Drug addict parents who murdered Finley Boden jailed

Finley Boden’s killer parents jailed for life: Sadistic drug addicts subjected ten month old to ‘unimaginable cruelty’ and murdered him by beating him with such force he couldn’t eat – just days after he was sent back to house of horrors in lockdown

  • Finley Boden had  130 separate injuries at time of his death in December 2020
  • WARNING: Contains details of child abuse which readers may find upsetting 

Two drug addict parents who murdered their 10-month-old son after waging a ‘savage and brutal’ campaign of abuse during lockdown have been jailed for a combined total of 56 years.

Finley Boden had 130 injuries including a fractured thigh and broken pelvis, burn marks and bruises all over his tiny body, when he died on Christmas Day in 2020. 

The once ‘smiley and chuckling’ baby was subjected to ‘unimaginable cruelty’ by his parents Shannon Marsden and Stephen Boden, who were jailed for 27 and 29 years respectively.

In October that year, a family court ruled that Marsden and Boden did not pose an ‘unmanageable risk’ to their son, allowing them to go on subject him to ‘the most horrific abuse’ at their home in Old Whittington, Derbyshire. 

By the time of his death he was ‘plainly dying’ and could no longer sit up and play with his toys, feed himself or breathe properly, having been back in his parents’ care for just 39 days. 

Finley Boden had 130 separate injuries at time of his death in December 2020

Finley’s mother and father Shannon Marsden and Stephen Boden

Previous court sketch of Boden and Marsden on March 1

Sentencing them at Derby Crown Court, Mrs Justice Tipples told the pair: ‘Neither of you have shown any remorse for what you have done.’

Following what has been a harrowing trial, a juror pointed to the sky as the sentences were passed, while another wept and others smiled.

Marsden, 22, and Boden, 30, showed no emotion and remained silent during sentencing, while family members wept in the public gallery as Mrs Justice Tipples detailed the horrific abuse they inflicted on Finley. 

Timeline of Finley’s short life and contact with social services

September 20, 2019: Marsden informs social care she is 20 weeks pregnant with Finley

October 2019: Social care begin court proceedings in relation to the unborn child

January 16, 2020: Social worker visits the couple’s address, finding holes in a bedroom door

January 21, 2020: Unborn Finley is made subject of a child protection plan 

February 15, 2020: Finley is born

February 18, 2020: Finley leaves hospital and is removed from the couple’s care

February 25, 2020: Boden and Marsden tell social care they want Finley back

October 1, 2020: Family court directs Finley should be returned to care of his parents under an eight-week plan including unsupervised visits and overnight stays of varying durations

November 17, 2020: Finley is allowed to live permanently with his parents 

November 19, 2020: New social worker visits home address

November 20, 2020: Health visitor visits the address 

November 26, 2020: Health visitor tries to call Marsden but there is no answer 

November 27, 2020: Social worker makes unannounced visit to the home

November 29, 2020: Boden and Marsden record video and pictures of Finley on their phone

December 23, 2020: Social worker visits the property but is unable to go inside

December 24, 2020: Finley is seen alive for the last time as he is taken out by his parents in Chesterfield

December 25, 2020: Finley is murdered 

The couple had denied murdering their son but were convicted in April after a trial at Derby Crown Court. 

Social services had become involved during Marsden’s pregnancy after concerns over cannabis use, domestic violence and the state of the family home. 

Finley was removed from Marsden and Boden’s care immediately after he was born on February 17, 2020, but returned to them on November 17 that year. 

He was once a ‘smiley, happy baby’, his relatives said, but the callous abuse he suffered at the hands of his parents means he will never get to grow up.

Prosecutor Mary Prior KC said the couple subjected Finley to a ‘savage and prolonged’ murder that had a ‘sadistic motivation’.

He endured ‘vicious and repeated assaults’ over three weeks – at the same time both Boden and Marsden were smoking a lot of cannabis in the house. 

In the weeks leading up to his death, Finley suffered a ‘protracted period of abuse’ and ‘sustained and vicious assaults’ that left him unable to eat amid a ‘background of neglect’ in ‘unsafe and unhygienic living conditions’.

To avoid arousing the suspicion of neighbours, one would hold a hand over his mouth while the other abused the youngster. 

Boden and Marsden also hid their abuse from social workers and family members.

