Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was living with his paternal grandparents, who “loved and cherished him”, when the Covid pandemic hit which led to him moving in with his dad and step-mum
Tragic Arthur Labinjo-Hughes would still be alive if the Covid-19 lockdown had not happened, detectives believe.
The six-year-old was living with his paternal grandparents, who “loved and cherished him”, when the pandemic hit.
But his dad Thomas Hughes decided to move in with girlfriend Emma Tustin when the country was plunged into lockdown.
Today his evil stepmum convicted of murdering the defenceless child after a horrific campaign of abuse, while his dad was found guilty of manslaughter.
Det Insp Laura Harrison, of West Midlands Police, said it “was the worst decision that could have been made”.
“If only Hughes had left Arthur with his grandparents who absolutely doted on him, loved him and cherished him,” she told the Mirror.
“The manipulation and the toxic relationship between Tustin and Hughes meant the family were cut out of Arthur’s life and didn’t play a part.
“The lockdown meant professionals didn’t have the opportunity to monitor him in the same way they would do with children normally.
“I do think that lockdown contributed.
“The professionals who would ordinarily have been involved in Arthur’s life, such as teachers, weren’t having that contact with him and spotting changes in his behaviour or bruises on his body.
“Tustin and Hughes cut off family members so Arthur was no longer seeing or speaking to him.
“And when social workers went out to Tustin’s home there was an absolute manipulation of them by the defendants.
“It was the only day when Arthur was allowed to play in the garden and he presented very differently as a result.
“When the professionals did speak to him they weren’t picking up on the signs they would have done if he had been segregated in a hallway.
“Tustin and Hughes pulled the wood over the eyes of the professionals. They didn’t want children’s services involved.”
Specialist grief counsellors were drafted in to help police left traumatised by Arthur’s death.
Veteran detectives were left in tears as they watched CCTV footage of the helpless youngster alone in his family home.
They also discovered harrowing evidence that Arthur had been sadistically poisoned with salt by his dad and step-mum.
DI Harrison described it as the “most traumatic” case she had ever investigated.
She compared his death to the murder of Daniel Pelka, the tragic four-year-old boy killed by his mum and step-dad in 2012.
In both cases the children were deliberately poisoned with salt to increase the suffering before their deaths.
“I knew when we started it was a horrific case, but there have been moments that have just completely got me,” she said.
“Everyone involved has found it really haunting having to witness and experience the evil and horrific torture that Arthur was subjected to.
“There are real similarities with Daniel Pelka, definitely in terms of salt poisoning.
“I’d not heard of it before in child cruelty cases and it’s been really hard to comprehend. But it is a haunting parallel.
“A physical assault is one thing – but it’s very devious and manipulative to dose a child up with salt. It’s another level of evil.
“It could only have been done as another way to control Arthur – an extra punishment.
“We think maybe they did it to make him more thirsty but we don’t know because they’ve never given us an explanation.
“It’s been really difficult for the officers who have to sit for hours watching CCTV footage of Arthur being isolated.
“I arranged for a trauma counsellor to come in to explain the emotions people might be experiencing and to teach coping mechanisms they could put in place.
“They have been able to independently see the counsellor without the rest of the team knowing.
“We don’t ordinarily get faced with CCTV like this.
“The footage really got to the heart of what Arthur was being subjected to and that’s why it’s been so hard-hitting and different to similar cases.
“When you add in the 200 recordings of Arthur in distress and the brutal text messages, it sets it apart from the Pelka and Baby P cases.
“We’ve been reliant on medical expert opinion and it’s been crucial.
“But the actual emotional element of this case has been proved by that CCTV or hearing audio clips where he is calling out for family members, calling out for food or water, and that nobody loves him.
“We all know children in our lives. You just cannot comprehend anybody being able to neglect a child over such a sustained period of time.
“It was not a sudden loss of control, it was a well thought-out campaign of abuse, both physically and psychologically, towards Arthur.”
DI Harrison said it was “hard to comprehend” how Hughes and Tustin tried to blame Arthur for his fatal injuries.
She said: “They’ve blamed each other and they’ve blamed Arthur as well.
“How can a six-year-old boy be responsible for what happened? We know he couldn’t have inflicted his fatal injuries himself.
“They are both equally responsible. Although Tustin killed Arthur, Hughes encouraged the killing by actions.”