Dad who murdered son used police brutality techniques and starved him

A dad who is accused of murdering his son has admitted forcing him to stand for 14 hours a day and applying pressure to his neck using techniques learned from watching videos about police brutality in America.

Arthur Labinjo Hughes, a six-year-old child, was found dead last June with 125 areas of bruising on his body and critical brain injuries.

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

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

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

Giving evidence today, Hughes told the court that he was "mentally abused" into complying with a disciplinary routine and "didn’t intentionally want to hurt Arthur".

He agreed that he had subjected his own son to "forced standing", denying him an ice cream during a heatwave and depriving him of "adequate amounts of water."

Hughes also admitted he would use "pressure points on Arthur’s neck to discipline him" after seeing videos about police brutality in the USA online.

He said he would use these pressure points for "about 10-15 seconds" to "help discipline him."

Under cross-examination prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC asked Hughes “You demonstrated this on yourself didn’t, and even hurt yourself?”

Hughes replied "yes" and when quizzed on how forceful this was on a scale of one to ten Hughes said: "Probably a six or seven”.

Mr Hankin asked: “You researched how to inflict pain on your son?" Hughes denied this claim.

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.

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 Emma over the wellbeing of his son.

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

Hughes was also aware that his parents had concerns over Arthur and had rung 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.

Hughes admitted that this was an evil act "probably on a scale of six or seven out of ten" and it was purely to trick him.

Hughes said: “All Arthur wanted to do was go back to his grandparents, I felt that wasn't the right move. Arthur would get his own way a bit too much there.

“I did trick him. I never relished it.”

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When Hughes was asked about the dehydration Arthur had suffered, Hughes admitted to denying him food and water and said he would reject food.

Mr Hankin asked: “He rejected food because it was contaminated with salt, didn’t he?”

Hughes replied: “That has been an explanation, yes."

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

Mr Hankin said: “You told police that you told Arthur that the weekend before his death that his attitude was changing."

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

Mr Hankin added: “On that day, June 15, 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’”.

Mr Hankin quizzed Hughes about further messages on June 16, where he text: ‘I'll deal with him, it won't be pretty’, ‘put him outside, put him out with the rubbish.’

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

Hughes replied: "Yes."

Addressing the jury directly, Hughes said: "The things I have accepted, I am disgusted in.

"No parents should act like I did. I cannot see my son ever again because of this, it is horrible.

"Emma's behaviour was disgusting – she gaslighted an awful lot of people."

The trial continues.

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