They even plotted to hide their tracks by pretending Finley had coronavirus, ordering him a test, playing on wider health concerns at the time to stop social workers from entering their home. 

‘It was an excuse that worked, because you are both persuasive and accomplished liars,’ Mrs Justice Amanda Tipples told the pair as she handed down sentences. 

She said: ‘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.

‘He was subject to repeated abuse on multiple occasions. Once the injuries had been inflicted, Finley’s daily experience was one of considerable pain, distress and suffering.

‘It was obvious to both of you by December 16 that Finley was very seriously injured, and he was utterly miserable.

‘He was no longer able to sit up and play with his toys. He was unable to feed himself.’

She added: ‘By the evening of December 23 he was plainly dying. There was nothing subtle about this at all. It was plainly obvious to both of you.’

The trial heard of chilling text messages sent from the parents’ joint mobile phone, including just two days before his murder which said: ‘Little one f****** kept me up all night. I want to bounce him off the walls. Haha.’

Marsden with her son Finley Boden

Boden holding Finley, six weeks before the child’s death on Christmas Day 2020

Mrs Justice Tipples handing out sentences to Boden and Marsden at Derby Crown Court

Paramedics were called at 2.27am on Christmas Day 2020 and he was pronounced dead at hospital at 3.45am.

READ MORE: Giggling and happy to be back at home with the parents who murdered him: Heartbreaking footage and images of Finley’s last days in the arms of his killer parents – as calls grow for an inquiry into social services

His parents – who had described Finley as as their ‘cuddly, chunky munchkin’ to care workers –  delayed calling the ambulance.

The paramedic who arrived saw that Finley was ‘unkempt and dirty’ with marks around his mouth and noise. 

He was rushed to hospital but nothing could be done – doctors noticed marks and bruises on his body, but were told ‘various lies’ by Marsden.

Boden arrived at 4.20am and also lied to the doctors about the final hours and days of Finley’s life.

The pair had agreed a timeline to explain how Finley was and their movements on the day of his death.

Finley’s body was examined by medical experts who identified his cause of death, revealing non-accidental injuries to his body.

He had 46 rib fractures, 12 other bone fractures including his pelvis, both legs and both collar bones.

Overall, he had more than 150 injuries. His broken pelvis is thought to be caused by sustained ‘kicking or stamping’ and well as burns on his hand, one form a ‘hot, flat surface’ and another from ‘a cigarette flame’.

Mock up image of text messages the court heard were sent from the couple’s phone

The inside of his mouth was ‘torn’, caused by a dummy or bottle being excessively forced into his mouth.

He also had a ‘spiral’ break to the thigh, while a shin bone break was ‘consistent with being held by the ankle and gripped and twisted’. 

How Finley endured a short life of squalor after being returned to the care of his parents by social services

Images released by police today show the grim conditions Finley endured in his short life with his parents.

Clutter is seen throughout the home, with unwashed pots and pans piled up in the kitchen, toys and bags carelessly thrown into the bathtub and a bedside table littered with dirty cigarette butts and empty cans of energy drink.

Meanwhile, a feeding bottle appears to have mould growing on the inside and a number of stains are visible on bedsheets.

Medics discovered Boden trying to resuscitate Finley on the kitchen floor but also noticed that the youngster’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.

The injuries inflicted on him were so severe they were likened to a multi-storey fall. 

It was agreed that these fractures were all sustained over a three-week period in December, causing him severe pain and suffering. 

By Christmas Day 2020, he was unable to eat and lay dying.

The multiple fractures meant he could not breathe properly and he contracted pneumonia in his lungs, developing into a number of infections – including sepsis and endocarditis – at the which killed him.

When police searched the property they found Finley’s clothes and bedding stained with saliva, vomit, blood and faeces, along with drug paraphernalia. 

Other bedding which had been removed from his cot was also covered in blood and vomit, which Boden and Marsden were aware of – having slept next to him in their own bed. 

The police recovered empty bottles of Calpol, around a month’s worth, which Boden had given to Finley – but provided little relief for his injuries. 

Boden later claimed to a relative the family dog may have ‘jumped on’ Finley, causing multiple broken ribs, while allegedly blaming marks on Finley’s mouth on his son hitting himself ‘with a rattle’. 

Following his 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. 

It was also 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’.

When visiting Finley’s body in a hospital chapel of rest, Marsden was heard to allegedly say: ‘His dad’s battered him to death. I didn’t protect him.’

