How parents exploited Covid lockdown to hide sadistic torture of 10-month-old baby
A “perfect” 10-month-old baby boy was murdered by his own parents after they used Covid to trick social services.
Shannon Marsden, 22, and Stephen Boden, 30, launched a “savage and brutal” tirade of abuse against their son Finley Boden which left him with 130 injuries including burns and broken bones. He died on Christmas Day 2020 during lockdown.
The pair were jailed on Friday, with Boden serving a minimum of 29 years and Marsden 27 years.
They brutally murdered the innocent baby after convincing authorities to return him to their full-time care following a Family Court order in October 2020, having previously described him as “perfect” and a “cuddly, chunky munchkin”.
The case has shone a spotlight on the often hidden world of Family Court hearings.
The order giving the baby back to his parents sparked a sequence of events that culminated in his murder at their hands, despite concerns being raised about their drug use and parenting abilities by social services.
Finley was taken into care in February 2020, immediately after he was born and just weeks before the UK’s first lockdown of the pandemic.
Social workers from Derbyshire Council originally concluded he was at ‘serious risk of harm’ if he stayed with his parents.
They described the couple’s shocking living conditions, with Finley’s clothes and bedding “stained with saliva”, and their home described as “very unclean and at times hazardous with faeces on the floor”.
Concerns were also raised over domestic violence, of which Boden had previously been convicted, and the couple’s use of cannabis.
Despite this in mid-November that same year, Finley was returned to Marsden and Boden’s home in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.
The parents then began what prosecutors said was a “savage and brutal” campaign of abuse against their son.
His heartbreaking injuries also included a fractured thigh and broken pelvis, 71 bruises, as well as sepsis and endocarditis – an infection of the lining of the heart.
Court documents reveal what took place from the time the decision was made to put Finley into care and the ruling that he should be returned to his parents - 39 days before he died.
Social workers stopped routine home visits after the UK went into its first lockdown in March 2020, and Finley’s mother was allowed to submit photos to show the state of their home.
Images show the terraced house clean and tidy, with hoovered floors, clear kitchen counter tops and a presentable baby’s nursery in the couple’s efforts to hide their abuse from social workers and family members.
But other photos showed to jurors told a different story with overflowing bins, cannabis paraphernalia sitting next to curdling baby formula, and baby clothes and bedding covered with spit, phlegm and blood.
The judge said Marsden and Boden “are both persuasive and accomplished liars” who “both knew Finley was really, really ill” in the days before his death.
She said: “By December 18, you both agreed that you would lie and say that Finley was ill because he might have Covid and you had ordered a Covid test.”
The judge said that the pair “both knew full well that Finley did not have Covid” but used it as a “perfect excuse” to keep social workers and family from seeing the boy.
Speaking after the trial, DI Paul Bullock, of Derbyshire Police, said Finley’s injuries were “amongst the worst I’ve seen in my 27-year policing career”.
Following Finley’s death, Boden was heard mentioning how he would sell his pram on eBay and the pair were later seen laughing together in a taxi.
During the trial, the dad suggested that Finley’s injuries could have been caused by rocking him too hard, and said that the pram comment was made in an attempt to “lighten the mood”.
It was also said that when visiting Finley’s body in a hospital chapel of rest, Marsden was heard to say: “His dad’s battered him to death. I didn’t protect him.”
Use of cannabis was a key theme in the days immediately before Finley’s death, with one drug deal witnessed by a social worker during an unannounced visit in December 2020.
“Neither of you have shown any remorse at all for what you have done”, the judge said, as she handed down life sentences with minimum terms of 27 years for Marsden, and 29 years for Boden.
A juror from the trial pointed to the sky as the sentences were passed, while another wept and others smiled.
Following the sentencing in the Finley Boden case, an NSPCC spokesperson said: “The cruelty and abuse inflicted on Finley leading up to his tragic death was appalling and heart-breaking.
“The death of a child in such brutal circumstances leaves many of us asking questions and we await the Child Safeguarding Practice Review to establish exactly what happened and any ways in which Finley could have been better protected, in order to help prevent future tragedies.
“We know that babies and our youngest children are particularly vulnerable to abuse and completely reliant on the adults around them for care and protection.
“Nationally, the Government must take forward the changes recommended by previous reviews and experts to transform the child protection system and ensure the different agencies involved are able to work together effectively to focus on children and babies like Finley.
“It’s also crucial that everyone does all they can to prevent child abuse.
“Anyone who has concerns for a child’s safety should contact the local authorities, the police or the NSPCC helpline.”
If you are a child and you need help because something has happened to you, you can call the NSPCC free of charge on 0800 1111. You can also call the NSPCC if you are an adult and you are worried about a child, on 0808 800 5000. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) offers support for adults on 0808 801 0331