Two ‘monster’ parents who murdered their 10-month-old son by subjecting him to a campaign of ‘the most horrific abuse’ weeks after fooling officials into returning him to their care have been jailed for life.
Stephen Boden, 30, and Shannon Marsden, 22, inflicted more than 130 injuries on Finley Boden, including burns broken bones, before his death on Christmas Day 2020.
Dad Boden had a history of domestic violence and Finley was taken into care soon after he was born, with Derbyshire County Council warning of a ‘serious risk of harm’ if he stayed with the pair.
After Finley returned to their home in mid-November, his parents began a ‘sadistic’ campaign of abuse which left him with a catalogue of injuries including fractures to his pelvis, both legs, both collar bones, his left shoulder blade and right arm, along with 46 rib fractures.
He also had burn marks and 71 bruises, with pneumonia, sepsis and endocarditis – an infection of the lining of the heart – setting in.
Sentencing the couple, Mrs Justice Tipples said Finley’s last days would have consisted of ‘considerable pain, distress and suffering’.
The judge said: ‘The consequences of all the fractures to Finley’s body was that it was obvious to both of you by December 16 that Finley was very seriously injured and he was utterly miserable.
‘Finley was no longer able to sit up and play with his toys. He was no longer able to feed himself.
‘Every day activities such as changing his nappies, lifting his arms, putting on outdoor clothing on him or putting him in his pushchair all caused him severe pain.
‘The pain in his fractured pelvis and thigh bone could only have been alleviated by morphine and immobilising his body
‘You also knew that Finley was not eating his food. Instead of gaining weight, he lost weight. On top of that, his body was fighting the infections that he had.
‘By the evening of December 23, he was plainly dying. There was nothing subtle about this at all. It was totally obvious to both of you.’
She said that had the infant recieved medical attention and antibiotics to treat the infections which ultimately caused his death he would have made ‘a complete recovery’, adding: ‘He would have been alive today’.
Boden and Marsden were both jailed for life with minimum terms of 29 and 27 years respectivley, with the judge saying: ‘Neither of you have shown any remorse at all for what you have done.
Prosecutor Mary Prior KC said Finley suffered ‘sustained and vicious assaults’ that left him unable to eat amid a ‘background of neglect’ in ‘unsafe and unhygienic living conditions’.
She said the couple had ‘no ability’ to ‘provide any account as to what they did to Finley or why they did it’, meaning their families would never know the reason behind Finley’s murder.
Ms Prior added: ‘The defendants plotted together to ensure that social care were not advised of any serious illness, came up with a plot to suggest that Finley had Covid … and agreed a history to explain how Finley was, and their movements on the day of his death.’
In a victim impact statement, one of Finley’s relatives said he had suffered ‘the most horrific abuse’ and branded his parents ‘monsters’.
The relative said: ‘I thought they had both changed. I was obviously wrong and they only showed us what they wanted us to see.
‘They acted together to inflict all his injuries and then hide him away and allow him to die in such an awful way.’
They added: ‘Neither of you have shown any remorse. We as a family have grieved, but you haven’t needed to, as you are both responsible for his death.
‘We will never forget, or forgive, you both, and we will never forget Finley. I can only describe you both as monsters for what you have done.’
The jury saw images of the couple’s cluttered home and blood-stained items found by police inside.
Among them was a vomit and faeces-stained cot mattress cover, duvet cover, Mickey Mouse baby grow and a ‘Captain Cute’ T-shirt.
There were also bottles of liquid paracetamol which the couple used to treat Finley’s injuries rather than taking him to a doctor.
On a nearby bedside stool was gone-off milk in a baby bottle beside cannabis paraphernalia, giving lie to Boden’s trial claims that Finley was feeding normally before his death.
It was ‘extremely dirty, smelly and very cluttered’, while a paramedic said it ‘smelt of cannabis’.
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.
Boden told a relative the couple did not call an ambulance for an hour after Finley’s fatal collapse because he wanted to have a joint and hide the drugs stash, jurors heard.
His barrister Simon Kealy KC said ‘there was not a sadistic motivation’ behind Finley’s murder, adding the parents had a ‘strong emotional affection’ for their son.
He said: ‘This is not a case in which the parents sought the return of Finley in order to carry out his killing. The underlying motivation was to reunite his family.’
Andrew Vout KC, defending Marsden, told the court they should consider her as ‘the secondary party’ to the murder.
He read texts to the court sent by Marsden on December 12, 2020, to relatives expressing concerns for Finley’s welfare and searches for emergency housing in Chesterfield.
He said: ‘It is plain in my submission that Ms Marsden’s feelings for Mr Boden ultimately overrode all else and I must accept that these were choices that she herself made, that the evidence in my submission clearly demonstrates that she was covering for Mr Boden because she was in his thrall.
‘She was ill-equipped to deal with motherhood with an abusive partner.
‘She was young, immature and had mental health difficulties of her own, and she was utterly incapable and unwilling, I accept, to recognise the help and assistance that was being offered by social services.’
He added: ‘That she was a victim herself of Mr Boden’s abuse in my submission is well made out on the evidence that we heard.
‘It did not provide her with a defence, I don’t submit that it does, but it is inescapable that that was her situation at the material time.’
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