Warnings about the treatment of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes were ignored and something in the system responsible for ensuring his safety is broken, his grandparents have said.
Arthur’s stepmother Emma Tustin, 32, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 29 years at Coventry Crown Court on Friday after being found guilty of the six-year-old’s murder.
His father, Thomas Hughes, 29, was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter.
The pair showed “no remorse, no sympathy”, Arthur’s maternal grandmother said, as she branded them “depraved, sadistic, torturous, evil, calculating people”.
Madeleine Halcrow, who described her grandson as having been “the happiest child” before he went to live with his father and stepmother as the UK went into lockdown in March 2020, said she feels anger towards the organisations responsible for monitoring his safety.
In a tearful interview, she told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I am angry with the inter agencies because somewhere along the line communication hasn’t been passed along. The old adage ‘If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’… Well, something is broken in this system and something needs fixing.”
Peter Halcrow, Arthur’s maternal grandfather, said warnings were issued by the little boy’s paternal grandparents, by whom he was “well loved and well looked after”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “They’re decent people, and they were very concerned, and they issued warnings which were ignored, shall we say.”
He added: “I can’t understand why something wasn’t done about it.
“I don’t know who runs Solihull social services or who went round to the house, because they were called and they must have had a snapshot of the house, and they must have felt everything was fine.
“There’s been phone calls made to West Midlands Police as well, which were not acted on. It’s a tough one, when you hear the kind of abuse the boy was going through.”
He said someone should have stepped in when “alarm bells” were ringing.
Asked what he would like reviews into the six-year-old’s situation to consider, he told Today: “It’s not as if it was a kind of ‘passing by’ thing. I mean, people were flagging up there were problems and social services got involved and said there was nothing to worry about, and then ‘Hey ho’, three or four months later, the boy is dead.
“How can you ask me what I would like them to consider? I mean, they must have a tick-list to do – ‘House is clean, everything’s tidy, blah, blah, blah, so we’ll not worry about it’.
“If alarm bells are ringing all around, even neighbour statements, then surely there must be someone or some kind of body that can step in and say ‘Right, we’re taking that child out of that situation’, you know?
“If the father is not man enough to do that himself then someone has to say ‘This child is suffering and needs help’, and take them out of the situation. And I guess that’s what social services are for.”
As for the couple responsible for his death, Mr Halcrow said they had committed a “heinous crime” by killing a “defenceless, innocent boy”.
Mr Halcrow said: “I wouldn’t give them the time of day and I wouldn’t want them to see the light of day ever again.”
Arthur was left with an unsurvivable brain injury while in the sole care of “evil” Tustin.
She was convicted of murder by assaulting the defenceless child in the hallway of her home in Cranmore Road in Solihull on June 16 last year.
Arthur, whose body was covered in 130 bruises, died in hospital the next day.
Ms Halcrow said of the jail sentences: “Life should mean life. They took Arthur’s life, he’s not going to get his life back, he’s not going to have children of his own.”
Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, said they will be starting work on their investigation into services involved with child protection in Solihull, where Arthur died, next week.
She told Today: “It’s not an investigation of the case itself, which is a separate piece of work, but we’ll be looking at how those services jointly are dealing with child protection at the moment and what improvements can be made.”
West Midlands Police said: “The appalling murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes has had a profound effect on so many across the country.
“There is an ongoing review that will identify any lessons that can be learned from this case, and we will of course be fully co-operating with that.
“Our thoughts continue to be with Arthur’s family.”
Cllr Ian Courts, leader of Solihull Council, said: “There shouldn’t be a single council leader who won’t be grateful for a complete root-and-branch review of how society can ensure its children are kept safe. I will be asking a number of questions as to how, with so many agencies and layers of safeguarding in the area, this could have happened; what is the system, or lack of a system that failed Arthur.
“We intend to cooperate fully with the investigations and reviews announced, in an open and transparent manner, so that we can examine the specifics of Arthur’s tragically short life.
“However, all of these investigations and reviews take time and I have asked for an independent verification of the council’s involvement in Arthur’s life.”
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