Arthur Labinjo-Hughes's biological mother was sentenced to 11 years in jail for stabbing her lover to death - leaving the tragic six-year-old at the mercy of his evil father and stepmother.
Full details of Arthur's horrific childhood, raised by violent alcoholic Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 29, were revealed during the harrowing nine-week murder trial of Thomas Hughes, 29, and his 32-year-old girlfriend Emma Tustin.
Arthur was pushed into his father's custody in February 2019 after Labinjo-Halcrow killed her partner Gary Cunningham, 29, by stabbing him 12 times with a kitchen knife in a drunken rage.
Hughes met mother-of-four Tustin online and the couple moved with Arthur into her home near Solihull in the West Midlands when the government declared a nationwide lockdown in March 2020.
Madelaine Halcrow said that Tustin was 'obsessed' about the idea Thomas would go back to Olivia, and that 'the only way she could get Olivia out of her life was by getting rid of Arthur'.
Tustin, who had two of her children taken into care following a suicide attempt, repeatedly complained she could not cope with Arthur's behaviour during the period of confinement and begged Hughes to let him return to his grandparents.
Arthur's biological mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 29, (left) killed her partner Gary Cunningham (right) by stabbing him 12 times with a kitchen knife in a drunken rage in February 2019
Boy who never stood a chance: From an alcoholic killer mother to a father and stepmother who mocked and abused him till his dying day - full timeline of tragic case
February 23, 2019 - Arthur's biological mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 29, kills her partner Gary Cunningham by stabbing him 12 times with a kitchen knife.
Arthur is moved into the care of his father, Thomas Hughes, 29. Later he meets Emma Tustin, 32, online.
January 6, 2020: Arthur's school begin to raise concerns about him, including his 'clinginess' and 'obsession' with soft toys'.
March: Hughes and Arthur move into Tustin's home in Solihull.
April 16: Arthur's paternal grandmother, Joanne Hughes, made a call to Solihull council's emergency team to report bruises on his shoulders.
April 17: Social worker Jayne Kavanagh and support worker Angela Scarlett-Coppage visit Tustin's home but report 'no concerns'.
April 20: A desperate Joanne Hughes tells Arthur's school about the referral to social services she had made four days earlier.
Michelle Hull, safeguarding lead at Dickens Heath Community Primary School, contacts social services but is told they have 'no concerns'.
April (specific date unclear): Thomas Hughes fobs off Arthur's school in online messages, insisting he is 'doing grand'.
April (specific date unclear): Arthur's uncle, Daniel Hughes, tries to alert police to Arthur's bruises.
May/June (specific date unclear): When John Dutton, Tustin's stepfather, says he made an anonymous call to social services.
June 15: Horrific final video shows an emaciated Arthur struggling to pick up a duvet from the living room floor where he had been forced to sleep.
June 16: Arthur after suffering an 'unsurvivable injury' caused by Tustin repeatedly banging his head on a hard surface.
December 1, 2021: Labinjo-Halcrow is jailed for 11 years for killing Mr Cunningham.
Even before his death, Arthur had witnessed numerous scenes of domestic violence. On one occasion Labinjo-Halcrow had stabbed Mr Cunningham while Arthur was present.
Arthur also witnessed terrible rows between his mother and his father Thomas Hughes and on one occasion ended up 'cowering under the covers' as they tore into one another.
Labinjo-Halcrow had been seeing Hughes and Mr Cunningham at the same time and Hughes was still having a sexual relationship with her up until the point that she killed Mr Cunningham.
They'd had a furious row on February 16 about her sleeping with Mr Cunningham and ended up physically wrestling over Arthur as Hughes took him away to his parents' house.
Labinjo-Halcrow was originally convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and jailed for 18 years at Birmingham Crown Court.
In August last year the conviction was overturned by The Court of Appeal after judges ruled she may have been acting in self-defence.
But following a retrial at Birmingham Crown Court, jurors once again found her guilty of manslaughter in July 2021 and this time was sentenced to 11 years.
The court heard Labinjo-Halcrow had been Mr Cunningham's on-and-off girlfriend.
At her original trial she claimed she had been the victim of sexual abuse, including rape, at the hands of her victim.
But Judge Simon Drew, QC dismissed those allegations and described her as 'someone who could be bullying and manipulative and prone to lies'.
After his mother's arrest, Arthur went to live with Hughes.
In July 2019, a doctor recorded Arthur as suffering from 'high anxiety'.
