Father accused of helping partner murder son ‘didn’t want arguments’

Father accused of helping partner murder son ‘didn’t want arguments’
Couple accused of putting child through months of torture and abuse in first Covid lockdown

A father on trial for helping his partner murder his six-year-old son has said he valued her love and attention more than his son.

Thomas Hughes is accused of aiding and abetting his girlfriend Emma Tustin in killing Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

The previously “happy, chubby, healthy, active” boy was allegedly abused over several months after he and his father moved into Ms Tustin’s home during the first Covid lockdown last year.

Prosecutors claim the pair forced Arthur to stand in the hallway for 14 hours a day, gave him meals laced with excessive amounts of salt to poison him, withheld food and drink, isolated him inside the house and inflicted “multiple acts of violence” ending in a severe brain injury which killed him.

Mr Hughes was accused during the trial at Coventry Crown Court of being an “utterly ruthless, unthinking and pitiless” parent, but he denied that, along with a further claim that he “relished in abusing” his child.

Instead, the father insisted he had been psychologically coerced and “mentally abused” by Ms Tustin.

He claimed he had not realised how badly Arthur was suffering and was manipulated into allowing his girlfriend to impose her brutal punishment regime on the six-year-old.

In cross-examination, the defendant was asked by the prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC: “What could Emma Tustin do to you that’s worse than what you were doing to him?”

Mr Hughes replied: “Nothing – I just felt it would cause unnecessary arguments [with her].”

Mr Hankin then asked: “What did Emma Tustin offer you that you valued more than your own son, Mr Hughes?”

“She always assured me… she would show me the love, the attention,” Mr Hughes said in response.

The prosecutor asked: “So, it was her love and attention you valued more than your own son’s welfare?”

Mr Hughes replied: “Towards the end, probably.”

“Can you tell us how this little boy, who meant the absolute world to you, yet you watched him decline from a happy, chubby, healthy, active boy, to a desperately sad, thin, weak, miserable child,” Mr Hankin asked.

Mr Hughes replied: “I cannot explain it to you.”

Though not present for the alleged fatal assault, Mr Hughes, of Stroud Road, Solihull, is accused of aiding the killing, and also faces three counts of child cruelty.

MS Tustin has admitted one count of child cruelty but denies two other similar charges.

The trial at Coventry Crown Court continues, although it had to be adjourned on Monday lunchtime after Ms Tustin was taken to hospital in ambulance for treatment for an unspecified health issue.