In the UK, a boy was abused by his father and stepmother for months before he was poisoned with salt and beaten to death.
Thomas Hughes, 27, and girlfriend Emma Tustin, 31, of Solihull, West Midlands, are jointly accused of murder after leaving Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, 6, with an “unsurvivable brain injury” on June 17, 2020.
It is reported that Emma carried out the fatal assault while in the sole care of Arthur, and fetched her mobile phone immediately afterward to take a photograph of the boy as he lay dying in the hallway.
Despite having her phone, she took 12 minutes to call 999, telling medics Arthur “fell and banged his head and while on the floor, banged his head another five times”, prosecutors said.
Paramedics found him in cardiac arrest and managed to revive him and take him to hospital, where medics discovered “extensive bruising … all over his body” and tests revealed he had been “poisoned with salt”.
Arthur was taken to intensive care after suffering two more cardiac arrests but doctors decided he could not be saved and he died later that night.
“You’ll note her account including the suggestion Arthur had headbutted her during the incident, and you will also have noted she felt it necessary to say Arthur had treated them like [redacted], in that context, in those circumstances,” Jonas Hankin QC, for the prosecution, told the jurors.
Thomas and Emma are also accused of multiple counts of child cruelty, after forcing Arthur to endure “systematic, cruel behavior” of “physical and psychological” abuse in the weeks before his death.
One witness said the previously happy and healthy boy looked “as though he were broken” on the day of his death.
The same witness said that when Arthur “secretly” asked him for a drink of water, while the couple was out of the room, “he had to hold (the glass) to Arthur’s mouth” because the child was “too weak to hold it himself”.
Arthur had been in the full-time care of his father after his mother, Olivia Labinjo, was convicted of manslaughter for stabbing her boyfriend in 2019.
Outlining the prosecution case, Jonas told how Arthur’s ill-treatment met the “medical definition of child torture”.
Arthur was “segregated and isolated” for “up to 14 hours a day”, often made to stay on the step next to the hallway by the front door, and prevented from having food and drink.
Hankin told the jury at Coventry Crown Court that “Arthur was made to sleep on the living room floor” at his stepmom’s home in Cranmore Road, Solihull, and that, after his death, “a duvet was found in a cupboard under the stairs”.
“It is striking, the prosecution says, that there is no clear evidence of the presence of Arthur living in that house,” he added.
200 audio files recovered from Emma’s phone were played to jurors today, with Arthur heard sobbing: “I want to go to nanny”, and “no-one loves me, no-one’s going to feed me today”.
Text messages exchanged between Thomas and Emma were also read to the court, with one from his father reading: “I’ll deal with him when I’m home and it won’t be pretty.”
After hearing a voice note of Arthur crying, he warned in further texts: “I’ll end him when I’m back.”
In April 2020, it appeared that children’s social services and police were alerted by his paternal grandmother to concerns about Arthur’s care.
The extended family had seen bruises on Arthur’s back, and he said Emma had “called him an ugly, horrible brat” and shoved him headfirst into the stairs.
After children’s services saw Arthur on April 17, “no concerns were raised”, and while photos of the bruises were sent to the police, no further action was taken, Hankin told the jury
Days before Arthur died, his dad was said to have told a neighbor: “If you hear anyone saying “don’t kill me”, ignore it, I’m not hurting him.”
Medical evidence revealed the boy died from a “head trauma inflicted on him by an adult, the most likely mechanism being that he had been vigorously shaken and his head banged repeatedly against a hard surface”.
On the first day of the trial, Emma 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.”
The couple also faces an allegation of child cruelty by administering salt to Arthur between June 1 and 17 last year. Both are also accused of two counts of child cruelty by the assault on multiple occasions and also by withholding food and/or drink.
Thomas and Emma deny the charges and the trial continues.
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