Manipulative, aggressive, evil – those were the words used to describe killer step-mum Emma Tustin in court.
The 32-year-old and partner Thomas Hughes, 29, subjected little Arthur Labinjo-Hughes to months of abuse and torture before his murder.
The step-mum was described as a “controlling” woman who would “put her claws in” during a nine-week trial at Coventry Crown Court.
The mum-of-two had admitted two counts of child cruelty but had denied murdering Arthur, who was fatally injured at her Shirley home on June 16, 2020.
The boy’s father, Thomas Hughes, was convicted of manslaughter and two counts of child cruelty, including standing in isolation and assaults.
He was cleared on two counts of cruelty for deprivation of food and drink and salt poisoning.
During the trial, Tustin admitted her cruelty, including making Arthur stand by the door from the “minute he woke up to the minute he went to bed”.
She made sickening recordings of the little boy saying “nobody loves me” and was caught on camera yanking his bedding away as he slept on the floor of the living room.
Yet the mum played the pity card in the witness box, breaking down in tears after revealing she had an abortion with Hughes baby while in custody.
She confirmed on May 31 she was pregnant again after an unplanned conception – her third pregnancy with Hughes.
She said: “When I was in custody I didn’t have a miscarriage. I was banking on a miscarriage. It didn’t happen. At 21 weeks I aborted my daughter.”
But the jury saw through the crocodile tears.
Tustin, of Cranmore Road, was branded not just physically aggressive, but also an “intellectually aggressive” woman who could not cope if she did not get her own way.
Bernard Richmond QC, defending Hughes, previously revealed “worrying” features about Tustin’s personality.
He told jurors: “I’m afraid when you think about them and analyse the evidence and the way she behaved towards Arthur, the conclusion you may reach, the word you are looking for, is evil.
“She is, as you will see as we go through this one last time, manipulative, controlling, she uses emotional blackmail, she does everything she can to control the narrative to get her version of events in first and control the way people think.
Mr Richmond continued: “She is aggressive, she is not just physically aggressive she is intellectually aggressive. She makes a point and keeps on making it and making it.
“When you say something she will pick you up on a particular word. She will get highly defensive very easily. She will use evidence to support her contentions and she will use it very cleverly.”
From the very early days, controlling Tustin pushed an “anti-Arthur narrative” using photographs and audio recordings, he said.
“Don’t be fooled for a second by this notion she was a loving confidante of Arthur at the start. By Christmas 2019 or early January he (Arthur) was telling his uncles that Emma Tustin was mean,” Mr Richmond added.
BrumWish 2021 aims to get thousands of Christmas gifts to young children in need across our city – the homeless, the vulnerable, kids in care and kids who have little.
This year’s appeal is bigger and better than ever – because we have teamed up with our partners at #Toys4Birmingham, including Thrive Together Birmingham, the Birmingham Playcare Network, the Edgbaston Foundation and Birmingham Forward Steps.
Also involved are Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust, Barnardo’s, Spurgeon’s children’s charity, the Springfield project in Sparkhill, St Paul’s Community Development Trust and Your Local Pantry, which runs food hubs in 12 locations across Birmingham and the Black Country.
You can buy a gift from the #Brumwish Amazon Wishlist here.
Or you can collect and drop off donations of new and nearly new toys and gifts to special donation days at Edgbaston Stadium, B5 7QU, on Saturday November 27, Friday December 3 and Saturday December 4, from 11am to 3pm, where volunteers will be waiting to see you.
Brand new or nearly new, unwrapped gifts, books and toys for all ages will be accepted.
You can also donate cash, which will go into a fund held by a charity partner to use to plug gaps or buy specialist toys for children with additional needs. This is the link to make a donation.
“Another feature of Emma Tustin is she does everything on the sly. She does things she can deny or interpret another way.
“She is not someone who takes a backseat, she is someone who will put her claws in. Better yet, like a plant putting her tentacles in. She would do and say anything to get her own way.
“The reason she can’t cope in this trial is that up until this trial no-one has said to Emma Tustin ‘no’. You see how she is when she can’t get her own way. What you saw in her was a snapshot of when she doesn’t get her own way.”
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