Arthur Labinjo-Hughes trial: Stepmum accused of murder admits child cruelty by beating

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Emma Tustin previously pleaded guilty on the first day of the trial to another count of child cruelty – ill-treating Arthur on multiple occasions by ‘forcing him to stand, isolating him within the family home, and physically or verbally intimidating him’

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes suffered an 'unsurvivable brain injury' in June 2020.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes suffered an ‘unsurvivable brain injury’ in June 2020.

A stepmum accused of murdering a boy has pleaded guilty part-way through her trial to cruelly beating the six-year-old.

Emma Tustin, who is also accused of killing stepson Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, changed her plea to the count of child cruelty today.

The boy’s father Thomas Hughes, 29, and Tustin, are both on trial accused of murder after Arthur suffered an “unsurvivable brain injury” in June 2020.

Tustin, 32, is alleged to have carried out the fatal assault while Arthur was in her care.

She took a photo on her mobile phone of the little lad as he lay dying in the hallway of her home in Solihull, West Midlands, jurors at Coventry Crown Court have been told.

Tustin previously pleaded guilty on the first day of the trial to another count of child cruelty – ill-treating Arthur on multiple occasions by “forcing him to stand, isolating him within the family home, and physically or verbally intimidating him”.

Emma Tustin, 32, pleaded guilty part-way through her trial to cruelly beating the six-year-old
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Hughes is accused of aiding and abetting in the murder, including by sending a text message to Tustin before Arthur’s fatal collapse telling her “kid’s getting ended when I get back”.

Prosecutors have alleged the pair carried out a “campaign of cruelty”, amounting to “torture”, against Arthur, in which he was force-fed salt-laced meals, kept isolated in the home, starved, dehydrated and routinely beaten.

Mary Prior QC, Tustin’s barrister, told jurors her client had admitted in her own evidence to “three assaults… all captured on CCTV, occurring between June 12 and 16 2020”, leading to her change of plea.

This photo, which was issued by West Midlands Police, shows bruises on Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ back
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Tustin claimed Arthur’s fatal head injury was self-inflicted, possibly by throwing himself down the staircase in her hallway, where he was forced to spend “12 to 14 hours” a day, the court heard.

During his evidence, Hughes claimed Tustin “mentally abused” and “gaslighted” him into complying with the punishing disciplinary regime, but also admitted lying to school staff who were checking on Arthur’s progress during the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Today, the jury heard the last of the evidence in Hughes’ defence, including from a woman who shared a cell with Tustin while she was awaiting trial for Arthur’s murder.

Thomas Hughes, 29, is on trial accused of murder after Arthur died in June 2020
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Elaine Pritchard was Tustin’s “padmate” at HMP Eastwood Park in Gloucestershire in November 2020.

She said she trashed the cell and ordered Tustin out after reading that Arthur had suffered about 130 separate injuries.

Ms Pritchard, 48, told jurors she has an extensive record of offending linked to drug and alcohol abuse, including assaults and drink-driving.

Ms Pritchard was asked about an argument she had while sharing a cell with Tustin, which ended with her calling the prison’s guards to have her cellmate removed.

In evidence, she said she had spotted Tustin’s case paperwork lying on a side table.

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She said: “I saw a comment from the paramedics, and 137 bruises. On his body. And that she showed no emotion.”

Bernard Richmond QC, representing Hughes, asked: “How did she know that you had seen that?”

Ms Pritchard replied: “Because I ended up throwing her out of the cell.”

She added: “I asked her, why wouldn’t she know that a boy had all those injuries? I asked her about when she had bathed him or showered him. She said ‘Oh, I didn’t do that, I just used to give him a towel’. I was quite angry at the fact someone had 137 bruises on their body.”

CCTV shown in court of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes waking up hours before he collapsed from fatal injuries
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Asked what Tustin did when Ms Pritchard got angry, she claimed: “She was sat on her bed or on the chair, with her knees up, and I just started throwing her stuff into the corner of the room, saying ‘You’re getting out, you’re going’.

“I pressed the alarm bell for the staff, I feared I would end up staying in the prison.”

Ms Pritchard then alleged in court: “She said to me ‘You had your kids taken off you’ and I said ‘Yeah, I did, but you’re not going to get your kids back, you’ve murdered a little boy, you’ve killed a boy’.

“She wasn’t interested; the only thing she spoke about was her own children, she never spoke about Arthur.”

Hughes denies a charge of child cruelty through ill treatment, as well as a further child cruelty allegation of “wilfully assaulting Arthur on multiple occasions”.

The pair also both deny allegations of child cruelty by administering salt to Arthur between June 1 and 17 last year, and by withholding food and drink.

Hughes and Tustin also both deny murder and the trial continues with the judge now giving the jury legal directions.



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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