In November 2019, Arthur was in such a state that Mrs Hughes and Thomas spoke to both his school, Dickens Heath Community Primary in Shirley, and paediatrician Dr Sarah Dixon about it.
Arthur was said to be: clingy, having nightmares, obsessed with murder, anxious, babyish behaviour, trust issues. All were said to be completely normal for a child in the circumstances.
Arthur had also said he was 'worried his Dad will kill him'. This was 'not normal'.
The doctor told Hughes that he should love and cherish his son, care for him, not subject him to change or treat his poor behaviour as naughtiness.
Arthur had variously been told that his mother had 'joined the army' and been sent to jail but that she would soon be released.
The school's Special Educational Needs Coordinator Aileen Carabine, told the hearing that Arthur was becoming 'fixated' with his dad disappearing from his life, being taken away from his dad and his dad killing him.
Arthur was pushed into the custody of his father, Thomas Hughes, and his girlfriend, Emma Tustin, after Labinjo-Halcrow was jailed
Ms Carabine said Arthur started at the school in February 2019, but in March that year he had no idea his mother was in prison.
The teacher said that by October 2019 Arthur had 'deteriorated', and had become more 'reserved and anxious.' 'Not quite as smiley,' she added.
Harrowing home video hears frail six-year-old's final desperate whimpers of 'no one loves me'
Arthur's harrowing last recorded moments show him struggling to pick up his duvet from the floor where he was forced to sleep for days on end - just hours before he was savagely murdered by his father and stepmother.
The heart-wrenching clip, captured on CCTV, shows an emaciated Arthur, whose pyjamas appear to be hanging off him, grimacing in pain as he tries to pick up his cover and a special Avengers pillow, before screaming 'no one loves me'.
The heart-wrenching clip shows an emaciated Arthur, whose pyjamas appear to be hanging off him, grimace in pain as he tries to pick up his cover and pillow
He is seen struggling to stand before slumping to the floor of the living room. He cries 'no one loves me' four times as he struggles to walk to the other side of the room while appearing to be suffering from a limp.
It takes him more than two whole minutes to be able to stand up, pick up his duvet and walk the distance of about two yards to a door leading to another room. In audio clips released alongside the video by West Midlands Police, played to the court, Arthur is also heard saying 'no one is going to feed me' seven times in 44 seconds.
The tragic boy can be heard crying 'nobody loves me' as he is seen barely able to walk across the room
The school told Hughes he should be honest with his son after Halcrow was jailed in September 2019.
Two days after Arthur's sixth birthday, on Jan 6, 2020, Hughes went to the doctor to say the school were concerned by his clinginess and his obsession with soft toys, Tustin's barrister Mary Prior told the court.
She said teachers had said this was completely untrue.
On March 4, Arthur sobbed at school saying his father had taken away his favourite teddy. The school spoke to Hughes and told him this was wrong and above all not to discipline him.
On New Year's Eve, Hughes had gone 'toe-to-toe' with his father and they were screaming at one another because Hughes's parenting had been criticised.
This led to a breakdown of Hughes' relationship with his family.
Arthur was said to be missing his mother but Hughes banned all contact and this prompted a meltdown on Mother's Day.
Ms Prior said that Tustin repeatedly told Hughes that she could not cope and that either Arthur or both of them should return to his parents' house.
She said that during lockdown Hughes spent his time in bed, or playing computer games or going on long shopping trips leaving Tustin to deal with all the children.
She quoted a text sent from him to Tustin, then pregnant, at 5pm on June 13: 'I am naked on the bed waiting for you, all prepped and waiting for you to take my soul.'
Emma replies that he will be waiting a very long time.
At this stage he had started to deprive Arthur of food and water and the boy was screaming.
The 'noise and the cruelty' was not stopping him from becoming aroused, Ms Prior said.
During that heatwave, he would walk around eating ice creams in front of his starving child.
During May the school reached out to Hughes offering to have Arthur in school despite the lockdown.
He told them Arthur was really happy. When the school did re-open on June 8, he told them Arthur could not come in due to a headache.
She told the jury: 'Read the messages with care, she's regularly asking him 'please come back', 'please help', 'I can't cope', 'I'm crying', 'I'm broken', 'please take him back to his nan's'. 'She was saying again and again 'what do you want me to do with him?'.' Ms Prior says, in reply, Hughes told her to 'end him', 'finish him' and 'take his jaw off' but she did not do any of those things.
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.'
She pointed out that Hughes had told police 'I couldn't hit a woman or her kids so Arthur took the brunt of my frustrations'.
This included head-butting him, pressure pointing his neck, putting his foot on his stomach, and assaulting him over and over again.
