A cannabis-smoking mother and father have been convicted of the “savage and brutal” Christmas Day murder of their baby son, after burning and beating him “in repeated acts of severe violence” in the days before his death.
Stephen Boden, 30, and Shannon Marsden, 22, were convicted on Friday following a five-week trial at Derby Crown Court, after the death of Finley Boden in the winter 2020 Covid lockdown – 39 days after he was placed back into their care.
Prosecutor Mary Prior KC previously described how Finley had suffered a catalogue of “appalling” injuries, including 71 bruises on his body and 57 fractures, many inflicted in the short period before his fatal collapse. Opening the trial, Ms Prior said it concerned “the savage and brutal murder of a baby boy”.
Finley’s pelvis had been broken in two places, possibly from sustained “kicking or stamping”, and he had two burns on his left hand – one “from a hot, flat surface”, the other probably “from a cigarette lighter flame”.
The child suffered a cardiac arrest at the family’s terraced home in Holland Road in Old Whittington, Derbyshire. Paramedics were called to the Chesterfield suburb at 2.33am on Christmas Day and Finley was taken to hospital, but despite medics’ best efforts he was pronounced dead at 3.45am.
Only hours after his son’s death, Boden was heard telling Marsden at the hospital that he was going to sell Finley’s pushchair on eBay – later telling police he had only said this in an effort to lighten the mood.
Later Marsden, while visiting Finley’s body in a hospital chapel of rest on 11 January 2021, would say: “His dad’s battered him to death. I didn’t protect him.”
Boden had claimed the family dog may have “jumped on” his son, inflicting broken ribs, while a tear to the inside of Finley’s mouth, likely caused by a dummy being rammed in, was blamed on the child hitting himself with a rattle.
He also sent a text message two days before the child’s death that said: “I want to bounce him [Finley] off the walls.”
Jurors heard that Finley had been returned gradually to the couple’s care over a period of eight weeks after a court order was issued in October 2020, despite social workers asking for a longer transition.
Child protection concerns meant Finley was originally removed from his parents’ care shortly after being born in February 2020. A report by the family’s social worker had recommended a six-month transition – three times longer than the eight-week period that was ordered at a court hearing concerning the child’s care.
Boden, of Romford Way in Barrow Hill, Chesterfield, and Marsden, of no fixed address, denied murder, two counts of child cruelty, and two charges of causing or allowing the death of a child.
Marsden told police that Boden had inflicted the injuries on Finley, the court heard.
Boden admitted telling police in an interview that he may have “rocked” Finley “too hard”, which could have accidentally caused the injuries, but said this was never an attempt to hurt him.
“When I used to rock Finley, he used to like it quite fast and strong when we did it, but it got to the point where I had to give some kind of explanation as to how it could have happened,” he said. “I felt under pressure to give some type of explanation [to the police].”
The pair, who did not react as the verdicts were read, will be sentenced at a later date.
The trial judge, Mrs Justice Tipples, choked back tears as she thanked the jury for its “extremely impressive” conduct throughout the proceedings, and excused members from being required to undertake jury service in future.
“I would like to thank you for your dedication, commitment and patience in carrying out this extremely important public service,” she said.
“Given the length of this case and the awful nature of the facts you have had to consider, I discharge you from jury service for life.”
As she spoke, at least four members of the jury were in tears, while the defendants sat silent, unmoving, arms folded and looking on, in the nearby dock.
A Derbyshire County Council spokesperson said: “Finley’s death is a tragedy and our heartfelt sympathy goes out to everyone who knew and loved him.
“Following the conviction of Finley’s parents for murder, we continue to be fully engaged with the Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership, which has commissioned a local child safeguarding practice review.
“This is a statutory legal process, formerly referred to as a serious case review, which looks in depth at the role of all agencies following the death of a child. The review is conducted independently, and it would not be appropriate for us to comment further until that review is complete, to ensure we do not pre-empt its findings.
“Once the review process has concluded, we will be in a position to communicate more fully about this case.”