Warning: Readers may find some of the details in this article distressing
A detective inspector who was part of the investigation into the death of Finley Boden says the injuries inflicted on the 10-month-old were among the worst he had seen in his 27-year career.
The youngster died on Christmas Day in 2020 at the family home in Chesterfield - just 39 days after being returned from care.
He had more than 130 injuries on his body and had sepsis and pneumonia.
His parents Stephen Boden and Shannon Marsden had both denied charges of murder, manslaughter and causing or allowing the death of a child.
But a jury at Derby Crown Court took just over a week to find them both guilty of murder following a trial of more than five months.
Following the verdict, Detective Inspector Paul Bullock, of Derbyshire Police, issued a statement outside court where he paid tribute to Finley and said that "justice had been delivered".
'He was much loved by his wider family'
He said: "Finley Boden died in what should have been the safest place in the world for him, his own home.
"He was much loved by his wider family and during his short life he knew many great times with them.
"That was until he was in the care of Stephen Boden and Shannon Marsden.
"As a parent, you have no greater responsibility to a child that is in your care, but Boden and Marsden could not even bring themselves to take poor Finley to hospital when it was totally clear that he was critically ill.
"They've never given a reasonable explanation as to why they did not do this, but it appears abundantly clear that their primary concern was their own freedom and not the life of Finley."
Finley suffered 57 fractures to his bones – including 45 rib fractures – several burns and 71 bruises in the weeks prior to his death.
The injuries inflicted included a broken shoulder, broken arm, broken shinbone, a thigh bone broken in four places, and a pelvis broken in two places.
He had also developed pneumonia, endocarditis – inflammation of the lining of the heart – and sepsis.
The police investigation – which took a year before charges were brought - compiled evidence from burn experts, paediatricians and pathologists, who concluded that the injuries were deliberately inflicted.
At the time of his death, Finley was found to have 130 separate bruises, bone breaks and fractures, and burns.
'No verdict or sentence could ever bring Finley back'
DI Bullock said: "The injuries that were inflicted upon Finley were among the worst I have seen in my 27 year policing career and it is inconceivable to me how any parent could cause those devastating injuries to a child.
"No verdict or sentence could ever bring Finley back but we now know the truth to what's happened to him and today justice has been delivered."
DI Bullock went on to say the impact of the case on everyone involved had been huge and he praised the work of the force.
"I would like to personally thank all of the staff investigators from both the police and the CPS who have been involved in securing justice for Finley.
"And to say that the impact on everyone who has been involved in this has been huge.
"I hope that today's verdict brings a form of closure to everyone who has been involved and in particular to Finley's wider family to whom I would like to pass on my personal and the wider forces continued condolences."
Not prepared for level of abuse
Detective Inspector Steve Shaw who led the investigation has said that officers could not have been prepared for the level of abuse they uncovered.
He said that the police investigation into the death of Finley found that the boy’s bones were “crushed and twisted” by Shannon Marsden and Stephen Boden as part of a campaign of abuse.
Discussing the case, DI Shaw said: "The appearance of Finley [at the time of his death] was generally showing signs that he had been neglected."
DI Shaw adds: "Officers went to the house on Holland Road where they lived and they found squalid living conditions, filthy bedding, filthy clothing, rotting food in the kitchen, no environment to bring a child up in, and there were signs of cannabis abuse scattered around the house.
"But I don’t think that prepared us for the level of injury that we discovered when the post mortem took place.
"The majority of Finley’s bones were fractured in some way and as the investigation progressed, the evidence from some of the experts around the levels of force that had to be used – Finley’s bones had to be crushed and twisted with quite some force – eliminated any accidental cause of these injuries."
Drug use and domestic abuse
Further enquiries revealed that drug use and domestic abuse were themes of Boden and Marsden’s relationship in the months and weeks prior to Finley’s murder.
But DI Shaw said that while “you can’t dispute there is an element of domestic abuse” in the pair’s relationship, both “had to be complicit” in what was happening.
He said: "Despite what happened in that address on that day, when Shannon and Stephen were released on bail, initially with conditions not to contact each other, within a couple of weeks they had resumed their relationship and they continued with that relationship until they were arrested again, both charged and placed in prison.
"Even whilst they were in prison, they were writing affectionate letters to each other, and so while clearly, this relationship had quite toxic elements in the fact that the couple would argue, it could be a disruptive and certainly a poor environment to raise any child, there was, in my view, quite strong elements of co-dependency on each other.
"That is taking into account that the Holland Road address where they lived, was in a squalid state and a small property for a family, so both parties had to be complicit and have knowledge of what was going on within that tiny space."
Derbyshire County Council statement
A Derbyshire County Council spokeswoman 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."