A woman and her partner have been convicted of abusing and killing his six-year-old son. Emma Tastin, 32, was unanimously convicted of the murder of Arthur Labingo Hughes at Crown Court in Coventry on Thursday.
Arthur’s father, Thomas Hughes, 29, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, after his son suffered an “unsurpassable brain injury” on June 16, 2020.
In court, prosecutors described the couple as “utterly cruel, thoughtless and ruthless.”
Speaking after the verdicts, Madeleine Halcro, Arthur’s maternal grandmother, described the couple’s behaviour, which included Tastin poisoning Arthur by forcibly feeding him meals full of salt, as “unfathomable”.
She said, “I think they do the cold torture, the arithmetic, the method of a defenseless little child. They are wicked and evil. There is no word for them, especially your child.”
Tustin carried out the fatal attack while under Arthur’s care alone at her home in Cranmore Street, Solihull, took a picture of the boy on her mobile phone while he was dying in the hallway, then sent the picture to Hughes.
She called 999 12 minutes later, Hughes rang first, then lied to the paramedics saying, “Arthur fell and hit his head, and while on the ground he hit his head five more times.”
Tustin later claimed that he must have thrown himself down the stairs, despite evidence that he was barely strong enough to pick up his bed or stand.
Hughes, of Solihull, was convicted of encouraging the murder, including by texting Tustin 18 hours before the fatal attack, telling her to “just finish it.” On one occasion, before his death, Arthur said to his father, “I am in danger with you, Father.”
The jury also found Tustin guilty of two counts of child cruelty, including salt poisoning and withholding food and drink from Arthur. She had already pleaded guilty to two other charges of cruelty: intentionally assaulting Arthur on three occasions and impeaching him, including forcing him to stand in the hallway for up to 14 hours a day as part of a particularly harsh punitive regime.
Hughes, who denied wrongdoing, was also convicted of the atrocities to which Tastin confessed, but was acquitted of forbidding food and drink, or poisoning his son with salt.
It emerged during the trial that Arthur had been seen by social workers two months before his death, after concerns were raised by his grandmother, Joan Hughes, but concluded that there were “no protection concerns”.
The jurors took six hours and 15 minutes to pass judgment, after which they held a minute’s silence in memory of Arthur.
An independent review of the authorities’ contact with Arthur prior to his death is underway.