A woman accused of murdering her six-year-old stepson sounded like she was “trying to make excuses” after his sudden collapse, a court heard.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes is said to have been murdered after enduring a “campaign of brutality” at the hands of his father Thomas Hughes, 29, and stepmother Emma Tustin, 32.
Tustin and Hughes are said to have systematically abused the child, “intended to terrorize the youngster.”
Arthur was reportedly denied food, had to stand in a hallway for 14 hours a day and was poisoned with salt before being fatally attacked at his home near Solihull, West Midlands, in June last year.
Prosecutors allege the schoolboy died of “unsurvivable brain injury” a day after he was allegedly assaulted by Tustin. The boy’s father and stepmother deny murder and multiple charges of child abuse.
A jury heard evidence of a neighbor rushing to give Arthur first aid after he collapsed on June 16 last year.
Nurse Carol Miller told Coventry Crown Court how Tustin ran to her house to tell her: ‘He knocked himself out’.
Ms. Miller described herself as “absolutely distraught” when she saw the six-year-old unresponsive, but said of Tustin, “She never once asked how Arthur was doing.”
She added: ‘She [Tustin] was quite erratic – which to me sounded like trying to make excuses. It was just constant – her mouth just did.’
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (pictured above with his father), aged six, was found with dozens of bruises from his head to his feet.
The boy was systematically abused by Thomas Hughes, 29, and his 32-year-old partner Emma Tustin (pictured above), allegedly, before he was murdered last June.
Prosecutors allege the youngster was subjected to atrocities by Hughes and Tustin for months, which matched the “medical definition of child torture.”
In a 999 phone call, 12 minutes after Arthur stopped responding, Tustin claimed his head injury was self-inflicted. She claimed he had “banged his head while on all fours.”
Mrs. Miller said she was trying to find Arthur’s heartbeat when emergency services arrived. She said the boy was “pale” with a “huge bruise” on his forehead.
Ms. Miller recalled her conversations with Tustin and told the court, “She said something about his behavior; that they had problems.
‘I said ‘have you sought help?’ She said she spoke to the school, but the school saw no problems with his behavior.
“She said things like ‘he drove me crazy, he tried to push me down the stairs, he hates me, he says I’m not his mother’.”
Prosecutors allege that Tustin killed the youngster and that Hughes “deliberately encouraged” the murder.
Court heard how Arthur spent more than 14 hours a day “separate and isolated” in a hallway and had to sleep on a living room floor
Jurors were previously told how Arthur (pictured) was ‘repeatedly poisoned with salt-contaminated food and liquids’ in ‘cruel controlling conditions’
Police bodycam footage captured Hughes telling officers how he came back from the shops — where he’d bought Tustin a cake for her birthday — and Arthur didn’t respond.
He said: ‘I went to Sainsbury’s to get a cake, tomorrow is my partner’s birthday. When I came back she called and said ‘you have to come back because he hit his head and knocked himself unconscious – threw himself on the concrete floor’.”
Jurors were previously told the child had been “repeatedly poisoned with salt-contaminated foods and liquids” in “cruel, controlling conditions.”
When he arrived at the hospital, his salt levels were so high that a consultant said she wondered if her machine was broken.
The court heard Arthur spend more than 14 hours “separate and isolated” in a hallway and had to sleep on a living room floor. Jurors heard text messages between Hughes and Tustin about alleged abuse.
In one message, Hughes threatened to “take his jaw off his shoulders” and told Tustin, “Go shut him up or something. Tie a rope around his mouth with a sock in it or something.’
The court heard a witness claim that Arthur was “too weak” to even hold a glass of water to his mouth.
They also said that his “clothes looked dirty, his lips cracked, he could barely open his mouth to speak, his hair was dirty, his nails were dirty and he looked malnourished, thin and worn”.
Earlier in the trial, a medical expert said he believed Arthur was shaken and beaten with “very heavy” force.
Consultant neuropathologist Daniel Du Plessis told the jury: “What happened here was a forceful grip, some sort of trembling act and the head being slammed against a solid surface one or more than once and I think an average woman could do that, physically.” at least. ‘
The schoolboy died a day after being allegedly attacked by Tustin at her home near Solihull, West Midlands, from ‘unsurvivable brain injuries’.
But dr. Du Plessis, a brain imaging expert, said the odds of Arthur causing a fatal head injury to himself were “unbelievable.”
Jonas Hankin, QC, who opened the trial, told jurors: “Both defendants took part in a campaign of cruelty intended to cause significant harm and suffering to Arthur.
“Violence and intimidation, both physical and verbal, were routine.
“Arthur’s visible injuries, his appalling physical condition and apparent despair gave each defendant a daily reminder of how far the other would go to harm him.”
While Arthur was critically ill in the hospital, Tustin texted a woman she’d arranged to buy balloons for her birthday.
Jonas Hankin, QC, Prosecutor, told how she messaged the “balloon lady” saying, “Sorry, honey, I can’t pick it up.”
Under police surveillance at her home, Tustin then sent a WhatsApp message to Hughes, who was at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, asking, “How come you didn’t message me?”
She continued: “Don’t say it’s me, they’re waiting for an update on what’s going on. I can’t shower or damn.
‘Was here to be watched. Haven’t done everything yet.’
In a subsequent post, Tustin added, “Don’t worry. I’ll sit here and deal with the consequences of something he’s done. I could be arrested for something I didn’t do.’
The process continues.