After Boden and Marsden were convicted, one detective inspector said Finley’s injuries were ‘amongst the worst I’ve seen in my 27-year policing career’. 

Boden was 28 years old and Marsden, was 20 at the time of his murder.

Boden, a petty criminal, had 22 previous convictions for 33 offences, including theft, criminal damage and failing to apply with court orders, while Marsden had no previous convictions.

Finley Boden died on Christmas Day 2020 – just over a month after being placed back into his parents’ care

A baby bottle containing gone-off milk and cannabis found by police in the bedroom at the time of the death

Finley’s parents’ bedroom had been cleaned up when social workers visited. Pictured is the room before Finley’s arrival 

Photo issued by Derbyshire Police of their filthy bathroom at the time Finley was killed, with dirty clothes left in the bath 

Boden smoked cannabis since he was nine years old, and left home aged 18.

Marsden started drinking age from the age of nine and smoking cannabis aged 10. She was bullied at school and was ‘happiest when away from home’, the court heard. 

Their relationship began in the summer of 2017. They had regular arguments, with Boden having ‘a temper’ but Marsden ‘capable’ of standing her own ground.

Child safeguarding review launched after Finley was sent back to live with killer parents 

A child safeguarding review into the circumstances surrounding Finley’s death is currently under way. 

Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, demanded a child safeguarding practice review, ‘to provide answers as soon as possible.’

He said the suffering of Finley, ‘inflicted by the very people who should have been caring for him’ was ‘harrowing and difficult to comprehend’.

‘The death of a child in such brutal circumstances leaves many of us asking questions and we await the child safeguarding practice review to provide answers as soon as possible,’ he added.

‘Finley was one of 36 children who died in England following abuse and maltreatment at home in 2020 alone.’

He said: ‘So that children who are most at risk are protected, it is vital the Government takes 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.’

Finley was returned to the couple’s care over eight weeks by a court order in October 2020, despite social workers asking for a longer transition. 

A report by the family’s social worker had recommended a six-month transition, three times longer than the eight-week period which was ordered at a court hearing concerning the child’s care, in October 2020. 

The first contact with social services came in September 2019, when Marsden told professionals she was 20 weeks pregnant with Finley. 

Court proceedings then began the following month and in January, following a visit to the couple’s home, where a worker found cluttered conditions and holes punched through doors, the unborn Finley was made the subject of a child protection plan.

Three days after he was born on February 15, 2020, Finley left hospital and was removed from the care of Marsden and Boden.

After demanding their son back, a family court directed in October that Finley should be returned to their care under an eight-week plan, which included unsupervised visits and overnight stays of varying durations.

On November 17, Finley was allowed to live permanently with Marsden and Boden.

A number of social workers and health workers then visited the home address, but on more than one occasion, were unable to enter the property.

On Christmas Eve, Finley was seen alive for the first time as he was out with his parents in Chesterfield, before he was killed on Christmas Day – just 39 days after he was returned to their care. 

Marsden’s barrister tried to portray her as a ‘victim’ who was ‘in the thrall’ of her abusive partner. 

Andrew Vout KC urged the court to find her a ‘secondary party’ to the murder, stating: ‘Miss Marsden’s feelings for Mr Boden ultimately overrode all else.

‘She was covering for Mr Boden because she was in his thrall.

‘She was ill-equipped to deal with motherhood with an abusive partner.

‘She was young, immature and had mental health difficulties of her own, and she was utterly incapable and unwilling to recognise the help and assistance that was being offered by social services.’

He added: ‘She was a victim herself of Mr Boden’s abuse. It did not provide her with a defence but it is inescapable that that was her situation at the material time.’

But Mrs Justice Tipples said the extent of the abuse by Boden towards Marsden was ‘considerably exaggerated’ during their trial, and did not affect her decision-making when it came to Finley.

In victim impact statements from the defendants’ relatives, read by the proseceutor, they said:  ‘He had all of his life ahead of him.

‘When Finley died, part of us died as well. Our lives were ripped apart and will never be the same again.’

The family added that the death of Finley had had a ‘profoundly negative’ impact on them, adding ‘it will always haunt us’.

‘Finley will always be remembered and will always be loved,’ they said.

