroes. Marvel or DC, Arthur loved them all.
‘From Batman to Black Panther. Superman to The Flash. He had every costume and action figure and loved dressing up pretending he had all of those super powers.
‘Arthur was the light of my life, he was not only just my only child he was my best friend.
‘Never could I have imagined he could have been taken from this world so early in his life. If Arthur could ask for one final thing it would be that he would be remembered for his super power. That’s what I will always remember him for, his super power and Arthur’s super power was his smile.’
At trial, Tustin claimed Arthur must have thrown himself down the stairs, despite evidence he was so starved he could barely stand.
In court, prosecutors described Tustin and Hughes as ‘utterly ruthless, unthinking and pitiless’.
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’.
Tustin admitted two other counts of child cruelty, by wilfully assaulting the boy and isolating him in the home by making him stand up to 14 hours a day in the hallway with jurors convicting Hughes on both those counts.
Speaking after the verdicts, Arthur’s maternal grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow, called them ‘wicked’ and ‘evil’.
She described the couple’s behaviour, which included Tustin poisoning the youngster by force-feeding him salt-laced meals, as ‘unfathomable’.
‘There’s no word for them, especially your own child,’ she said.
An independent serious case review is now under way into the actions of Solihull Council social workers who found ‘no safeguarding concerns’ after visiting Arthur, just two months before he was murdered. Hughes’ mother, Joanne Hughes, had seen bruises on Arthur’s back, with the boy telling how Tustin ‘called him an ugly, horrible brat’ and shoved him into the stairs. She alerted children’s social services to the bruises in April, just weeks before his death. But two social workers who saw Arthur at Cranmore Road, had ‘no safeguarding concerns’.
Solihull’s Local Child Safeguarding Partnership is now carrying out an independent review of the circumstances surrounding the ‘terrible tragedy’, including the actions of Solihull Council’s social services.
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.
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 hours, 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.
The Solihull home where Arthur was abused by Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes who have been convicted over his death
Pictured: 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
Pictured: Arthur’s mother Olivia, who is currently in prison, described her son’s murder as ‘harrowing and incomparable’
‘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’ her (pictured)
Days before his death: Arthur attempts to pick up a duvet from the floor where he slept in video footage shown to jurors
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.
Giving evidence, 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, meanwhile, 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.