She quoted Hughes as saying it was a 'clash of egos' and that his way of crushing his son's ego was to do stuff like telling him he would take him to see his Nan and Granddad and then driving him around and telling him it would not happen. He also cut up the boy's favourite football strip in front of him.
The FOUR missed chances to save little Arthur: How authorities IGNORED pleas about six-year-old boy's welfare from THREE family members and his teacher
Relatives of tragic Arthur Labinjo-Hughes today hit out at the failings of social workers and police who missed a raft of opportunities to save the six-year-old's life.
His maternal grandmother Madeleine Halcrow told MailOnline: 'Arthur was let down by social services and the West Midlands Police. There was an opportunity to save him and it wasn't taken.'
The nurse spoke out as Emma Tustin, 32, was convicted of murdering Arthur on June 17, 2020, during the Covid lockdown. Arthur's father Thomas Hughes, 29, was also found guilty of manslaughter for encouraging the killing, including by sending a text message to Tustin 18 hours before the fatal assault telling her 'just end him'. But he was cleared of murder.
They were both found convicted of numerous child cruelty charges after subjecting him to systematic abuse which matched the 'medical definition of child torture', including being deprived of food, made to stand for 14 hours a day and poisoned with salt.
The boy's family squarely blame Solihull Council's children's services, which failed to grasp a series of chances to stop Arthur's 'unimaginable' torture before he was murdered with 130 separate injuries.
Arthur's grandmother, Joanne Hughes, told the trial how she felt there was 'no one else to go to' after repeatedly raising her concerns with the authorities, while his uncle, Daniel, was even threatened with arrest over lockdown rules if he went back to the youngster's house to check up on him.
The child moved into his father's care after his mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 28, killed her new partner in February 2019. Hughes met mother-of-four Tustin online before the couple moved with Arthur into her home near Solihull in the West Midlands when the government declared a lockdown in March 2020.
Madeleine Halcrow said that Tustin was 'obsessed' about the idea Thomas would go back to Olivia, and that 'the only way she could get Olivia out of her life was by getting rid of Arthur'.
Tustin, who had two of her children taken into care following a suicide attempt, repeatedly complained she could not cope with Arthur's behaviour during lockdown and begged Hughes to let him return to his grandparents.
Arthur died on June 16, 2020 after suffering an 'unsurvivable head injury'. These are the four key chances the authorities missed to avert the tragedy:
The boy's family squarely blame Solihull Council's children's services, which failed to grasp a series of chances to stop Arthur's 'unimaginable' torture before he was murdered with 130 separate injuries. Pictured: Arthur with Hughes
MISSED CHANCE 1 -
Grandmothers reports bruises to social services - but they fail to spot them during visit
This image was taken by Arthur's grandmother Joanne Hughes as part of a desperate attempt to convince the authorities he was in danger
Arthur's paternal grandmother, Joanne Hughes, made a call to Solihull council's emergency team on April 16 to report bruises on his shoulders.
She also told them Arthur had said the injuries were caused by Tustin, who 'grabbed him to the face, called him names and pushed him and he bumped his head on the stairs'.
In response to her report, social worker Jayne Kavanagh and support worker Angela Scarlett-Coppage were dispatched to the family home in Shirley, Solihull, the following day.
Mrs Kavanagh told jurors she arrived to find Arthur playing outside and he appeared 'clean', 'very happy' and 'boisterous'. She was unable to spot any bruising other than a 'faint yellow' mark in the middle of his back.
After speaking Tustin and Hughes, she and Ms Scarlett-Coppage formed the view that Arthur was being cared for in a 'happy household' who were 'all getting along'.
They reported 'no safeguarding concerns' and the case was not referred for a full social services assessment. Instead they offered to put a support worker in touch under the Early Help scheme, but no work took place.
Mrs Kavanagh said she was left 'in shock' when she eventually saw the photo of dark bruises on Arthur's shoulder blades.
Asked in court if she could explain why she was unable to spot bruises which had been noticeable a day earlier, she replied: 'No'.
She added: 'I was shocked and in disbelief that these photos could have been taken the day before and my colleague and I hadn't seen anything the day afterwards.'
Grandmother: Arthur's body has still not been buried 16 months on due to family row
Arthur's maternal grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow, told MailOnline that her grandson's body remains in the mortuary of Leicester Royal Infirmary, where the post-mortem was carried out 16-months ago, due to a legal dispute over who has the right to lay him to rest.