Mrs Prior said the defendants had ‘no ability’ to ‘provide any account as to what they did to Finley or why they did it’, meaning their families would never know the reason behind Finley’s murder.

Another relative said that Finley had suffered ‘the most horrific abuse’ and labelled his parents as ‘monsters’.

They said: ‘I thought they had both changed. I was obviously wrong and they only showed us what they wanted us to see. 

‘They acted together to inflict all his injuries and then hide him away and allow him to die in such an awful way.’

They added: ‘Neither of you have shown any remorse. We as a family have grieved, but you haven’t needed to, as you are both responsible for his death.

‘We will never forget, or forgive, you both, and we will never forget Finley. While we will never forget Finley, I promise, we will forget you both.

‘I can only describe you both as monsters for what you have done.’

Finley’s case also raises questions for social services who handed Finley back into the care of Boden and Marsden. 

A child safeguarding review is currently underway into the circumstances surrounding the tot’s murder – as social workers raised concerns before he was even born into the state of the family home and his parents’ drug use. 

A transcript of a Family Court hearing, held over the phone during the pandemic, shows that despite attempts by the local council for Finley to be gradually placed back into the care of Marsden and Boden over a four-month period, the court ordered he could be returned to them within eight weeks – without any drugs tests.

The habitual drug users even tidied their squalid home in a bid 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 150 injuries on him including burns, bruises and broken bones.

Finley Boden was only ten months old when he died at the hands of his parents

Finley Boden died on Christmas Day after suffering prolonged abuse at the hands of his parents

New pictures show how the family home was tidied by Marsden and Boden as they attempted to convince social workers they could care for their son full-time. Pictured is the kitchen

Clutter is seen throughout the home, with unwashed pots and pans piled up in the kitchen

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”.

READ MORE: The photos which fooled authorities that baby Finley Boden’s killer parents could look after him: Drug addicts cleaned their home in bid to get child back weeks before they killed him in squalor during lockdown – after court ordered he be returned to them

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’.

One Derbyshire County Council document shows that concerns were raised over the state of the property on February 17, 2020 – two days after Finley was born. 

Toby Perkins, MP for Chesterfield, described the 10-month-old’s death as ‘shocking’ but ‘unsurprising’ due to ‘failures across the system’ in social services and the courts.

Mr Perkins said the parents, who will be sentenced for their son’s murder on Friday, were able to ‘constantly outwit’ the court and social services in order to win him back.

Finley’s bedroom was also cleaned by his drug-taking parents as part of their efforts to hoodwink social workers 

A feeding bottle found at the home had mould growing on the inside

Finley’s clothes and bedding were stained with saliva, vomit, blood and faeces, along with drug paraphernalia

When police searched Boden and Marsden’s property they discovered an ‘unclean’ home

He said: ‘The documents add to the sense of huge frustration and upset that people will be feeling about the way in which the young man’s future, young baby’s future, was dealt with in a variety of ways, including the impact of the court delays and coronavirus measures, on the ability of the court to keep Finley safe.

‘I don’t think anyone could have prepared us for it’: Policeman reveals horror at Finley’s injuries  

Detective Inspector Steve Shaw, of Derbyshire Constabulary, said that Finley’s bones were ‘crushed and twisted’ during the campaign of abuse.

Discussing the case, DI Shaw said: ‘The appearance of Finley [at the time of his death] was generally showing signs that he had been neglected.

‘Officers went to the house on Holland Road where they lived and they found squalid living conditions, filthy bedding, filthy clothing, rotting food in the kitchen, no environment to bring a child up in, and there were signs of cannabis abuse scattered around the house.

‘But I don’t think that prepared us for the level of injury that we discovered when the post-mortem took place.

‘The majority of Finley’s bones were fractured in some way and as the investigation progressed, the evidence from some of the experts around the levels of force that had to be used – Finley’s bones had to be crushed and twisted with quite some force – eliminated any accidental cause of these injuries.’

Finley suffered 57 fractures to his bones – including 45 rib fractures – several burns and 71 bruises in the weeks prior to his death, on Christmas Day 2020.

The injuries inflicted included a broken shoulder, broken arm, broken shinbone, a thigh bone broken in four places, and a pelvis broken in two places.

He had also developed pneumonia, endocarditis – inflammation of the lining of the heart – and sepsis.

