A “wicked” stepmother who tortured and murdered a six-year-old boy in a “campaign of appalling cruelty” has been jailed for life.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was left with an unsurvivable brain injury while in the sole care of “evil” 32-year-old Emma Tustin, who had cruelly abused, starved and poisoned him.
On Friday, Tustin was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 29 years at Coventry Crown Court. Her partner Thomas Hughes, Arthur’s father, was jailed for 21 years after being convicted of manslaughter after encouraging the “evil” killing.
The court heard how Tustin had fatally assaulted the boy in the hallway of her home in Cranmore Road, Solihull, on June 16 2020, using severe force. He died in hospital the following day.
Tustin, who was brought to Coventry Crown Court, “refused to come up” to the dock for the duration of the sentencing, Mr Justice Mark Wall QC said at the start of the hearing.
During the course of the eight-week trial, it emerged that Arthur had been visited by social workers just two months before his death. His grandmother, Joanne Hughes, had raised concerns over his welfare with authorities, but they concluded there were “no safeguarding concerns”.
In an emotional impact statement read out to the court on Friday, Arthur’s mother remembered her son as a “happy, contented, thriving seven-year-old” who would “be alive today” had he not met Tustin.
But she added: “It is also clear that Arthur was failed by the very authorities that we, as a society, are led to believe are there to ensure the safety of everyone.”
Arthur’s maternal grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow, in a victim impact statement delivered on behalf of the boy’s natural mother, recalled his “beautiful smile” and his “kind, nurturing spirit”, adding that he had been “the light of my life”.
“He was let down by a person he trusted and should have protected him, left alone and isolated, and then they took him away from me,” she said.
“My child, my little love, defenceless, trusting and nothing but loving, was killed. His short life stolen and the hole left in me and those who loved Arthur will never be repaired.
“Sleep well, my angel – you are truly loved.”
The judge called Hughes’ “encouragement” of his girlfriend’s actions “chilling”.
He added: “You were Arthur’s father, in a position of trust and bore primary responsibility for protecting him.
“He was extremely vulnerable and you lied to his school in the last days of Arthur’s life to protect both you and Ms Tustin.”
A spokesman for Boris Johnson said the prime minister had been “deeply disturbed” by the case, which saw jurors hold a minute’s silence for Arthur after they returned their verdicts. He said a review would be held into the safeguarding failures in the lead up to the child’s death.
The spokesman said Mr Johnson’s thoughts are “with those who loved Arthur, and no child should ever suffer in the way that he did”.
He added: “It is clear there are questions that need to be answered to get to the bottom of how this happened”.
The Prime Minister has said he found it difficult to read about the case of six-year-old whose father and stepmother were jailed over his death.
The child was left with an unsurvivable brain injury while in the sole care of “evil” 32-year-old Emma Tustin.
Mr Johnson, on a by-election campaign visit in Oswestry, Shropshire, said: “I just want to say on the tragic and appalling case of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, like many people I find it hard to read it, let alone to understand how people could behave like that to a defenceless little child.
“And I must say, I’m glad that justice had been done, in the sense that they have both received tough sentences, but that is absolutely no consolation, and what we’ve got to make sure now is we learn the lessons about that case, we look at exactly what happened, what else could have been done to protect that child.
“And it is early days, but I can tell you this, we will leave absolutely no stone unturned to find out exactly what went wrong in that appalling case.”
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “Arthur’s murder has shocked and appalled the nation.
“As Secretary of State for Education, I am deeply distressed by this awful case and the senseless pain inflicted on this poor boy, who has been robbed of the chance to live his life.
“We are determined to protect children from harm and where concerns are raised we will not hesitate to take urgent and robust action.
“We will not rest until we have the answers we need.
“I will address this further in Parliament on Monday.”