Her family want to bury him in a small quiet funeral in a churchyard in Birmingham while the Hughes family have a plot for him elsewhere and want to take charge of the service.
Ms Halcrow confirmed she had sought legal advice with a firm of solicitors and added: 'I hope that we can reach some sort of agreement with the Hughes family – for Arthur's sake.
'But for the time being it doesn't look that way and it's looking increasingly likely the matter of will be able to lay him to rest will go to court.'
Arthur's maternal grandmother Madeleine Halcrow, said Joanne Hughes and her husband, Chris, visited her at her home in Birmingham in April to show her the photo of Arthur's bruises and ask if she knew how Arthur had got them.
She told MailOnline: 'I had no idea whatsoever because I'd been blocked from having any contact with Arthur by Thomas and I hadn't seen him since October 21, 2019.
'I immediately called Solihull social services but they told me that they'd already been to see Arthur and they didn't have any issues.
'I sent them the photographs of his back and then called the police who said they'd also gone to the house and like social services they had no worries as the property was ''immaculate''.
'My response was to say ''so an immaculate house doesn't constitute child abuse then?'' As far as I'm aware there were no more visits after that.
'Both the police and social services were lied to by Thomas and Emma who told them that the bruise was from 'boisterous play'. I know it's difficult because there hadn't been previous contact with Arthur but nothing was done when it should have been.'
The nurse added: 'The whole social services department failed Arthur. They must have seen how poorly Arthur was, how fatigued and weak he was. He died just eight weeks later.'
Solihull's £122,294 Director of Children's Services at the time, Louise Rees, 60, left in August before the trial began. Rees' LinkedIn profile boasts that she is now 'retired and loving it'.
Arthur had been on social services' radar for three years. In 2018 he was referred to them twice over concerns about his mother, Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, an alcoholic and drug user who was eventually jailed for stabbing to death her lover.
Solihull's £122,294 Director of Children's Services at the time of Arthur's death, Louise Rees, 60, (pictured) left in August before the trial began
MISSED CHANCE 2 -
Worried teacher calls social services about bruises - but is told they were caused by 'play'
On April 20, a desperate Joanne Hughes told Arthur's school about the referral to social services she had made four days earlier.
Michelle Hull, safeguarding lead at Dickens Heath Community Primary School, then contacted social services to alert them to Joanne's report but was told they had 'no concerns'.
'He's doing grand': How evil father fobbed off concerned school workers checking up on Arthur over lockdown
Staff at Dickens Heath primary school contacted Arthur's father Thomas Hughes for welfare checks when it shut during the first Covid lockdown in April 2020.
In response, Thomas painted an idyllic picture of his son's life - a jarring contrast to the twisted abuse he was actually suffering during this time.
Replying to messages sent on the school's messaging platform, Hughes told staff his son had been 'enjoying the garden' and 'decorating his bedroom'.
In one exchange, he wrote: 'Arthur is plodding along, enjoying the sunshine and messing about the garden.
'We might have a barbecue at the weekend. He just wants to see his friends now as he misses them a bit. Thank you for checking in.'
The school replied: 'Keep enjoying the great outdoors, Arthur. We miss you too but we'll all be back together soon when it is safe. Enjoy the weekend. '
In another message, Hughes added: 'Arthur has been doing grand. He's found it quite challenging not being at school and not having that routine but we've been decorating his bedroom.
'He's done little bits of schoolwork and doing PE with Joe [Wicks]. Take care and stay safe.'
Ms Hull told jurors: '[Mrs Hughes] phoned to make us aware she had concerns about Arthur and made a MASH (multi-agency safeguarding hub) referral.
'She said that she had seen Arthur and he had bruises on, I think, it was his back. She said she had seen bruises.'
Ms Hull said Arthur's grandmother had also voiced concerns about Tustin's 'mental health' and said that she was a 'coercive' partner.
She added: 'She was concerned the relationship wasn't a positive one.
'She was worried about Thomas and Arthur because the partner that he had – she was worried about her mental health. She felt his partner, Emma, was coercive.'
Jonas Hankin QC, prosecuting, asked Ms Hull whether social services had explained to her the nature of the checks they carried out on Arthur while visiting him at home.
'What, if any, information were you given about the nature of the checks that social services said had been performed?' the barrister asked.
Ms Hull replied: 'They said they'd seen Arthur and that the injuries were from boisterous play.
'That the family relationship seemed OK. And they had no concerns.'
Asked if the support worker had given further detail about the injuries she had seen, Ms Hull said: 'I think she referred to the bruises on the back.'
