A couple who murdered their 10-month-old son on Christmas Day 2020 just weeks after he was returned to their care have been jailed.
Shannon Marsden, 22, and Stephen Boden, 30, were found guilty in April of the murder of Finley Boden in Derbyshire.
At today’s sentencing, Mrs Justice Tipples told Marsden she would serve a minimum of 27 years behind bars, while Boden was told he would serve at least 29 years in jail.
Finley died just a few weeks after he was placed back into the care of his parents, who burnt and beat the infant – leaving him with 130 separate injuries, including multiple bone breaks and fractures.
His injuries included a fractured thigh and broken pelvis, burn marks and 71 bruises. Finley also had sepsis and endocarditis – an infection of the lining of the heart.
During sentencing, the judge described the pair as “persuasive and accomplished liars” who inflicted “unimaginable cruelty” on their son.
She said Finley’s last days “are terrible to describe”, adding that once the injuries had been inflicted the infant’s daily experience was “one of considerable pain, distress and suffering”.
She added: “You both knew that Finley was very seriously ill and dying… yet you deliberately failed to seek any medical help for him and you made sure that he was not seen by anyone that could have rescued him and taken him away from your care.
“Medical intervention would have saved Finley’s life.”
She added that she is sure, given the nature and number of Finley’s injuries, that he was “subject to repeated abuse on multiple occasions”.
Baby killed weeks after returning to parents’ full-time care
The judge said the parents lied about Finley having COVID to prevent anyone from coming to see the baby.
The pair killed their son weeks after he returned to their full-time care following a family court order made in October that year, having previously described him as “perfect” and a “cuddly, chunky munchkin”.
One social worker had warned the court that Finley would be “at risk of suffering from neglect, physical and emotional harm” if Marsden and Boden continued taking illegal drugs or failed to continue making positive changes.
A representative for Derbyshire County Council also told the court hearing that “all parties” agreed Finley should “transition” back to the care of his parents but asked for this to be staged over four months and with the need for additional drug testing.
However, a representative for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), who was representing Finley at the near-two-hour hearing, challenged the four-month transition and said extra regular drug testing was necessary.
Following the sentencing, an NSPCC spokesperson said the abuse inflicted on Finley was “appalling and heartbreaking”.
“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,” they added.
‘Savage and brutal’ abuse after return to parents
After Finley returned to their home in Chesterfield in mid-November 2020, his parents began what prosecutors said was a “savage and brutal” campaign of abuse.
Following their baby’s death, Boden was heard mentioning how he would sell Finley’s pram on eBay and the pair were later seen laughing together in a taxi.
During the trial, Boden 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.”
The jury saw images of the couple’s cluttered home, including pictures taken by police showing cannabis paraphernalia next to gone off baby milk, and heard how the pair hid their abuse from social workers and family members.
Use of the class B drug 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.
Finley’s clothes and bedding were found to be stained with saliva, blood and faeces.
Eamonn Holmes claims there was ‘total cover-up’ over Phillip Schofield’s affair with younger man
Eamonn Holmes has claimed there was a “total cover-up” over Phillip Schofield’s affair with a younger male colleague on This Morning while he was married.
Holmes, 63, who also presented on the show, has accused Schofield of “toxicity” amid the furore over the culture on the ITV daytime programme.
Host Schofield, 61, admitted last Friday to an “unwise, but not illegal” affair with a younger male colleague on the show and has now quit the commercial broadcaster and been dropped by his talent agency YMU.
Schofield on Monday hit back at critics, saying on Instagram there was “no toxicity” on the programme, adding: “I hope you have noticed that it’s the same handful of people with a grudge against me or the show who seem to have the loudest voice.”
ITV said there had been an investigation in early 2020 when “rumours of a relationship between Phillip Schofield and an employee of ITV first began to circulate” but said it did not find “any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour”.
A statement from the commercial broadcaster on 27 May said: “Both parties were questioned and both categorically and repeatedly denied the rumours as did Phillip’s then agency YMU.
