A couple found guilty of the “savage and brutal” Christmas Day murder of their 10-month-old son have been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Finley Boden died 39 days after a family court ruled he could be returned to the care of his parents, Stephen Boden, 30, and Shannon Marsden, 22.
Derby crown court heard how Finley was subjected to “significant, substantial and repeated acts of severe violence” in the weeks before his death. He was beaten and burned and died on Christmas Day 2020 with 130 injuries.
On Friday, Mrs Justice Tipples sentenced Boden and Marsden to life in prison. Boden must serve a minimum of 29 years and Marsden a minimum of 27 years.
Boden and Marsden subjected their son to “unimaginable cruelty”, the judge said. “Once the injuries had been inflicted, Finley’s daily experience was one of considerable pain, distress and suffering.”
They were both “persuasive and compulsive liars” who acted together, Tipples said. “No one heard Finley cry or scream in pain because you inflicted the injuries on him together, with one of you fracturing his bone and the other keeping him quiet with your hand over his mouth.”
They knew Finley was seriously ill and later dying, yet no medical help was sought. “Neither of you have shown any remorse at all for what you have done.”
An independent serious case review is under way to look at the role played by protection agencies before Finley’s death. Its findings are due later this year.
Boden and Marsden both denied murder and child cruelty. A jury found them guilty after a five-month trial in which they heard that almost every bone in Finley’s body had been broken.
Paramedics were called to the family home in Old Whittington, Chesterfield, after receiving a 999 call at 2.27am on Christmas Day reporting Finley as unresponsive. He was taken to hospital but doctors were unable to revive him and he was pronounced dead at 3.45am.
A postmortem found 71 individual bruises on him as well as two burn marks – one thought to be “from a cigarette lighter flame” – and 57 fractures to his pelvis, shoulder, ankle and ribs.
His pelvis had been broken in two places, possibly from sustained “kicking or stamping”, and his injuries were likened to those resulting from a multi-storey fall.
Related: Timeline of Finley Boden’s short life
Jurors heard Boden had prioritised sourcing money to buy and smoke cannabis over his son’s care.
He also had a violent temper, and had smashed a door at home. Texting a drug dealer about Finley two days before his son’s death, he said: “I want to bounce him off the walls.”
At hospital only hours after his son’s death, Boden was heard telling Marsden he was going to sell Finley’s pushchair on eBay – later telling police he only said this “in an effort to lighten the mood”.
The abuse sustained by Finley has been described as “incomprehensible”. Paul Bullock, a detective inspector at Derbyshire police, said the injuries were “amongst the worst I’ve seen in my 27-year policing career”.
When the guilty verdicts were given the judge became emotional as she thanked the jury for their “extremely impressive” conduct, and excused members from further jury service for life. As Tipples spoke, members of the jury were in tears while the defendants sat silently in the dock.
The case has led to questions about how a baby who was on the radar of social services before he was born could die in such horrific circumstances.
Related: What chances were missed to save Finley Boden?
Boden and Marsden were regular cannabis users and social services became involved during the pregnancy because of concerns over drugs, domestic violence and the squalid state of their home.
The trial heard how Finley was made the subject of a child protection plan and immediately taken into care when he was born.
For the first nine months of his life Finley was “fit and well, safe and happy”, the prosecuting counsel Mary Prior KC told the trial.
After a request for the parents to have custody, a family court, sitting during the Covid lockdown, ordered that Finley should be returned to his parents within eight weeks, and made no order requiring his parents to be tested for cannabis use.
Boden and Marsden had convinced social workers they were making changes in their lives.
Court documents released after the guilty verdicts revealed that social workers asked for Finley to be returned to his parents in a planned and gradual way over a four-month transition period. But his parents wanted him back more quickly. Magistrates at a hearing conducted over the phone ruled that the transition period should be eight weeks.
The transcript of the hearing shows that the parents were said not to “pose such a risk” to Finley that the situation was “not manageable” or required him “to be placed out of their care in the foreseeable future”.
After the guilty verdict Derbyshire county council said it expressed heartfelt sympathy to all who knew and loved Finley. But it said it could not comment in detail until the findings of the serious case review.
Toby Perkins, the Labour MP for Chesterfield, said he believed underfunding of social services and the court system had contributed to Finley’s death. He said he had heard of high caseloads of social workers at constituency surgeries, which meant another child could “slip through the net”.2023-05-26T14:54:50Z dg43tfdfdgfd