Arthur Labinjo-Hughes murder case: Father threatened to silence son with rope, court hears

A ‘bullying’ father asked a man to ‘dig a grave’ a day before his six-year-old son was allegedly killed, a court heard today.

Thomas Hughes, 29, also told his girlfriend Emma Tustin to “gag” Arthur Labinjo-Hughes after moaning that he gave her an “attitude” during a beauty appointment, it was said.

Coventry Crown Court overheard Tustin, 32, taking the youngster to a home to have her hair and eyelashes done when she messaged her boyfriend: ‘I had to tell Arthur he was crazy’.

Hughes replied to Whatsapp and said, ‘Just ask T to dig Arthur’s grave for me, please.’ When Tustin replied, “I say you pay double,” Hughes replied, “F*** me, I’ll pay four times.”

Coventry Crown Court jurors were told T was Tobias Jarman, the boyfriend of Tustin’s hairdresser Catherine Milhench.

Tustin is said to have killed Arthur on June 16 last year after the boy endured a “cruelty campaign.”

He died the next day at Birmingham Children’s Hospital of ‘unsurvivable brain injuries’.

Prosecutors allege the boy had to stand in a hallway for hours, robbed of food and drink and poisoned with salt.

The jurors were told the alleged abuse was “deliberately intended to terrorize Arthur.”

In the week before Arthur (right) collapsed, Tustin is said to have rowed with Hughes (left) around him and said, “There is one problem in this house. A person who causes shit

Hughes (left) charged with forcing his son to endure 'physical and psychological' abuse in the weeks before his death

Hughes (left) charged with forcing his son to endure ‘physical and psychological’ abuse in the weeks before his death

Tustin and Hughes, of Shirley, near Solihull, West Mids, deny murder and multiple counts of child abuse.

The court was told that on June 15, a day before Arthur was reportedly fatally attacked, Hughes told Tustin to “gag” the schoolboy after she complained about his “back chatting.”

While at Mrs. Milhench’s house in Solihull, Tustin texted: “Back chatting. A joke. Threw himself on the floor and all. Yell abuse. Still screaming.’

Hughes replied, “Go shut him up or something. Tie a rope around his mouth with a sock in it or something.’

He continued: “He wants to hope that by the time I get back he’s thought about how bad he is and that he’s thinking about apologizing.” Hughes added: ‘Kid’s get terminated when I get back’.

Arthur, who collapsed at Miss Tustin’s home on June 16 last year, died of “unsurvivable brain damage.”

Prosecutors allege that Tustin killed the youngster and that Hughes “deliberately encouraged” the murder.

Tustin has pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse but denies further charges of the same crime.

Hughes denies all charges. On day five of the trial, prosecutors streamed CCTV from the house and listened to audio clips recorded by Tustin in the two days before Arthur’s death.

The court heard how Arthur was kept in the hallway for nearly 11 of his 12 hours awake on June 14. hallway.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes died in hospital just hours after being found unresponsive at a house on Cranmore Road in Shirley, near Birmingham

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes died in hospital just hours after being found unresponsive at a house on Cranmore Road in Shirley, near Birmingham

Jonas Hankin, QC, continues, said a clip 20 minutes later showed Hughes raising his left arm, as if “threatening to hit or hit Arthur.”

That night, Arthur was seen in the living room making his bed on the floor. When asked how long Arthur had been awake off the screen of his 12 hours, DC Christopher Herrick told the judges, “It’s about 10 hours and 54 minutes. I believe he was in the hallway that long that day.’

On June 15, the day before Arthur was reportedly murdered, Tustin returned with Arthur from Mrs. Milhench’s house, but continued to message Hughes.

In one excerpt, she said, “Kid slap this wall one more time, I’m going to lose my damn shit.

A second message read: ‘Killed the wall 1000 times more. Threw himself to the ground. I’m fucking done. He is leaving. I’ll fucking let him. “Yells at me, little f***er.”

The judges were told that other children in the house were given chocolates and gifts, but Arthur appeared to have none.

The court heard Tustin ate McDonalds in front of the television four days before his death — while the boy spent 14 hours in a hallway.

Jurors watched CCTV clips of Tustin chewing through two bags of McDonald’s with another child.

She was seen watching TV in her robe and flipping through her phone while Arthur was outside.

In response to a clip of Arthur crying sent by Tustin, Hughes replied, “The boy is a selfish little c***. I knock my food off his head.’ Tustin messaged back complaining about Corrie’s “pause”.

She added: “I just want a cozy night on the couch in my duvet, that’s all.”

Arthur, who died at Birmingham Children’s Hospital on June 17, 2020, was in the care of Mr Hughes full-time after his mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, was accused of murdering her new partner, Gary Cunningham, in February 2019.

She was jailed for 11 years in July this year after being found guilty of manslaughter. The process continues.

The court was previously told how Tustin sent numerous text messages claiming Arthur was “screaming”, refusing to eat his food, demanding that he go to his grandmother and attack her.

The couple also talked about breaking up and, in a row, the jury was told that Tustin sent a text saying, “I want you, but not him. That’s not how he treats me.’

Hughes replied, ‘It can’t be one and not the other. Unfortunately it has to be both or none.’

In response, the court was told that Tustin sent a message: “Cya.”

Miss Tustin has pleaded guilty to one charge of child abuse but denies further charges of the same crime. Mr Hughes, of Shirley, also denies child abuse charges.

On day three of the trial, the jury was shown further text messages, audio and video clips exchanged between the defendants, who rowed over Arthur multiple times.

Miss Tustin made numerous references to being pregnant in the weeks leading up to June 16, and in one message accused Mr Hughes of “turning his back” on his unborn child, the jury was told.

The court heard another text message to her friend that said, “You stay with the devil’s child.”

In the week before Arthur collapsed, Miss Tustin is said to have rowed around him with Mr. Hughes and said, “There’s one problem in this house. A person who causes s**t.’

In texts on June 11, she also referred to Mr Hughes hitting Arthur and kicking a hole in the door, the judges heard.

In a message read to the court, Miss Tustin said, “Take your precious child who can do no wrong and fuck off.”

Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow (pictured), 26, was previously jailed for 18 years after stabbing her boyfriend Gary Cunningham 12 times in a drunken rage in their home

Pictured: Gary Cunningham

Arthur’s natural mother Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow (left), 26, was previously in a cage for 18 years after stabbing friend Gary Cunningham (right) 12 times in a drunken rage in their home

The jury was also given a virtual tour of the house when the prosecution began playing CCTV from the property in the days immediately before Arthur’s death.

Arthur was in Mr Hughes’ care full-time after his mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, was accused of murdering her new partner, Gary Cunningham, in February 2019.

She was jailed for 11 years in July this year after being found guilty of manslaughter.

Opening the case, prosecutor Jonas Hankin stated that Tustin was the “sole possible culprit” behind the alleged fatal attack on Arthur on June 16, as she was only looking after him at the time.

He argued that Hughes “shares the blame” because he “deliberately encouraged” the murder.

The process continues.

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