“In addition, ITV spoke to a number of people who worked on This Morning and were not provided with, and did not find, any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour… He lied to people at ITV, from senior management to fellow presenters, to YMU, to the media and to others over this relationship.”
But Holmes told GB News presenter Dan Wootton: “It’s a total cover-up.
“Those in authority had to know what was going on and they thought they would dodge a bullet with this.
“Which they do and they do constantly because with Schofield talking about those who speak out against him, namely me, Amanda Holden and you [Dan Wootton], you’ll be included in the toxicity that goes on… Dr Ranj [Singh] of course as well.
“And you simply sit there and think ‘no mate, you’ve had it all your way for too long’.”
A timeline of the This Morning controversy
ITV responds to rumours around show’s future
Why Schofield’s admission could kill off his career
Referring to Schofield’s comments on Instagram, Holmes said: “I think that Phillip is absolutely right about toxicity.
“But my friend, the toxicity is not with me, Dan Wootton, or anyone else, the toxicity is with you.”
Phillip Schofield and Eamonn Holmes social media statements in full
Just before 10am on Monday, Phillip Schofield posts a statement on his Instagram stories.
“Now I no longer work on @thismorning I am free to say this. I hope you have noticed that it’s the same handful of people with a grudge against me or the show who seem to have the loudest voice.
“This morning IS the best show to work on, with the best people. In all the years I worked there there was no toxicity. You can listen to those persistently loud voices if you like.
“But the thousands of guests over the years, thousands of staff and crew, hundreds of presenters and contributors all know, it IS a family of wonderful, talented, kind, hard working people.”
At 11.10am Eamonn Holmes tweets a response.
“Schofield has just put out a delusional statement. Like Holly he puts it on Insta Stories so if it goes wrong there is no record after 24 hrs.
“I’m reluctant to give the liar any more publicity but believe me Pip if u r looking for a fight , u have picked on the wrong person !”
Earlier in the day, Holmes on social media described Schofield as “delusional” and said he has “picked the wrong person… if you’re looking for a fight”.
ITV has been approached for comment by Sky News about Holmes’s claims.
GB News asked ITV’s managing director of media and entertainment, Kevin Lygo, if there was a “cover-up” and if he “protected” Schofield.
Mr Lygo told a GB News producer: “We really have no more to say.”
Holmes previously presented This Morning on Fridays with his wife Ruth Langsford.
The programme’s former resident doctor Dr Ranj Singh has hit out at the show’s “toxic” culture, saying he raised concerns about “bullying and discrimination” two years ago when he worked there and afterwards felt like he was “managed out” for whistleblowing.
Schofield quit This Morning on 20 May after more than 20 years.
Schofield originally said he was stepping down from the show because it had “become the story”, following reports of a feud between him and co-host Holly Willoughby.
It came after his brother was recently jailed for 12 years over child sex offences.
Willoughby, 41, is due to return next Monday (5 June), having gone on an early half-term holiday on 22 May.
She said that “when reports of this relationship first surfaced, I asked Phil directly if this was true and was told it was not”.
“It’s been very hurtful to now find out this was a lie,” an Instagram statement added.
Schofield has now completely resigned from ITV and been dropped by his agents.
In his statement to the Daily Mail he also admitted lying about his affair to his wife, to ITV, his agents and the media.
The controversy has raised doubts about both Willoughby’s and the show’s future, but the channel has denied reports it could be axed.
Vape advertising: Government to crack down on promotions ‘targeted at children’
Rishi Sunak has said a new government crackdown on vape marketing will stop the “unacceptable” targeting of children and young people.
Ministers have pledged to close a loophole that allows shops to offer free samples of vapes to children in England as concerns over the proportion of youngsters trying e-cigarettes mounts.
It comes days after the prime minister expressed concern about his own daughters potentially being targeted by vape marketing during an interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
There will also be a review into banning retailers selling “nicotine-free” vapes to under-18s, the government said, as well as a review of the rules on issuing fines to shops that illegally sell vapes to children.
