A boy allegedly murdered by his father and stepmother in a ‘campaign of cruelty’ died after being shaken and slammed with ‘very severe force’, a court heard.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, six, was killed after suffering months of systematic abuse ‘designed to terrorise’ the youngster, prosecutors claim.
Emma Tustin, 32, and Thomas Hughes, 29, allegedly poisoned Arthur with salt, deprived him of food and forced the boy to stand for hours on end in a hallway.
The Birmingham City fan died with ‘unsurvivable brain injuries’ on June 17, 2020, a day after being allegedly attacked by Tustin at home near Solihull, West Midlands.
She allegedly carried out the fatal assault and fetched her phone immediately afterwards to photograph Arthur as he lay dying in the hallway.
Tustin and Hughes deny murder and multiple counts of child cruelty.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (pictured with his father Thomas Hughes), six, was killed after suffering months of systematic abuse ‘designed to terrorise’ the youngster, prosecutors claim
The Birmingham City fan died with ‘unsurvivable brain injuries’ on June 17, 2020, a day after being allegedly attacked by Tustin (pictured) at home near Solihull, West Midlands
A brain expert who examined Arthur after his death told how the boy died from an ‘abusive inflicted injury’.
Giving evidence at Coventry Crown Court, consultant neuropathologist Dr Daniel DuPlessis said: ‘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.’
Prosecutors allege youngster was subjected to months of cruelty by Hughes and Tustin which matched the ‘medical definition of child torture’.
In a 999 call made after Arthur was found unresponsive, Tustin claimed his head injuries were self-inflicted.
She claimed he had ‘banged his head while on the floor on all fours’. But Dr DuPlessis said 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.’
A brain expert who examined Arthur (pictured with his father) after his death told how the boy died from an ‘abusive inflicted injury’
Asked what the ‘likely event’ was that caused Arthur’s (pictured) collapse, Dr DuPlessis replied: ‘It would have been a non-accidental head injury
Asked what the ‘likely event’ was that caused Arthur’s collapse, Dr DuPlessis replied: ‘It would have been a non-accidental head injury.
‘There would have been third-party involvement that would have involved his head being brought into motion with very severe force, causing it to move backwards and forwards repeatedly, with an impact involved in that as well.’
Dr DuPlessis said Arthur died after his injured brain was starved of oxygen. He was also found to have multiple brain bleeds and bleeding in both eyes.
He added: ‘Without any doubt, he suffered a fatal traumatic head injury that caused cardio-respiratory arrest and death. That’s the cause of his death.
‘Secondly, it really can only fit that it was a non-accidental event. Something was done to that child. He didn’t injure himself in an accidental manner.’
Tustin has pleaded guilty to one count of child cruelty but denies further charges of the same offence. Hughes denies all charges.
Prosecutors allege Tustin murdered the youngster and that Hughes ‘intentionally encouraged’ the killing.
They are both alleged to have neglected and abused Arthur, including by poisoning him with salt.
Dr DuPlessis said a blood clot discovered in his brain could have been caused through dehydration from high sodium levels.
Jurors were previously told how the youngster was ‘repeatedly poisoned with salt-contaminated food and fluids’ in ‘brutal controlling circumstances’.
Jurors were previously told how the youngster (pictured with Hughes) 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.’
Dr Malcomson, a paediatric pathologist, said the levels of sodium found in Arthur – equivalent to six-and-a-half teaspoons – could have affected his ability to defend an attack.
He added: ‘I think if he had been suffering health side effects from being poisoned to the extent that is likely to have been in this case, then yes, he may not have been able to put up much of a fight.’
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.
The court heard how Arthur spent more than 14 ‘segregated and isolated’ in a hallway and was made to sleep on a living room floor.
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.’
On Monday, a paediatric neuroradiologist told jurors how he believed shaking was the ‘unifying diagnosis’ behind Arthur’s injuries.
Brain scan expert Professor Stavros Stivaros compared his brain trauma to car crash victims and disputed a hypothesis that Arthur inflicted his own injuries.
Prof Stivaros said: ‘It is inconceivable to me that such a high-energy action could be self-inflicted by a child’s own physical actions alone.
‘How much force is Arthur going to be able to generate when he is on all fours when he is on the ground? It’s inconceivable that he could have done that.’
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.