A DAD threatened to “rip” his six-year-old son’s head off and “use it as a football” the day before he murdered him, a court heard today.
Thomas Hughes, 29, was allegedly “rough” and “aggressive” towards Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and demanded he call him “sir”.
He was also heard calling the youngster a “little c***” and dragged Arthur “by the scruff of his neck” into a room just hours before he was found unresponsive at home.
The youngster died the next day after allegedly being subjected to a “campaign of cruelty” before his death that matched the “medical definition of child torture”.
Catherine Milhench told Coventry Crown Court how Hughes had threatened Arthur at her home while she cut his partner Emma Tustin’s hair.
The witness said she was left feeling “uncomfortable” by their treatment of Arthur and claimed it was “continuous attacking”.
Explaining what happened when her own son ran into the room with a football, Ms Milhench said: “Arthur moved. Tom shouted he’ll rip his head off and use it as a football.
“Also shouted loads of other stuff. Watch you little c***, I will bury you six feet under.”
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She told jurors how her partner “snuck” the youngster a drink of water but had to hold the cup for Arthur as he couldn’t hold it himself.
The hairdresser also said she saw Arthur stumble as he left as he was “physically weak” but said his dad and stepmum “just stood there”.
Ms Milhench told the court she later spoke on the phone with Tustin, who claimed Arthur had just “thrown himself at the dressing table and smashed his head”.
But she broke down as she claimed she was “scared” when asked why she didn’t raise any “child cruelty” concerns after discovering Arthur had died.
The court heard how on June 16 last year, Arthur was found unresponsive at home in Solihull.
He died in hospital the next day with a cause of death given as a “head trauma inflicted on him by an adult” consistent with being “vigorously shaken and his head banged repeatedly against a hard surface”.
‘NO ONE LOVES ME’
Tustin allegedly carried out the fatal assault and fetched her phone immediately afterwards to photograph the boy as he lay dying in the hallway.
Prosecutors said that despite having her phone she took 12 minutes to call 999, telling medics Arthur “fell and banged his head and while on the floor banged his head another five times”.
Doctors found he had also been “poisoned with salt” and had suffered extensive bruising over his frail body, it was said.
He was allegedly “segregated and isolated” for “up to 14 hours a day” and deprived of a bed, food and clothing.
The court was told Tustin recorded more than 22 pictures and videos of Arthur in distress.
Jurors watched CCTV of Tustin tucking into McDonald’s while Arthur was left in a hallway for 14 hours and forced to sleep on the floor.
They have also previously heard audio clips Tustin recorded of Arthur sobbing while allegedly being abused.
The youngster can be heard weeping in another recording for his uncle Blake, saying: “Blake no-one loves me, Blake no-one loves me.”
He also cried in one clip: “Daddy’s going to throw me out the window, daddy’s going to throw me out the window, daddy’s going to throw me out of the window.”
‘CAMPAIGN OF CRUELTY’
Tustin and Hughes are accused of multiple counts of child cruelty, after forcing Arthur to endure “systematic, cruel behaviour” of “physical and psychological” abuse in the weeks before his death.
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”.
Prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC said: “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.”
Jurors heard how Arthur’s death came three months after his father had moved into Tustin’s home.
Before the move, the youngster was “cherished by all” and lived a “stable” life with his father and extended family, in an annexe in the garden of Arthur’s paternal grandparents.
He had been placed in his dad’s care after his mum Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow, 26, was jailed for 18 years for stabbing her boyfriend to death.
In April 2020, it emerged children’s social services and police were alerted by his grandmother to concerns about Arthur’s care.
Family had seen bruises on Arthur’s back, and he said Tustin had “called him an ugly, horrible brat” and shoved him headfirst into the stairs.
After children’s services saw Arthur on April 17, “no concerns were raised”, and while photos of the bruises were sent to the police, no further action was taken, it was said.
Tustin has admitted child cruelty by ill-treating Arthur on multiple occasions by “forcing him to stand, isolating him within the family home, and physically or verbally intimidating him”.
Hughes denies a similar charge.
The pair also deny murder and an allegation of child cruelty by administering salt to Arthur between June 1 and 17 last year.
Both are jointly accused of two counts of child cruelty by assault on multiple occasions and also by withholding food and/or drink.
The trial continues.
Examinations showed Arthur had ‘extensive bruising over all parts of his body’[/caption]
He died three months after moving in to Tustin’s home[/caption]