The government said such reviews could make it easier for local trading standards officials to issue on-the-spot fines and fixed penalty notices.
Ministers cited NHS figures from 2021 which revealed 9% of 11 to 15-year-olds used e-cigarettes – up from 6% in 2018.
Mr Sunak said he was “deeply concerned” about the increase in children vaping, adding he was “shocked by reports of illicit vapes containing lead getting into the hands of schoolchildren”.
“Our new illicit vape enforcement squad – backed by £3m – is on the case but clearly there is more to do,” the prime minister said.
“That is why I am taking further action today to clamp down on rogue firms who unlawfully target our children with these products.”
He added that the marketing and the illegal sales of vapes to children are “completely unacceptable” and that he will do everything in his power to “end this practice for good”.
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty called the decision to close the loophole a “very welcome step”.
He said: “Whilst vaping can be an effective quitting tool for smokers, it is important that non-smokers are not encouraged to start vaping.
“There has been a particularly worrying rise in the number of children using vapes, with companies clearly marketing these products at children using colours, flavours and cheap disposable options.
“Closing the loophole that allows companies to give out free samples of vaping products to under-18s is a very welcome step in tackling some of the harms caused by the vaping industry.”
He added: “We should continue to encourage smokers to swap to vaping as the lesser risk, whilst preventing the marketing and sale of vapes to children.”
Number of children trying vaping rises 50% in a year in ‘tide of experimentation’
Sunak hits out at vape companies for appealing to children
The health risks of vaping will now also be included in Relatonships, Sex and Health Education lessons in schools as part of the ongoing government review of the curriculum.
And the crackdown will also see dedicated police school liaison officers work to keep illegal vapes out of schools.
Health minister Neil O’Brien described any marketing of vaping products to children as “shameful”.
He said the government would “review the rules on issuing on-the-spot fines to shops that break the law by selling vapes to underage youngsters, and look into banning the sale of nicotine-free vapes to under-18s – which we know can be a gateway to using nicotine products”.
UK weather: Temperatures forecast to cool across parts of country after hottest day of the year so far
Sunday was officially the hottest day of 2023 so far – but temperatures are predicted to cool this week for some.
Plymouth hit 24.4C (75.9F) yesterday, beating Saturday’s high of 24.3C (75.7F) in Bramham, West Yorkshire, by just a tenth of a degree.
Previously the hottest temperature of the year was 23.4C (74.1F) – recorded in Cardiff last Monday.
High pressure meant dry and warm conditions across the UK last week, but forecasters expect a cooler feel from Monday night.
Find out the 5-day forecast where you are here
“Generally, there will be a lot of dry weather around and a good amount of sunshine still,” Met Office meteorologist Jonathan Vautrey said. “Hazy cloud pushing through at times might make the sunshine hazy in places.
“Temperatures then going to be feeling cooler along eastern coastal areas.”
Colder conditions in the far north and the east will be brought on by a “cool breeze off the North Sea”, the Met Office added.
Southern and eastern parts will also be cloudy.
This spring has been cooler than usual in general so far, with temperatures not yet reaching 25C (77F) anywhere in the country.
If the UK doesn’t meet that threshold in the coming days, it will be the first time in 10 years without a day of 25C or hotter by 1 June.
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Warmer weather in the west
For the rest of this week, half-term for much of England and Wales, the best weather will be confined to western areas.
The Met Office says the high pressure that sent the mercury soaring last week will “stay in charge” in those parts.
Temperatures are likely to peak on Wednesday – and could reach 25C across western Scotland and Wales.
Conditions will be dry and settled, but feel cooler at night. Pollen counts will also be high.
South West England and Wales are set to have the highest temperatures for the remainder of the bank holiday.
Two men died having been pulled from the sea near Torbay in Devon during the hot weather on Saturday, with emergency services warning people against swimming in non-guarded areas.
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