‘Chances missed’ to save tragic boy, 6, killed by ‘wicked’ stepmum and dad

Social services have come under fire in court for allegedly "missing" chances to save a six-year-old boy before he was killed by his dad and stepmum.

Tragic Arthur Labinjo-Hughes died in hospital from a fatal brain injury inflicted by stepmum Emma Tustin at her home in Shirley, Solihull.

She was convicted of his murder while dad Thomas Hughes was found guilty of manslaughter after being cleared of murder.

Arthur's dad was also convicted of two counts of child cruelty, including forcing Arthur to stand in isolation.

Tustin previously admitted two counts of child cruelty and was found guilty of two more cruelty charges, including force-feeding Arthur with salt and refusing to give him food and drink.

Hughes was cleared of depriving his son of food and drink and also poisoning him with salt.

Reports suggest the child could have potentially been saved as a court heard how authorities missed four red flags that could have alerted them to Arthur's ill-treatment behind closed doors.

During his murder trial, Coventry Crown Court heard how Arthur's loved ones – including his grandmother and uncle – passed on their concerns to social services at Solihull Council and West Midlands Police two months before his tragic death in June 2020, Birmingham Live reports.

Arthur's grandmother Joanne Hughes told the court she phoned social services to pass on her concerns about Arthur's welfare in order to get authorities to intervene.

She told the court she took photographs of Arthur's bruised back and offered to send them to social services – but she said they "didn't want to see them".

Arthur's grandmother told the court she had concerns it was Tustin who caused the injury after the youngster told her he had been grabbed by his cheeks, shoved against a wall and called an "ugly horrible brat".

A MASH (multi-agency safeguarding hub) referral was made on April 16, 2020, two months before Arthur was killed.

Pictures of his bruised body and a doomed home visit were two potential opportunities lost by authorities. Despite worries by his fearful family, social services declared Arthur was "happy and playful" and took no action.

Solihull social worker Joanne Kavanagh viewed the picture of Arthur's bruise a week after the home visit.

"I was really confused," Ms Kavanagh told the jury. "I was in shock that these photos had been taken the day before."

Joanne Hughes told the court she had previously warned her son that she would contact social services and had urged him to allow Arthur to stay with her.

Ms Hughes said: "He said: 'No he's my son, he will be fine, nobody's going to hurt him'. I said: 'If that's your final answer I will phone social services."

Ms Kavanagh and family support worker Angela Scarlett-Coppage visited Arthur on April 17, 2020.

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The purpose of the visit was to see if the case needed to "come in" for a full social worker assessment, if it required an "early help" programme, or if there were 'no concerns' requiring no further involvement.

The pair were told Arthur and Tustin's son had a fight with a boxing glove set, which resulted in both boys being hurt.

The young boys were spoken to together, but not individually, at Tustin's home in Cranmore Road, Shirley.

A yellow bruise found on Arthur's back was put down to "boisterous play", with Arthur seeming "happy and playful."

Ms Kavanagh told the jury: "I can only say what I saw. I saw two extremely happy, playful children with no injuries of concern. I take my job extremely seriously as a social worker."

It was concluded there were "no safeguarding issues."

Lawyers during the trial told the jury they "can't trust" what social services said in evidence and added that "as far as investigations go, that wasn't their finest hour."

The pair will be sentenced tomorrow (Friday).

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