Cannabis-smoking parents guilty of Christmas Day murder of their baby - days after he was placed back in their care

14 April 2023, 13:21 | Updated: 14 April 2023, 14:24

The baby was burnt and beaten.
The baby was burnt and beaten. Picture: Derbyshire Police/Handout

By Emma Soteriou

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.

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Stephen Boden, 30, and Shannon Marsden, 22, were convicted after a five-week trial at Derby Crown Court on Friday, 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 described how 10-month-old Finley had suffered almost 130 "appalling" injuries, including 71 bruises over his body and 57 fractures, many inflicted in the short period before his fatal collapse.

Hours after his son's death, Boden was heard telling Marsden at hospital that he was going to sell Finley's pushchair on eBay - later telling police he only said this in an effort to lighten the mood.

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Finley was 10 months old when he died
Finley was 10 months old when he died. Picture: Handout

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".

He fatally collapsed after suffering a cardiac arrest at the family's "cluttered" and filthy terraced home in Holland Road, Old Whittington, Chesterfield, Derbyshire - with faeces later found in the bedroom.

Paramedics were called there at 2.33am on Christmas Day and Finley was taken to hospital, but despite medics' best efforts he was pronounced dead at 3.45am.

Shannon Marsden
Shannon Marsden. Picture: Derbyshire Police

Boden claimed at the time that 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 saying: "I want to bounce him (Finley) off the walls."

Jurors heard Finley was returned to the couple's care over eight weeks by a court order, despite social workers asking for a longer transition.

Child protection concerns meant Finley was removed from his parents' care shortly after being born in February 2020.

Boden, from 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.

The pair, who did not react as the verdicts were read, will be sentenced at a later date.

Stephen Boden
Stephen Boden. Picture: Derbyshire Police

Andrew Baxter, Crown Prosecution Service deputy chief crown prosecutor, said: "The violence these two individuals inflicted and their wilful neglect in covering up his injuries is incomprehensible, as his parents they should have been the ones who protected him from harm, not be the cause of it.

"These defendants sought to have their child returned to their care and then treated him in this appalling manner.

"It was clear that Finley's injuries were obvious and that he needed help, yet his own parents chose to ignore his needs to protect themselves."

Adding that the case had been "distressing and complex", he offered his sympathies to Finley's loved ones.

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