Andrew Hughes, the uncle of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, said his brother Thomas went “within himself” when he started a relationship with Tustin and started to lose ties with his family
A woman jointly accused of murdering her six-year-old step-son with the boy’s father has been described as “cold” and “manipulating” to a court.
Andrew Hughes, the uncle of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, also claimed Emma Tustin was ‘domineering’ to the young boy and argued she was the ‘catalyst’ for his death, Birmingham Live reports.
He stated his brother Thomas Hughes, who is jointly accused of murder, went ‘within himself’ when he started a relationship with Tustin and started to lose ties with his family.
Tustin, 32, and Hughes, 29, have denied murder and multiple counts of child cruelty. It is alleged they ‘systematically’ abused Arthur during the first coronavirus lockdown before he collapsed of fatal head injuries at their home in Cranmore Road, Shirley on June 16 last year.
He died the following morning in hospital after doctors concluded he could not be saved and switched his life support off.
The trial at Coventry Crown Court resumed yesterday after a number of issues ground proceedings to a halt for more than three days this week.
On Monday, the jury was told that Tustin had been taken to hospital due to concerns over her health. This afternoon Judge Wall stated she had been assessed and deemed fit to continue.
He also confirmed one juror has now been discharged on health grounds and reiterated a previous direction to the remainder of the panel to ignore media coverage of the case.
As the only witness to give evidence yesterday, Andrew Hughes described his first impression of Tustin as ‘very, very cold’. He stated his brother’s relationship with her moved ‘very quickly’ and that Thomas Hughes soon became ‘stricter’ on Arthur by punishing him for minor things that ‘weren’t an issue before’.
Mr Hughes added his brother found it ‘increasingly hard’ to spend time with Arthur because Tustin would ‘make an effort to intervene’.
He told the court the last time he saw Arthur was around a week before the first lockdown in March 2020 and said: “He seemed far more timid. He seemed more aware he may get in trouble. There was this voice Arthur would sometimes make, referred to as his baby voice. Before it was never an issue but it became an issue not long after Ms Tustin came on the scene.”
Mr Hughes stated his brother was ‘very warm’ with a ‘strong belief in family’ prior to meeting Tustin. Describing his impression of his brother afterwards he added: “He went within himself. With his immediate family, mom, dad, brothers, the ties seemed to become weaker and weaker. He didn’t seem to be invested in keeping that strong.”
In cross-examination Mr Hughes was asked if thought everything that happened to Arthur was Tustin’s fault, to which he replied: “I believe she’s the catalyst for it.”
He denied he had intentionally walked in front of her in just his shorts to ‘show off’, although acknowledged his brother told him off for doing so.
He stated he found nothing attractive about Tustin and said: “She was domineering. If she didn’t get what she wanted she would make things difficult for everyone else.”
Reiterating his view of her Mr Hughes added: “A cold, manipulating, calculating person who made every attempt to stay away from the family and draw my brother from the family as well.”
It has previously been alleged Tustin and Thomas Hughes made Arthur spend up to 14 hours a day isolated in their hallway, assaulted him, deprived him of food and water as well as poisoned him with salt.
The prosecution has argued Hughes encouraged violence towards his son but that Tustin carried out the fatal attack while she was alone with him at the Cranmore Road address.
The trial began in early October and today Judge Wall told the jury they could be sent out to reach verdicts as early as next Wednesday.
The case continues.