‘I think the way that social services appear to have carried out their duties, and the way that the parents who ultimately murdered young Finley were able to constantly outwit both the social services and the courts over this process, means in a way it isn’t surprising – but it is certainly shocking.

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.

The court heard that Boden tried to give Finley Calpol to ease his pain – but the extent of his injuries were so horrific that they did nothing

Drug paraphernalia and cigarette butts were found in the bedroom where Finley’s cot was

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.

READ MORE: Social services launch review into case of murdered  Finley Boden who was beaten to death by his drug addict parents just 39 days after he was placed back into their care

‘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.’

Finley was one of 36 children who died in England following abuse and maltreatment at home in 2020 alone.

Heartbreaking rollcall of children who became victims of lockdown 

The Covid-19 lockdown has produced a heartbreaking rollcall of children who became victims of tragic deaths at the hands of those who are meant to take care of them.

Two-year-old Lola James was tragically killed by her evil stepfather, suffering 101 injuries including brain damage similar to what is sustained in high-speed car-crashes.

The little girl was victim to a ‘frenized and extremely violent attack’ on July 17, 2020 at her home in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, by her mother Sinead James’ new partner Kyle Bevan, 31. She died four days later.

Young Logan Mwangi, five, was killed by his mother, stepfather and stepbrother on July 31, 2020 after suffering ‘catastrophic’ internal injuries. His body was found in the River Ogmore near his home in Sarn, Bridgend County.

Star Hobson was only 16 months old when she was killed at her home in Keighley, West Yorkshire on September 22, 2020 by her mother Frankie Smith’s girlfriend Savannah Brockhill, after suffering months of abuse in her home during the Covid lockdown.

A mother and her ‘monster’ boyfriend have been found guilty over the death of two-year-old Lola James (pictured) who was fatally attacked at her home in Wales

NSPCC Cymru’s assistant director Tracey Holdsworth said a review into Lola’s death must establish whether more could have been done by agencies to prevent her death and called for the Welsh Government to make child protection a national priority. 

Ms Holdsworth said: ‘This is another tragic case where a young child has died at the hands of those who she depended on.

‘Lola deserved a happy and healthy future, but that was cruelly taken away by the horrendous actions of Kyle Bevan and the failure of her mother, Sinead James, to intervene.

‘The Welsh Government has rightly committed to transforming children’s social care and it’s crucial this leads to systemic changes that ensure children like Lola are better protected.’

Lola James, two – murdered July 17, 2020

Lola James, two

Two-year-old Lola James was tragically killed by her evil stepfather, suffering 101 injuries including brain damage similar to what is sustained in high-speed car-crashes. 

Sinead James, 30, moved her partner Kyle Bevan, 31, into the house she shared with little Lola James in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, a day after meeting him on Facebook in February 2020.

Swansea Crown Court heard Bevan, who had a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ temper, carried out a ‘frenzied and extremely violent attack’ on the young girl just four months later, causing 101 bruises and scratches and a catastrophic injury to the brain. 

Lola’s mother was a victim of domestic abuse and had twice been educated on how to spot signs of an abuser, but chose to prioritise her relationship with Bevan over the safety of her child, the jury was told – before they convicted her of allowing Lola’s death. 

James was told by the local authority not to invite adults into the family home if she did not know them well or if they were alcohol or drug abusers, but she ignored their advice. 

Kaylea Titford, 16 – found dead October 10, 2020 

Also amongst the victims of lockdown is Kaylea Titford.

Kaylea Titford, 16

The 16-year-old, who suffered from spina bifida, was found dead at her home in Newtown, Powys, on October 10, 2020 after her parents allowed her to become morbidly obese during lockdown.

Her mother, Sarah Lloyd-Jones, 39, admitted manslaughter by gross negligence last year, while her father, Alun Titford, denied the charges and was found guilty after a trial last month.

The teenager weighed 22st 13lb with a BMI of 70 at the time of her death, and her body was discovered inside her bedroom in conditions described as ‘unfit for any animal’.

A jury of eight men and four women convicted Titford after being shown pictures during the trial at Mold Crown Court in North Wales of the ‘squalor and degradation’ Kaylea had been forced to endure.

Alijah Thomas, five – murdered September 14, 2021

Five-year-old Alijah Thomas begged her mother Martina Madarova, 41, not to kill her as she strangled her to death at their home in Ealing, west London, on September 14, 2021.

