Pictures of the home of Finley Boden show how his parents cleared up their house as they attempted to get him back, weeks before they murdered him surrounded by squalor.
New pictures show how the family home in Old Whittington, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, was tidied by Shannon Marsden and Stephen Boden as they attempted to convince social workers they could care for their son full-time.
As part of submissions to a Family Court, the pair, described as “attentive and loving parents” by a carer, said their son was “perfect” and a “cuddly, chunky munchkin”, weeks before they inflicted 130 injuries on him including burns, bruises and broken bones.
A guardian from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), who observed Finley just before the court hearing, also said he “loves to be held but is also very eager to explore and play”, describing him as a “smiler” who “likes to shout and blow ‘raspberries'”.
They, like many, came to believe that Boden and Marsden were making positive steps big enough to be able to care for their son, with a Family Court hearing on October 1 2020 handing care of Finley to them on a full-time basis within eight weeks.
“Shannon and I have worked really hard to make changes,” Boden said in a submission to the Family Court.
He said they had been “totally focused” on having him returned to their care.
“It is very important that we are well supported to give us every chance for the rehabilitation to succeed.”
Marsden added that she loved Finley and the prospect of him returning to her care “has made me incredibly happy, although I understand what I must achieve to enable this to happen”.
But 39 days after returning home in November 2020, Finley was dead, murdered by his parents surrounded by dirt, filth and clutter.
When police searched the family home, cannabis paraphernalia was found next to baby formula which had gone off. Kitchen bins were found to be overflowing and Finley’s clothes and bedcovers were found to be covered in spit, blood and phlegm.
Images of the house were shown to the jury in Boden and Marsden’s murder trial in April, in which both were unanimously convicted.
A motivation for Finley’s murder has never been established and came after months of Boden and Marsden working to show that they were capable of caring for their son.
Finley was taken into care immediately after his birth on February 15, 2020. Social services had become involved during Marsden’s pregnancy after concerns over cannabis use, domestic violence and the state of the family home.
One Derbyshire County Council document, released after an application to the High Court by the PA news agency and other media to see documents related to Finley’s case, shows that concerns were raised over the state of the property on February 17, 2020 – two days after Finley was born.
A social worker said that she found a broken glass mirror in the bathroom sink, expressing worry over the couple’s “lack of engagement and reluctance to work with professionals” and a frequent and strong smell of cannabis in the house.
The document said: “Their home has been described as very unclean and at times hazardous with faeces on the floor.
“At times the home smells of urine, there are flies in the property and detritus on the floor.
“The bathroom sink is unusable as items are stored in it.”
It concluded that Finley was at “significant risk of harm” if he stayed with his parents, with social services dismissing the option of Finley returning to his parents’ full-time care as late as June of that year.
But by September, social workers, while acknowledging that a gradual transition to full-time care would be needed, said that Boden and Marsden “have shown their ability to begin to make changes”.
The couple attended all 16 contact sessions they had with Finley at the height of the pandemic and cuddled and kissed him as social workers said they had “no concerns” over the couple’s ability to love their son.
But at the same time, the local authority recommended that Finley “should be returned to the parents in a planned and gradual way”, raising concerns over continued, albeit decreased, drug use, and the impact of caring for a child full time.
A social worker warned Finley was “at risk of suffering from neglect, physical and emotional harm” if his parents were “unable to continue to make and sustain positive changes around home conditions”, including substance misuse and ensuring his care needs were met consistently.
But the council’s plea for a four-month transition period, and the request for Boden and Marsden to undergo regular drug testing, were both rejected by magistrates in a hearing carried out over the phone in just under two hours, with four months deemed too long for both the parents and the child.
The results of a review of Finley’s case will be released later this year.
A spokesperson for Derbyshire County Council said: “The courts have released a selection of documents regarding decisions made by the Family Court in Finley’s case.
“The author of the independent Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review commissioned by the Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership will consider the information contained within these documents to help form the partnership’s learning findings and recommendations.
“Our deepest sympathy goes to everyone who knew and loved Finley and we remain fully engaged with the statutory legal review process which looks in depth at the role of all agencies following the death of a child.
“Strengthening practice is a constant focus for children’s services and when the review is concluded we will be in a position to communicate more fully about this case.”
Boden and Marsden will be sentenced on Friday.