A little boy of six, allegedly murdered by his father and his partner after a ‘fight against cruelty’, looked ‘skeleton’ and ‘drained’ and was too weak to climb the stairs, a court said today.
A witness said he lacked children’s normal glow and instead looked like he had ‘fear ingrained inside’.
They added that he had tried to hurry when he comforted him and appeared to be ‘petrified’.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was shouted at ‘aggressively’ by Thomas Hughes, 29, and Emma Tustin, 32, visiting a hairdresser’s home, it read.
Cosmetologist Catherine Milhench gave evidence and sobbed when she remembered seeing the youngster’s condition and told how her boyfriend ‘snuck’ him a glass of water when he was forced to stand in front of a front door.
She today told jurors at Coventry Crown Court how Arthur was forced to call his father ‘sir’ and said: ‘I hated it. I wanted them out. ‘
Tustin is said to have killed Arthur on June 16 last year at her home in Shirley, near Solihull, West Mids.
He died the next day in hospital of ‘insurmountable brain damage’.
Prosecutors allege the young man suffered systematic neglect of children, including being forced to stand for hours, deprived of food and drink and salt poisoning.
Jury members were told that the alleged abuse by Hughes and Tustin was ‘deliberately designed to terrorize’ Arthur.
The couple, Shirley, near Solihull, West Mids, denies murder and several cases of child abuse.
Thomas Hughes (left), 29, also told his girlfriend Emma Tustin to ‘gag’ Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (right) after she moaned that he gave her ‘attitude’ during a beauty pageant, it was said.
Coventry Crown Court heard how Tustin (pictured), 32, had taken the young man to a house to get his hair and lashes done when she sent her boyfriend the message: ‘I had to reject Arthur for messing up’
Their trial heard how Tustin, on the morning of June 16, returned with Hughes to Mrs. Milhench’s home to conclude a hair deal that had been transferred from the previous day.
The two-mother told jurors she saw Hughes pull Arthur ‘by the neck’ and call him a ‘little fuck’.
When her own son ran into the house and made Arthur move from his position towards the front door, she claimed that Hughes threatened to tear his head off and ‘use it like a football’.
She said: ‘He shouted lots of other things. ‘Take care you little one, I’ll bury you six feet below’. ‘
Mrs Milhench said: ‘It was continuous; attacks, swears. Just continuously. ‘
She added: ‘I was doing Emma’s hair and I do not remember how it started, but Tom was in there, closing the door and Arthur started screaming. I turned around and said ‘what’s going on’. ‘And she said’ he’s pushing him under pressure ‘.
She said ‘yes, because it hurts’. ‘The hairdresser, who had known Tustin for a year as a customer after announcing his beauty services on Facebook, told how Arthur had arrived at her home in the same pajamas as the previous day,
He spent much of the deal standing at one time while other children were playing outside.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes died in hospital hours after being found unresponsive in a house on Cranmore Road in Shirley, near Birmingham
Hughes (left) accused of forcing his son to endure ‘physical and psychological’ abuse in the weeks before his death
She said Tustin and Hughes ‘constantly called him with a little shit’ and shouted ‘backwards and forwards … like a game of tennis’.
‘The only time Arthur would speak would be if they wanted to say something and he had to answer’ ok ‘or’ yes’.
‘If he did not answer correctly, Tom would say’ yes, what? ‘. Arthur should say ‘yes, sir’.
‘That’s how Tom wanted him to answer -‘ yes, sir ‘.’
Mrs Milhench said she was shocked by Arthur’s deteriorating condition from a previous visit in February, describing him as ‘skeleton’, ‘drained’ and ‘weak’.
She said: ‘His legs trying to go up the stairs were shaking. As if he could not hold himself. ‘
She said Arthur seemed ‘completely different’ than normal six-year-olds and had no energy.
Mrs Milhench told the jury how her boyfriend, Tobias Jarman – known as T – handed Arthur some water out of sight of Tustin and Hughes.
She said: ‘My partner snuck him a drink of water without them knowing it.
‘He told me he had to keep the cup for him because he could not keep it.
‘He asked for more. Because [Tobias] had done so, [Arthur] called on T. He would stay with T. ‘
Mrs Milhench’s partner Tobias Jarman recounted how he went to see Arthur as he stood at the foot of the stairs on 16 June.
He said, ‘I got to the bottom of the stairs, put my hand on his shoulder, and he jerked properly. I put him on the stairs and tried to calm him down. I told you not to be afraid of me in any way.
Mr Jarman said Arthur ‘looked petrified’ and was without ‘the normal glow one sees in the eyes of children at that age’.
He added: ‘He looked like there was fear ingrained inside.’ Asked to describe Arthur’s physical appearance, Jarman added: ‘Dry, cracked lips. The amount of plaque built up on his teeth – similar, significant.
‘Dirty nails. He just looked pretty ugly. As if he had actually been out playing in the garden, but that had not been the case.
‘Malnourished, just really uncomfortable.’
Sir. Jarman said he had heard a ‘pattern of abuse’ from Hughes and Tustin towards Arthur.
He presented evidence and said he heard Hughes shout, ‘Get up and stay straight. Wait until we get home, I will put you six meters below. ‘Mr Jarman said,’ I could hear Emma yelling at Arthur, but also yelling at Tom … basically telling Tom to fix him. ‘
Arthur died of a fatal head injury. Prosecutors allege that Tustin murdered the young man and that Hughes ‘intentionally encouraged’ the killing.
Tustin has pleaded guilty in a child abuse case but denies further charges of the same offense.
Hughes denies all charges. Asked by Tustin’s lawyer, Mary Prior, QC, why she did not call police after being ‘sick’ of the couple’s treatment of Arthur, Mrs Milhench said: ‘I wish I did.
‘How they were was completely wrong.’ She added:
‘It’s hard to tap into the parenting of others. In that situation, I did not know what to do. ‘
Mrs Prior accused Mrs Milhench of having ‘exaggerated’ her account.
The beautician denied the allegation, saying she had tried to encourage Tustin to take Arthur to school and to his grandparents who lived locally.
She said: ‘I suggested they send him to school so there is time away if it was that bad at home.
‘They said they could not because they want to see bruises. Emma said that was what Tom had done to Arthur. ‘
She added: ‘I said, take him to his nan, he will be happy and you will be happy, everyone wins.
‘She said’ no, because that’s what he wants ‘.’
Mrs Milhench said she saw Arthur stumble as the family left her home because he was ‘physically weak’. She claimed that Tustin and Hughes ‘just stood there’ and did not try to help him to his feet.
The court was previously told about Whatsapp messages sent by Hughes and Tustin while she was at Mrs Millhench’s home.
On June 15, a day before Arthur was allegedly assaulted, Hughes told Tustin to ‘gag’ the schoolboy after she complained about his ‘backchatting’. Tustin sent a text: ‘Backchatting. A joke. Tossed himself on the floor and all. Shouts of abuse. Still writing. ‘
Hughes replied, ‘Just gag him or something. Tie a rope around your mouth with a sock in or something like that.
He continued: ‘He will hope that when I come back he has thought about how much shit he is and will think of apologizing.’
Hughes then added: ‘Kid is about to run out when I get back’. He also said on WhatsApp: ‘Just ask T to dig Arthur’s grave for me please.’
Mrs Milhench told the jury she could not see Arthur misbehaving while she was in her house.
Arthur, who died at Birmingham Children’s Hospital on 17 June 2020, had been in full-time care by Mr. Hughes, after his mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, was accused of killing his new partner, Gary Cunningham, in February 2019.
She was jailed for 11 years in July this year after being found guilty of manslaughter.
The trial continues.