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Cannabis-taking mum and dad burnt and beat baby son in 'brutal' Christmas Day murder, court told
2 November 2022, 17:05
A cannabis-using mother and father carried out the "savage and brutal" Christmas Day murder of their baby son after burning and beating him "in repeated acts of severe violence", a court has been told.
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Stephen Boden, 29, and Shannon Marsden, 22, are accused of killing 10-month-old Finley Boden during the winter 2020 Covid lockdown - 39 days after he was placed back into their care.
Mary Prior KC, opening the case for the prosecution on Wednesday, said Finley suffered a catalogue of "appalling" injuries, including 57 breaks and 71 bruises, some up to two weeks old.
Only hours after his son's death, Boden was heard telling Marsden at hospital he was going to sell Finley's pushchair "on eBay" - but later told police he only said it "in an effort to lighten the mood".
Finley's pelvis was broken in two places, Ms Prior said, possibly from sustained "kicking or stamping" inflicted in the short period before his fatal collapse.
The youngster also had two burns on his left hand, images of which were shown to Derby Crown Court jurors; one a contact burn "from a hot, flat surface", the other probably "from a cigarette lighter flame".
The inside of Finley's mouth was "torn", with Ms Prior saying: "This is caused by forcing a dummy or a bottle in the mouth."
The baby had a "spiral" break to a thigh, while a shin bone break was "consistent with being held by the ankle and gripped and twisted".
Finley's cause of death was given as multiple episodes of non-accidental blunt force trauma, the court was told.
Ms Prior alleged "self-centred" Boden and Marsden were "in it together", saying the couple prioritised getting money to spend on cannabis over their baby's care.
Jurors were shown photographs of the couple's cluttered home in Old Whittington, near Chesterfield, Derbyshire, and blood-stained items found by police inside, including a vomit and faeces-stained cot mattress cover, duvet cover, Mickey Mouse baby grow and a "Captain Cute" T-shirt.
Ms Prior said Marsden, visiting Finley's body in a hospital chapel of rest on January 11 2021, said: "His dad's battered him to death. I didn't protect him."
Ms Prior said: "This case involves the savage and brutal murder of a baby boy called Finley.
"He was subjected to significant, substantial and repeated acts of severe violence.
"The severity of the injuries showed the violence used would have required considerable force.
"His parents, we say, worked together to hide the injuries from the social worker, from the health visitor and the police for their own self-centred reasons.
"They didn't want social services to remove Finley if the appalling way they were treating Finley was discovered."
On December 19 2020, Boden told a relative Finley was "really, really, really ill", the jury was told.
On the same day, Marsden told one of her family: "Finley seems a bit more perky today, he can be put on the floor without crying and moaning. Lol."
Despite his parents being told to "get him to the doctors", Finley, who was not registered with a GP, was not taken for medical attention before his fatal collapse, jurors heard.
Instead, he was allegedly given doses of liquid paracetamol.
Finley died after suffering a cardiac arrest at the family's "cluttered" and filthy terraced home - with faeces later found in the bedroom.
Paramedics were called to the address at 2.33am on Christmas Day, finding Marsden "upset and screaming" and the child without a pulse.
Medics discovered Boden trying to resuscitate Finley on the kitchen floor but also "noticed that his (Finley's) clothing was dirty, had dirty hands and fingernails, and he had new and raw scrapes and abrasions on his nose and linings of his nostrils," said Ms Prior.
Ms Prior said: "(Medics) thought Finley had been dead longer than the parents were suggesting."
The address was later described by a doctor as "extremely dirty, smelly and very cluttered", while a paramedic said it "smelt of cannabis".
Finley was taken to hospital where medics tried to save him. He was declared dead at 3.45am.
When the parents were taken to a hospital room to say goodbye to their son, a nurse heard Marsden say sorry to Finley and she had let him down, the court was told.
Boden, meanwhile, was heard "shouting" and "said he was selling Finley's pushchair and he was going to put it on eBay", with another nurse allegedly hearing him say "he'd taken a picture of the pram so he could sell it".
Boden later claimed to 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.
He told another relative the pair did not call an ambulance for an hour because he wanted to have a cannabis joint and hide the drugs stash, she said.
She added: "He told her they needed to get a second post-mortem to delay the court proceedings."
At 6.45am, hours after their son's death, they "surprised" officers "when the topic of conversation in the (police) car was what the food was for Christmas Day".
On Boxing Day, the pair were heard at a relative's house "laughing and joking", Ms Prior said.
When the couple were at a police custody suite on New Year's Eve, Marsden told an officer "she wasn't in the room when it happened, she was upstairs", Ms Prior added.
"She said she should have looked after him and she failed."
After his death, Boden allegedly later told a relative "Finley had been crying and crying, so in his words he, 'Shook him a little bit'," Ms Prior said.
After they were arrested and bailed with conditions not to see each other, Boden and Marsden were seen by social workers in a park on January 31, the court heard.
The Crown say the pair, who met when Marsden was 17, "remained in a relationship... until they were charged" and repeatedly "lied" to cover up what they did.
Ms Prior said the couple claimed: "They saw nothing, they heard nothing, they noticed nothing."
"It shows they were - and they remain - in it together," she said.
Boden, of Romford Way in Barrow Hill, Chesterfield, and Marsden, of no fixed address, deny murder, two counts of child cruelty, and two charges of causing or allowing the death of a child.
The trial continues.