ITV News Central Correspondent Callum Watkinson reports
Warning: Some readers may find this article distressing
A father has been jailed for at least 21 years for killing his six-year-old son Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and his partner has been sentenced to life imprisonment after they subjected the boy to months of physical abuse.
Arthur’s father, 29-year-old Thomas Hughes, must serve at least 21 years for the manslaughter of his son, after he suffered an "unsurvivable brain injury" on June 16, 2020.
Tustin carried out the murder while in the sole care of Arthur at her home in Cranmore Road, Solihull, violently shaking him and repeatedly banging his head - likely against the hallway wall, floor or door, the court heard.
Justice Mark Wall QC concluded Hughes deliberately "researched pressure points" to inflict the "maximum pain" on his son Arthur.
He said the trial had been "without doubt one of the most distressing and disturbing cases I have had to deal with".
Emma Tustin, 32, who was brought to Coventry Crown Court, "refused to come up" to the dock for the duration of the sentencing.
She must serve a minimum term in jail for 29 years for murdering the defenceless boy, who had been subjected to a campaign of "evil" abuse.
'I have no doubt Arthur was regularly beaten by both of you', Judge Wall says
The prime minister has said he found it difficult to read about the case.
Boris Johnson said: “Like many people I find it hard to read it, let alone to understand how people could behave like that to a defenceless little child. “And I must say, I’m glad that justice had been done, in the sense that they have both received tough sentences, but that is absolutely no consolation, and what we’ve got to make sure now is we learn the lessons about that case, we look at exactly what happened, what else could have been done to protect that child. “And it is early days, but I can tell you this, we will leave absolutely no stone unturned to find out exactly what went wrong in that appalling case.”
Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi echoed Mr Johnson, adding: "We are determined to protect children from harm and where concerns are raised we will not hesitate to take urgent and robust action.
“We will not rest until we have the answers we need. I will address this further in Parliament on Monday.”
'I’m glad that justice had been done'
Addressing Tustin, who he said had made a "calculated" decision to kill, Judge Wall said: "You are a manipulative woman who will tell any lie, and shift the blame on to anyone, to save your own skin."
Jailing the pair, Judge Wall said: "This cruel and inhuman treatment of Arthur was a deliberate decision by you to brush off his cries for help as naughtiness."
While addressing them both, he said: "I have no doubt Arthur was regularly beaten by both of you, each was aware of what the other was doing."
Judge Wall said Tustin must serve a minimum term in jail for 29 years before she can appeal her conviction for starving, poisoning and then murdering her six-year-old stepson.
He warned Tustin if she is refused parole, she may have to spend the rest of her life behind bars.
Judge Wall emphasised Arthur was "vulnerable" when he was moved into Tustin's home upon the announcement of lockdown.
Addressing the court, Judge Wall stated he was sure Tustin had poisoned Arthur with such a "huge dose" of salt that "the levels of sodium could not be properly measured" by the hospital
Tustin gave him salt before the fatal attack as well as smaller doses for "some time" before, Judge Wall said. He said: "It is the only explanation that we heard Arthur crying out for food only for him to reject the food you prepared for him.
"It explains why you were restricting his access to free water for some time."
Judge Wall added: "In the last three months of Arthur's life he was subjected to unimaginable suffering at the hands of both of you."
He told the court the couple "told lies to conceal" what was happening - by Tustin's account to social services and Hughes' account to the school.
Tustin 'moved Arthur's body around the house to make it look like an accident', Judge Wall says
Tustin murdered Arthur at her home in Solihull, violently shaking him and repeatedly banging his head - likely against the hallway wall, floor or door, the court heard.
She then took a photograph of the unconscious youngster on her mobile phone, while he lay dying in her hall, then sending the image to Hughes.
Tustin then took 12 minutes to call 999, instead first ringing Hughes, before lying to medics and later police that Arthur "fell and banged his head".
She claimed at trial he must have thrown himself down the stairs, despite evidence he was so starved he could barely stand.
Judge Wall said Tustin "moved Arthur's body around the house to make it look like an accident".
After his death, Arthur was found to have 130 injuries all over his body, after being hit, slapped, kicked, punched and beaten, "over and over".
He died after suffering fatal brain damage from a "shaking injury" and a post-mortem examination confirmed his death was caused by a head injury.
Addressing Tustin, Judge Wall said: "You wanted Thomas Hughes so he could provide for you and your own children but did not want to be troubled by Arthur any longer."