Alijah Thomas, five

Madarova had put on cartoons for her daughter Alijah Thomas before carrying out the act as the child said: ‘Mummy, don’t kill me.’ She proceeded to strangle Aljah, before ‘tucking her in with a blanket’.

The 41-year-old had been suffering with her mental health and turned to alcohol during the Covid lockdown, and had been in a ‘dark place’ the night before her daughter’s tragic death.

She was given a five-year jail sentence after a judge ruled that she had ‘low responsibility’ over Alijah’s death.

A court heard that in the months leading up to the incident, family members and friends became concerned for Madarova’s wellbeing as she appeared ‘increasingly stressed’.

She was concerned for her income, after her hours as a carer had been reduced, and had become anxious after missing the deadline to enrol Alijah at school.

On the morning of September 14, Alijah’s father had left early for work and was notified a few hours later from a phone call from Madarova that their daughter was dead. 

Kyrell Matthews, two – murdered October 20, 2019 

Kyrell Matthews, two

Kyrell Matthews, aged two, was left with 41 rib fractures and internal injuries by the time of his death after weeks of cruelty at the hands of his mother Phylesia Shirley and her boyfriend Kemar Brown.

Brown was convicted of murder while Shirley was acquitted of murder but found guilty of the alternative charge of manslaughter.

They appeared alongside each other in the dock as Brown was sentenced to at least 25 years in prison while Shirley was jailed for 13 years.

The toddler, who was non-verbal, could be heard crying and screaming on distressing audio files taken from Shirley’s phone and played to jurors during the trial. 

Brown and Shirley are understood to have been visited by social services at least once.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, six, murdered June 17, 2020

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, six

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, aged six, was murdered by his cruel stepmother Emma Tustin in June.

She was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 29 years and the boy’s father Thomas Hughes was jailed for 21 years for manslaughter. 

The boy had been seen by social workers just two months before his death, but they concluded there were no safeguarding concerns. 

In October 2019, Aileen Carabine, a special educational coordinator at Arthur’s school, said Arthur ‘deteriorated’ that month. 

Hughes, 29, was jailed for life with a minimum of 21 years after being found guilty of manslaughter – but cleared of murder – for encouraging the killing, including by sending a text message to Tustin 18 hours before the fatal assault telling her ‘just end him’. 

Logan Mwangi, five – murdered July 31, 2020

Logan Mwangi, five

Five-year-old Logan Mwangi was murdered by his mother, step-father and teenage step-brother on July 31, 2021.

His body, which suffered 56 ‘catastrophic’ injuries consistent with a ‘brutal and sustained assault’ was found in the River Ogmore near his home in Sarn, Bridgend county.

John Cole, 40, Angharad Williamson, 31, and 14-year-old Craig Mulligan were all convicted of murder in April 2022.

Cole will serve a minimum of 29 years, Williamson at least 28 years, while teenage Mulligan will serve at least 15 years.

Social services repeatedly missed signs of abuse and opportunities to protect Logan, with injuries dating back to August 2020.

Inspectors have blasted the council which failed to protect murdered five-year-old Logan Mwangi, with the watchdog insisting ‘serious concerns’ remain about its children’s services a full year after his death.

Care Inspectorate Wales noted there have been improvements at Bridgend County Borough Council in the last 12 months, but said there was still a need for ‘further urgent action’.

Star Hobson, 16 months – murdered September 22, 2020 

Star Hobson, 16 months 

Star Hobson was just 16 months old when she was murdered by her mother’s girlfriend Savannah Brockill in September 2020.

In the lead-up to her death, she had suffered months of abuse in her home in Keighley, West Yorkshire, during the coronavirus lockdown in 2020.

Former Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield, the chairwoman of the Commission on Young Lives, warned after Star’s murder that the Covid lockdown ‘brought its own opportunities for those who harm, groom and abuse children.’

Brockill is now serving a life sentence with a minimum term of 25 years at HMP Styal in Cheshire, after being convicted in December 2021.

Star’s mother, Frankie Smith, was convicted of causing or allowing the toddler’s death and was initially sentenced to eight years behind bars.

This was increased to 12 years after a judicial review.

Social services missed five opportunities to stop Star’s killers, with her great-grandfather Dave Fawcett saying after their convictions: ‘It’s disgusting because there were five referrals. Not one of them did anything. It’s just beyond belief, really.

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