Man jailed for life for murder of new girlfriend's baby
A man who murdered his new girlfriend's baby will spend at least the next 17 years behind bars.
Finley John Thomas was 17 months old when he died after suffering a fractured skull and broken ribs.
His mother's partner Sean Buckley tried to claim the toddler had fallen downstairs after paramedics found the child motionless and pale at his home in Tonypandy, south Wales.
However, doctors later discovered Finley had suffered a severe bleed to the brain and also found an older injury behind his right ear.
On Thursday at Cardiff Crown Court, a jury convicted Buckley of Finley's murder before a judge handed the 28 year-old a life sentence with a minimum term of 17 years.
Judge Mrs Justice Frances Patterson described Buckley as cruel and wicked after he had smashed a garden chair against the head of the defenceless toddler.
She added: "You intended to cause (injury) to an entirely innocent child."
Finley was born in April 2013 and around a year later his mother Chloe Thomas got together with heavily tattooed and convicted drug user Buckley.
Less than six months later, Thomas rang 999 and told the operator that her son had "banged his head" at her home in Adams Street, Tonypandy, and was "lying floppy".
Finley was first taken to the Royal Glamorgan Hospital before being transferred to the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff - where a 10cm by 10cm swelling was found on the back of his head.
He died the following day on September 24.
In the prosecution's opening of the case, Roger Thomas QC described the attack "deliberate and vicious".
He said: "It is very unusual for a child to have the kind of injuries Finley suffered as a result of a fall from down the stairs.
"Most falls down the stairs do not cause subdural haemorrhages."
A post-mortem examination revealed Finley had several other injuries - including rib fractures and a fractured skull.
Traces of cocaine and cannabis were also found in the child's system.
Both Buckley and Thomas, 25, later told doctors and police that the toddler had fallen down the stairs on a number of occasions before.
The child's paternal great aunt said she had seen her nephew with a "nasty" bruise the size of a 50p coin on his head and another one under his right eye in the weeks before his death.
Giving evidence, Kelly Thomas had also reported a change in the child's appearance after his mother became involved with Buckley.
"He did not smell clean like he used to.
"I can't remember the month, but he had a nasty bump on the top of his head. He also came down to us and he had a black eye.
"I asked what had happened and was told he 'fell off the couch and his head had hit the floor'."
As well as the murder conviction, Buckley was also found guilty of child cruelty.
The latter charge had been admitted by Finley's mother - who will be sentenced at a later date.
Following Buckley's sentence, South Wales Police's senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Stuart Wales said Finley's death had shocked the local community.
He said: "Finley was only 17 months old when he died in the care of the people who should have done more than any other to nurture him and keep him safe.
"Once again I appeal to the public to respect the judicial process and I urge you to carefully consider any messages you might post on social media.
"Finally, I hope today's verdict will now allow Finley's loved ones to begin to move on with the rest of their lives."
Des Mannion, head of NSPCC Cymru / Wales, said he expected a detailed case review to take place in the future.
He added: "It should provide much-needed answers into how this tragedy took place and help prevent children like Finley suffering in this way again."