A boy allegedly murdered by his father and stepmother following a ‘campaign of cruelty’ was found with almost 100 areas of injury, a court heard.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, six, was found with dozens of bruises from his head to his feet, post-mortem examinations showed.
The boy was systematically abused by Thomas Hughes, 29, and his 32-year-old partner Emma Tustin, it is alleged, before being killed in June last year.
He suffered neglect and harm ‘designed to terrorise’, prosecutors claim, including being deprived of food and forced to stand for hours on end. Arthur was also repeatedly poisoned with salt, the court heard.
The schoolboy died from ‘unsurvivable brain injuries’ a day after being allegedly attacked by Tustin at her home near Solihull, West Midlands. Tustin and Hughes deny murder and multiple counts of child cruelty.
A trial at Coventry Crown Court was today told how Arthur’s body was found to be covered in bruises.
Home Office pathologist Matthew Lyle identified 93 areas of injury, including on Arthur’s head, arms, legs, feet, torso, buttocks and back.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (pictured above with his father), six, was found with dozens of bruises from his head to his feet, post-mortem examinations showed
The boy was systematically abused by Thomas Hughes, 29, and his 32-year-old partner Emma Tustin (pictured above), it is alleged, before being killed in June last year.
Dr Lyle said some of the marks may have been accidental or explained by medical intervention attempts after Arthur collapsed and was taken to hospital.
But jurors were told that 25 sites of bruising on his scalp, face, and neck raised ‘serious concerns about non-accidental injury’.
Giving evidence, Dr Lyle told jurors: ‘I’m not sure that outside of obvious traumatic situations I’ve ever seen a child found dead at home with this number of injuries to the head and face.’
The court heard that there were 20 areas of bruising found on Arthur’s arms and eight on his chest and stomach. He said of bruises on the upper arms: ‘That’s not a typical site for an accidental injury. And there are multiple bruises in that area.
‘I think it’s quite possible they’ve been caused by gripping.’ Arthur had been in the full-time care of Hughes after his mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, was accused of killing her new partner, Gary Cunningham, in February 2019.
Prosecutors allege youngster was subjected to months of cruelty by Hughes and Tustin which matched the ‘medical definition of child torture’.
The court heard how Arthur spent more than 14 hours a day ‘segregated and isolated’ in a hallway and was made to sleep on a living room floor.
In a 999 call made 12 minutes after Arthur was found unresponsive on June 16, Tustin claimed his head injuries were self-inflicted. She claimed he had ‘banged his head while on the floor on all fours’.
The court heard that there were 19 areas of injury found on Arthur’s legs, including behind the knee and his inner thighs. A dozen clusters of bruising were discovered on his back, Dr Lyle said.
Asked if six injuries on Arthur’s buttocks were in line with ‘reasonable chastisement’, the pathologist replied: ‘I don’t think so, no.’ He added: ‘In my view, the impression of that is inflicted injuries’.
The court heard how Arthur spent more than 14 hours a day ‘segregated and isolated’ in a hallway and was made to sleep on a living room floor
Jurors were previously told how Arthur (pictured) was ‘repeatedly poisoned with salt-contaminated food and fluids’ in ‘brutal controlling circumstances’
Asked about his general assessment of the bruises, Dr Lyle concluded: ‘The overall impression here is a child who has suffered inflicted injury. The overall pattern is that these are inflicted type injuries.
‘When you look at the overall picture you almost see that there are more injuries in the places you wouldn’t expect to see them, than the places you would expect to see them in a little boy.
‘That burden of bruising is very much to my mind indicative of non-accidental trauma here.’ Prosecutors allege Tustin delivered Arthur’s fatal injuries and that Hughes ‘intentionally encouraged’ the killing.
They are both claimed to have neglected and abused Arthur, who sobbed in one recording played in court: ‘No-one loves me.’
Jurors were previously told how Arthur was ‘repeatedly poisoned with salt-contaminated food and fluids’ in ‘brutal controlling circumstances’.
Arthur recorded a level of 184 millimoles per litre (mmol/L) – far above a normal range of 135 to 145 mmol/L.
Giving evidence, Jayaratnam Jayamohan, a children’s brain doctor at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, admitted: ‘I haven’t seen anyone with this salt level in my life.’
Jurors were previously told how the youngster was ‘repeatedly poisoned with salt-contaminated food and fluids’ in ‘brutal controlling circumstances’.
Dr Roger Malcomson said Arthur was likely poisoned with ‘persistence’, and told the court: ‘I consider it highly unlikely that Arthur poisoned himself with salt.’
The paediatric pathologist said that the levels of sodium found in Arthur – equivalent to six-and-a-half teaspoons – could have affected his ability to defend an attack.
The schoolboy died from ‘unsurvivable brain injuries’ a day after being allegedly attacked by Tustin at her home near Solihull, West Midlands
Jurors heard text messages between Hughes and Tustin detailing their alleged abuse. In one message, Hughes threatened to ‘take his jaw off his shoulders’ and told Tustin: ‘Just gag him or something. Tie some rope around his mouth with a sock in it or something.’
The court heard how one witness claimed Arthur was ‘too weak’ to even hold a glass of water to his mouth. They also said 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, gaunt and worn-out.’
During the trial medical experts have concurred that Arthur died from brain injuries after being shaken, coupled with an impact injury.
Consultant neuropathologist Daniel Du Plessis told the jury: ‘What happened here was forceful gripping, a shaking-type act and the head being slammed once or more than once against a firm surface and I think an average woman could do that, physically at least.’
But Dr Du Plessis, a brain scan expert, said that the chances of Arthur causing himself fatal head injuries were ‘inconceivable’.
He said: ‘There’s no case of a child doing that to themselves with a fatal outcome.
‘This would have had to generate very substantial force, it would involve quite a degree of pain.’
Opening the trial, Mr Hankin told jurors: ‘Both defendants participated in a campaign of cruelty intended to cause Arthur significant harm and suffering.
‘Violence and intimidation, both physical and verbal, were routine.
‘Arthur’s visible injuries, his miserable physical condition and obvious despair provided each defendant with a daily reminder of the lengths to which the other would go to cause him harm.’
The trial continues.