'Dig Arthur's grave': Text sent by father accused of murdering son, 6, days before he died

·4-min read
Arthur Labinjo Hughes died from unsurvivable brain injuries. (SWNS)
Arthur Labinjo Hughes died from unsurvivable brain injuries. (SWNS)

Text messages sent by a father accused of murdering his six-year-old son days before he died have been read out in court.

Arthur Labinjo Hughes was found with 125 areas of bruising on his body after dying from unsurvivable brain injuries in June 2020.

His father Thomas Hughes, 29, and stepmother Emma Tustin, 32, are currently on trial at Coventry Crown Court accused of murder and multiple counts of child cruelty.

Tustin is accused of fatally shaking and hitting Arthur, leaving him with an "unsurvivable" brain injury, while the boy and his father were staying at her home in Solihull, West Midlands, during the first COVID lockdown.

Tributes left for Arthur Labinjo Hughes. (SWNS)
Tributes left for Arthur Labinjo Hughes. (SWNS)

Text messages were read out in court detailing how Hughes claimed he would deal with Arthur’s behaviour when he returned home.

Under cross-examination prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC said: "You told police that you told Arthur that the weekend before his death that his attitude was changing."

Hughes replied: "I don't remember saying that".

Hankin added: “On that day, 15 June, you signalled your intentions to cause Arthur serious harm in messages.

"You messaged Emma to 'dig Arthur's grave', 'I'll take his neck off', to 'gag him with rope and a sock in his mouth', 'kid is getting it when I get back'."

Read more: Father accused of aiding and abetting his son's murder

Hughes agreed he had sent the messages.

Hankin asked Hughes about further messages on 16 June, where he texted: "I'll deal with him, it won't be pretty", "put him outside, put him out with the rubbish."

Hankin asked: “Did you threaten to take his c***ing jaw off his shoulders?”

Hughes replied: "Yes."

Jurors were told previously how the youngster was found unresponsive at the couple's home.

He had been subjected to a "cruel and systematic" campaign of cruelty which amounted to the "medical definition of child torture", the court heard.

The couple were also accused of depriving Arthur of food, making him stand for 14 hours a day and poisoning him with salt.

Giving evidence on Monday, Hughes told the court Tustin "mentally abused" him into complying with a disciplinary routine and "didn’t intentionally want to hurt Arthur".

The court was shown images of Arthur with bruising on his back and Hughes claimed Tustin had "coached" him to say the marks had come from boxing with other children.

Read more: Woman murdered stepson as she 'stopped him' escaping, jury told

When social services came to visit the house, he admitted lying about the pictures, but denied this was because he was trying to protect Tustin from losing her own children.

Hughes denied throughout his cross-examination that he was taking sides, to try and protect Tustin over the wellbeing of his son.

But when asked whether he valued her love and attention more than his son's welfare Hughes replied: "Towards the end, probably."

Main entrance, Crown and County Court, Much Park Street, Coventry, West Midlands, 2014. Exterior view from the north. (Photo by English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
The trial is taking place at Coventry Crown Court. (Getty)

Hughes was also aware that his parents had concerns over Arthur and had contacted social services, but Hughes thought this was a "threat on his parenting by his own parents".

On one occasion, Hughes tricked Arthur into the car by pretending he was going to visit his grandparents – a place "he had felt safe" – but then never went.

Prosecutors accused him 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.

Tustin and Hughes deny murdering Arthur, who, jurors previously heard, looked "broken" just a few weeks after he moved into Tustin’s home.

They are both also accused of poisoning Arthur by forcing him to eat salt-laced meals, isolating him within the home, and of inflicting months of abuse likened to "torture" by prosecutors.

Tustin has previously claimed that Arthur’s fatal head injury was self-inflicted, possibly by throwing himself down the staircase in her hallway, where he was forced to spend "12 to 14 hours" a day.

The trial continues.

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