Emma Tustin with Thomas Hughes
|DOB||Tustin - 1989|
Hughes - 1990
|Kill Date||June 2020|
|M.O.||Poisoning & Beating|
|Court||Coventry Crown Court|
|Judge||Justice Mark Wall QC|
|Prosceution||Jonas Hankin QC|
|Defence||Mary Prior QC|
February 2019, Arthur’s biological mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, aged-29, is arrested for stabbing and killing her partner, Gary Cunningham. She was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 11-years in prison.
Arthur’s father, 29-year-old Thomas Hughes, took over care for his son, and in August
August 2019, Thomas Hughes meets Emma Tustin, aged-32, on an online dating site.
November 2019, Thomas Hughes and his mother, Joanne, met staff at Arthur’s school to discuss concerns about his behaviour.
Claas teachers reported that Arthur was becoming “fixated” with his dad disappearing from his life, or killing him, and that he had also become obsessed with death, murder and guns.
March 2020: Hughes took Arthur to Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services practitioner, Kerry Forsyth-Benson, who reported that Arthur said he was worried about his dad not coming home. She stated his physical appearance seemed fine and, as his aggression and anxiety had reduced, she concluded there was no mental health issue.
When the Covid-19 lockdown was announced. Hughes and Arthur move into EmmaTustin’s home in Solihull, West Midlands.
Thursday 16th April 2020, Joanne Hughes reported Arthur to social services after taking photographs of bruises on his back, which she discovered when her son Thomas Hughes and Arthur visited. She tried to convince Hughes to leave the boy with her but he refused to.
Friday 17 April 2020: Social worker Jayne Kavanagh from Solihull council visited Tustin’s home.
She said she was told Arthur and Tustin’s son had been playfighting with boxing gloves resulting in the bruises, and said she could see a single “faint” bruise in the middle of Arthur’s back.
She said when asked how safe and happy they felt on a scale of 0-10, with zero being represented by the floor and the ceiling being the opposite, both boys “very confidently jumped up and pointed at the ceiling saying they felt very happy and very safe”.
She concluded there were “no safeguarding concerns” and no need to refer the case for a full child service assessment.
Hughes was instead offered an early help programme to assist Arthur in dealing with his traumatic past, which he declined.
Giving evidence during the trial, Hughes said Tustin had “coached” the two boys to lie to social services about the fight with boxing gloves, and warned him they would have their children taken from them if he did not go along with it as well.
18th April 2020, Arthur’s uncle, Daniel Hughes, spoke to West Midlands police about the bruises on the boy’s back. He sent the photos to an officer but never heard back from them.
Police later closed the log believing it required “no further role for force response” as social services were involved.
20th April 2020, Joanne Hughes told Arthur’s school about the referral to social services. Michelle Hull, safeguarding lead at Dickens Heath Community primary school, contacted social services but was told they had “no concerns”.
6th May 2020, Mr Hughes texted Ms Tustin, telling her: "Tell him not to move a muscle - put him by the fridge, put him outside or wherever, give him away".
May 2020, Emma Tustin’s stepfather, John Dutton, said he made an “anonymous referral” to social services because he felt Arthur was “in danger”
8th June 2020, Arthur’s school reopened after lockdown, but Hughes did not send his son back, initially claiming the boy hadn’t slept well and would return the next day. Over the following days he reported to the school that Arthur was losing weight, wasn’t eating and might faint.
15th June 2020, Emma Tustin took Arthur with her to an appointment with her hairdresser, Catherine Milhench, who said Arthur was told to face the door and not move during the six-hour session.
She described his appearance as skeletal and said his legs were shaking “like he couldn’t hold himself up”.
16th June 2020, Video footage from a CCTV camera in the living room, where Arthur slept on the floor, showed him appearing weak as he woke up and struggled to carry his duvet out of the room.
The family returned to Milhench’s house to finish the hair appointment, during which time Hughes and Tustin took turns shouting at him “like a game of tennis”, she told the court. Her partner, Tobias Jarman, “snuck” the boy a glass of water without Tustin and Hughes knowing, and said he looked “petrified”.
Back at home, shortly after 2.30pm Tustin messaged Hughes to say Arthur would not get up off the floor and claimed he had “knocked himself out” by hitting his head on the floor.
Hughes returned home and a 999 call was made at 2.42pm. Bodycam footage from emergency services showed Emma Tustin crying as she claimed Arthur repeatedly headbutted the floor.
“When I tried to get him off the floor, he headbutted me and he’s hit me and kicked me, Even so, I’ve done my best with that kid.”
Arthur was taken to the Birmingham Children’s hospital and later that evening Tustin and Hughes were arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.
17th June 2020, Doctors concluded nothing could be done to save Arthur and his life support machine was switched off at 1am.
During investigations, and after a post-mortum it became appatrent that one or both of Hughes and Tustin had been slowly poisoning Arthur with salt, as well as the suspected beatings.
7th October 2021, At Coventry Crown Court, the pair faced an allegation of child cruelty by administering salt to Arthur between 1st and 17th June last year.
Both were also accused of two counts of child cruelty by assault on multiple occasions and also by withholding food and/or drink.
Ms Tustin admitted child cruelty by ill-treating, while Mr Hughes denies a similar charge. They each deny murder.
Friday 3rd December 2021, Sentencing the couple, Justice Mark Wall QC told Coventry Crown Court the case was "one of the most distressing and disturbing" he had ever dealt with, adding that neither defendant had shown any remorse and their behaviour had been "spiteful and sadistic".
Emma Tustin was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 29-years for murder, and ten years for child cruelty, sentence to run concurrently. she is eligible for parole in November 2050.
Arthur's father, Thomas Hughes, was given 21-years for manslaughter.
Sunday 5th December 2021, The Attorney General's Office announced that the jail terms will be reviewed to "determine whether they were too low".