A couple who murdered their 10-month-old son on Christmas Day 2020 just weeks after he was returned to their care have been jailed.
Shannon Marsden, 22, and Stephen Boden, 30, were found guilty in April of the murder of Finley Boden in Derbyshire.
At today’s sentencing, Mrs Justice Tipples told Marsden she would serve a minimum of 27 years behind bars, while Boden was told he would serve at least 29 years in jail.
Finley died just a few weeks after he was placed back into the care of his parents, who burnt and beat the infant – leaving him with 130 separate injuries, including multiple bone breaks and fractures.
His injuries included a fractured thigh and broken pelvis, burn marks and 71 bruises. Finley also had sepsis and endocarditis – an infection of the lining of the heart.
During sentencing, Mrs Justice Tipples described the pair as “persuasive and accomplished liars” who inflicted “unimaginable cruelty” on their son.
She said Finley’s last days “are terrible to describe”, adding that once the injuries had been inflicted the infant’s daily experience was “one of considerable pain, distress and suffering”.
She added: “You both knew that Finley was very seriously ill and dying… yet you deliberately failed to seek any medical help for him and you made sure that he was not seen by anyone that could have rescued him and taken him away from your care.
“Medical intervention would have saved Finley’s life.”
She added that she is sure, given the nature and number of Finley’s injuries, that he was “subject to repeated abuse on multiple occasions”.
Baby killed weeks after returning to parents’ full-time care
The judge said the parents were “persuasive and accomplished liars” who lied about Finley having COVID to prevent anyone from coming to see the baby.
The pair killed their son weeks after he returned to their full-time care following a family court order made in October that year, having previously described him as “perfect” and a “cuddly, chunky munchkin”.
One social worker had warned the court that Finley would be “at risk of suffering from neglect, physical and emotional harm” if Marsden and Boden continued taking illegal drugs or failed to continue making positive changes.
A representative for Derbyshire County Council also told the court hearing that “all parties” agreed Finley should “transition” back to the care of his parents but asked for this to be staged over four months and with the need for additional drug testing.
However, a representative for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), who was representing Finley at the near-two-hour hearing, challenged the four-month transition and said extra regular drug testing was necessary.
Following the sentencing, an NSPCC spokesperson said the abuse inflicted on Finley was “appalling and heartbreaking”.
“The death of a child in such brutal circumstances leaves many of us asking questions and we await the Child Safeguarding Practice Review to establish exactly what happened and any ways in which Finley could have been better protected, in order to help prevent future tragedies,” they added.
‘Savage and brutal’ abuse after return to parents
After Finley returned to their home in Chesterfield in mid-November 2020, his parents began what prosecutors said was a “savage and brutal” campaign of abuse.
Following their baby’s death, Boden was heard mentioning how he would sell Finley’s pram on eBay and the pair were later seen laughing together in a taxi.
During the trial, Boden suggested that Finley’s injuries could have been caused by rocking him too hard, and said that the pram comment was made in an attempt to “lighten the mood”.
It was also said that when visiting Finley’s body in a hospital chapel of rest, Marsden was heard to say: “His dad’s battered him to death. I didn’t protect him.”
The jury saw images of the couple’s cluttered home, including pictures taken by police showing cannabis paraphernalia next to gone off baby milk, and heard how the pair hid their abuse from social workers and family members.
Use of the class B drug was a key theme in the days immediately before Finley’s death, with one drug deal witnessed by a social worker during an unannounced visit in December 2020.
Finley’s clothes and bedding were found to be stained with saliva, blood and faeces.