Ms Hull said the social worker 'didn't have any concerns about parenting' by Tustin.
The teacher added that social services told her she 'wasn't allowed to share any information with Arthur's grandmother because (parental) consent hadn't been given'.
Instead, Ms Hull volunteered for the school 'to stay involved and just do check-ins with the family', which Mr Hughes consented to.
Asked why she had made that offer, Ms Hull said: 'Because they were a family we had taken in and nurtured and that's very much how our school works.'
Dickens Heath had previously raised concerns about Arthur's mental state.
He started at the school in February 2019. At the time he had been told that his mother, on remand for killing her boyfriend, had left to join the army.
By October 2019, his teacher Aileen Carabine said that he had learned that his mother was in prison and had become more "reserved and anxious'. She said he had become "fixated" with his father disappearing from his life, being taken away from his father and his father killing him.
Hughes and his mother had a meeting with both the school and a paediatrician in November 2019 at which they spoke of their concerns for how vulnerable Arthur was, how he was clingy, babyish and obsessed with cuddly toys.
They were told by both the school and the medic that these were normal symptoms for a child in Arthur's situation and they should respond with love and understanding and not to punish him or take away his toys.
The school made a referral to mental health services and in March 2020 Arthur met with Kerry Forsyth-Benson, a CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) practitioner.
MISSED CHANCE 3 -
Youngster's uncle tells police about his injuries - only for officer to threaten HIM with arrest over Covid rules if he goes to check on nephew
Arthur's uncle, Daniel Hughes, said he also had photos of the youngster's bruises and showed them to police, but never heard anything back.
Daniel said he and other relatives tried to visit Arthur at home to confront Tustin and Hughes.
After the attempted visit, he contacted West Midlands Police to report his concerns, but instead of taking any action an officer threatened him with arrest for breaking Covid rules if he tried to visit the house again.
The Solihull home where Arthur was abused, which his uncle, Daniel Hughes, tried to visit with other relatives to confront Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes about what they were doing to him
Daniel told jurors that a reluctant police worker eventually agreed to receive photos of the child's bruises but he never heard anything back.
Arthur's maternal grandmother, Madelaine Halcrow, said that Tustin was 'obsessed' about the idea Thomas would go back to Olivia, and that 'the only way she could get Olivia out of her life was by getting rid of Arthur'
He said: 'I went on the police webchat to enquire as to what I could do for the safety of my nephew.
'I had a webchat with an operative. He gave me a case number and within ten minutes a private number called me.
'A police officer identified himself, who said he had been around to the address and spoke with Tustin and Tom [Thomas Hughes]. We were advised if we were to return to the address we would be arrested.
'I said I had photos of Arthur's injuries and I didn't believe that if he had seen those injuries, he would be happy that he was okay. He reluctantly received the photos and said he would speak to his sergeant and get back to me. He never did.'
Daniel did not reveal the specific date of the call and it is not clear who took the photos.
After Arthur's death, a neighbour wrote on Facebook claiming they had also informed police he was being abused.
They wrote: 'I rang the police! I rang child services! They did nothing and as a result the toddler has died. Solihull child services make me feel sick.'
Besides the failings of social services, West Midlands Police have been investigated over their handling of the case by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, who are now due to release their findings.
MISSED CHANCE 4 -
'He was in danger': Anonymous call to social services by Tustin's stepfather weeks before tragic boy's murder
John Dutton, Tustin's stepfather, told jurors he made a call to social services just weeks before Arthur collapsed with fatal brain injuries on June 16, 2020.
Asked why he made the referral - which he chose to keep anonymous - Mr Dutton said: 'I thought he was in danger.'
Mr Dutton said Hughes 'dished out the discipline' on visits to his home and admitted slashing Arthur's beloved Liverpool and Birmingham City football shirts.
Days before his death: Arthur attempts to pick up a duvet from the floor where he slept in CCTV footage shown to Coventry Crown Court
He also said that during one visit during the first Covid lockdown, Hughes confessed how he had 'gone to town' on the youngster.
Mr Dutton said: 'He told us that he had gone to town on him and when he had done it he went up to the shower and cried his eyes out.'
Asked by prosecutor Jonas Hankin, QC, what Mr Dutton took that to mean, he sobbed: 'Belt the life out of him.' He added: 'I was just shocked. He didn't seem the type.'
Mr Dutton told the court that after the call, he stopped allowing Arthur into his house because his wife was 'distressed' at how he was being treated.
He said Arthur was ordered to sit at a table and face the wall 'for hours' like 'a zombie' whenever he was brought over to their home.