Warning: Readers may find some of the details in this article distressing
The parents of a 10-month-old baby who died on Christmas Day in 2020 have been found guilty of murdering Finley Boden.
At the start of the trial, a statement of facts was read out, which documented a timeline of the involvement of social services with Stephen Boden and Shannon Marsden – the Chesterfield couple accused of murdering their baby Finley.
Boden, 29, and Marsden 22, both denied murder, cruelty to a person under 16 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 six months.
The trial had heard how a catalogue of errors led to the death of the toddler, who was found with dozens of injuries including signs that he had been burnt.
Finley died on Christmas Day 2020 – just 39 days after being returned to parents Stephen Boden and Shannon Marsden from care.
He endured 57 fractures including breaks to his collar bone, shoulder, shin, thigh bones, pelvis and ribs in the days leading to his death, a jury had heard.
Mary Prior KC told the court Finley was subjected to "significant, substantial and repeated acts of severe violence" at the hands of his cannabis-addicted parents.
Ms Prior described how Finley, removed from their care at birth, was "fit and well, safe and happy" until he was returned to Boden and Marsden on November 17, 2020.
She said: "Within 39 days of moving back in with the defendants Finley was dead. The severity of his injuries showed violence used required considerable force.
"His parents worked together to hide the injuries from social workers, health visitors and the police."
The court was told toxicology tests showed cannabis was found in Finley's blood, indicating that he must have inhaled smoke in the 24 hours before his death.
Both parents said they did not smoke cannabis inside the house, but blood tests showed them both to be "heavy regular users", the court heard.
Revealed: Timeline of Finley's short life, court hears
September 20, 2019: Marsden informs social care she is 20 weeks pregnant with Finley
October 2019: Social care begin court proceedings in relation to the unborn child
January 21, 2020: Unborn Finley made subject of a child protection plan
February 11: A Housing Officer visited the home of Shannon Marsden and Stephen Boden, and found a strong smell of cannabis. She also noticed many of the doors had holes in them, which the pair later accepted were caused by Boden punching them.
February 15: Finley Boden is born and immediately placed in care.
February 18, 2020: Finley leaves hospital and is removed from the defendants’ care
February 25, 2020: Boden and Marsden inform social care they want Finley back
October 1, 2020: Family court directs Finley should be returned to care of the defendants under an eight-week plan including unsupervised visits and overnight stays of varying durations.
October 30: The parents visit social services and no signs of cannabis use are seen. Finley, who is still in care, appears to be fit and well.
November 17, 2020: Finley allowed to live permanently with his parents
November 19: A social worker visits the family home and notices Finley has a 4cm bump on his head, which Marsden claims was due to him hitting his head on a toy. This explanation is accepted by social services.
November 27, 2020: Social worker makes unannounced visit to Holland Road.
November 29: Family photographs show bruising to Finley’s left cheek, ear and scalp. This, the trial was told, is the first evidence of non-accidental injuries inflicted on Finley.
December 16: Marsden texts a relative to say “no one is seeing Finley right now” due to marks on his body, which she claimed she did not know the source of but said she did not want anyone else to see them. She adds that Finley has a temperature, a cold, and is generally unwell, and would not let anyone touch his mouth without screaming.
December 19: Boden texts a relative to say that Finley’s chest could be heard “rattling and wheezing”. A Covid test is ordered for him but is never posted, and Finley is never taken to a GP or a hospital.
December 23, 2020: An attempt by social workers to conduct a home visit is refused by Marsden due to Finley being ill, and several other visit and communication attempts are ignored. Boden texts his drug dealer that he wanted to “bounce (Finley) off the walls” due to the child keeping him up at night. The pair buy drugs later on in the day, and Marsden searches for symptoms of sepsis and images of babies who had the disease on Google. These searches were interrupted when she buys more cannabis.
December 24: (mid-day), 2020: Boden and Marsden seen in Chesterfield with Finley
December 24: (6.45pm), 2020: Defendants take Finley to Tesco Express
December 25: Finley is pronounced dead at 3.45am. After the police arrive at the hospital, a strong smell of cannabis is noticed. Police officers observe Boden asking a relative what food will be served for Christmas Day, and he is heard saying that he would sell Finley’s pram “on eBay”. The next day, the couple were, according to Mrs Prior, seen to be “laughing and joking as if they didn’t have a care in the world” with relatives at a family gathering.
The mother of a baby who died on Christmas Day told detectives the child's father inflicted his fatal injuries, a court has heard.
Jurors at Derby Crown Court were read extracts from one of Ms Marsden's interviews with police, which were held after she was arrested on suspicion of murder.
The court heard she told police that Stephen Boden mostly cared for Finley - bathing, feeding and changing him almost all the time.
She told the interviewer she had not noticed Finley's injuries, despite a post-mortem examination finding some of them dated back weeks before his death.
"I think it is technically my fault because I didn't see any injuries," she told police.
Marsden also claimed "she wasn’t in the room when it happened, she was upstairs."
When pressed on who injured the baby, despite initially saying she "didn't know", she later said: "Stephen did it."
She added: "Why would I want to hurt my own child?"
Boden says he may have 'rocked (Finley) too hard.'
Boden allegedly told a relative the family dog may have “jumped on” Finley, causing multiple broken ribs, while allegedly blaming marks to Finley’s mouth on his son hitting himself “with a rattle”, Ms Prior said.
In a police in an interview he said he may have "rocked (Finley) too hard", which could have accidentally caused the injuries, but never meant to hurt him.
The court heard that after Finley's death, Stephen Boden had allegedly later told a relative "Finley had been crying and crying, so in his words he, ‘Shook him a little bit."
Finley was taken to hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest. The court heard medics "thought Finley had been dead longer than the parents were suggesting."
When at hospital, saying goodbye to their son, a nurse heard Marsden say sorry to Finley and she had let him down, the court was told.
Stephen Boden, meanwhile, was heard “shouting” and “said he was selling Finley’s pushchair and he was going to put it on eBay”.
'I don't think he wants this family anymore' - a text message read
The courts were also read text messages made on December 12, 2020, from Marsden to one of her relatives. They read: "I wanted a nice happy family Christmas, but that’s not going to happen here."
The phone was shortly thereafter used to search for "emergency housing, mum and kids, Chesterfield", the court heard.
Further messages read: "He couldn’t give two ***** if I were still here or not, I don’t think he wants this family anymore."
Nine days later, on December 21, Marsden is said to have messaged a relative saying: "Get the police to mine, tell them I’m scared of Stephen around the baby.
"He’s just hit me again… tell them he’ll kill me. He just tried.
"Please, I will be dead. Not joking."
Derbyshire County Council comment
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.”