Constance Marten 'feels responsible' over death of her newborn baby, court hears

By John Mercury March 8, 2024

Constance Marten has told her trial she “feels responsible” over the death of her baby daughter, who died while she and her partner were on the run.

Marten, 36, who is from a wealthy family, said she and Mark Gordon, 49, tried to disguise themselves with caps and glasses to avoid the authorities.

A nationwide search was launched after a placenta was found in the couple’s burnt-out car by the motorway near Bolton, Greater Manchester, on 5 January 2023.

Prosecutors say they went on the run, living off-grid in a tent on the South Downs in wintry conditions, so they could keep their baby daughter Victoria because their previous four children had been taken into care.

The court heard she was about to be bought a house in London with funds from her family trust fund before the birth of her first child but the offer was withdrawn when she decided to leave the capital.

Family feud

“I had to escape my family because my family are extremely oppressive and bigoted and wouldn’t allow me to have children with my husband,” she said under cross-examination by prosecutor Joel Smith.

“They would do anything to erase that child from the family line, which is what they did end up doing.”

She said her family would “try to get my children taken off me” and “refused to take them in when they were put up for adoption”.

Marten has told jurors Victoria died when she fell asleep in the tent while holding her under her jacket on 9 January.

Her badly decomposed body was found in a Lidl bag inside an allotment shed in Brighton, East Sussex, on 1 March last year, days after the couple were arrested on 27 February.

CCTV footage of Constance Marten, Mark Gordon and baby Victoria in a German doner kebab shop in East Ham.
Pic: PA
Image:
CCTV footage of Marten, Gordon and baby Victoria in a German Doner Kebab shop in East Ham. Pic: PA

While the cause of her death is “unascertained”, jurors have heard she could have died from the cold or co-sleeping.

‘I know how to look after my children’

Giving evidence at the Old Bailey for a second day, Marten said: “She’s my pride and joy. I had four kids, I know how to look after children.

“My primary concern was Victoria, we had taken care great of her. I do feel guilty for falling asleep on her, I do feel responsible if that’s what happened… but the autopsy isn’t conclusive.”

CCTV footage of Constance Marten holding baby Victoria under her coat outside Special Connection in East Ham.
Pic: mPA
Image:
CCTV footage of Marten holding baby Victoria under her coat outside Special Connection in East Ham. Pic: PA

She was repeatedly asked by Mr Smith whether it was a good idea to take her baby into a tent in the middle of winter.

Marten, who previously said travel was her passion, told the prosecutor he was looking at things from a “Western perspective” and that “children around the world live in tents” and even “igloos”.

“It’s the only decision I had at the time. She was well cared for and well-loved,” she said.

Marten said she and Gordon camped on the South Downs following Victoria’s death, occasionally venturing into Brighton where they bought clothes “to use as a disguise”, including “glasses and caps to hide how we looked, change our appearance”.

“I don’t think we were really thinking, we had 100 different things going through our heads. I think we wanted to lay low and hide away from people,” she said.

“I don’t think I was really thinking. I think we were just in a heightened state of grief and fear. I kept toying with the idea of handing myself in,” she said.

But Marten said, “I was too scared” because of the media coverage.

“I thought people wanted something negative to have happened and wouldn’t believe the truth so I panicked and didn’t want to hand myself in, so we just lived wild.”

Partner was ‘anorexically thin’

She said they usually carried Victoria’s body with them in a Lidl shopping bag, but when they went to a shop to buy food on 27 February, they left her in the allotment shed they had been sleeping in.

She said the way they were living had become “unsustainable”, with Gordon “anorexically thin” and hobbling and they had been sharing one piece of bread out of the bin.

“I was too weak to carry anything,” she said, adding that when she was arrested: “I was scared, terrified of this happening – what’s happening now.”

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She said she thought the media “would have an absolute field day with us”.

“We had been number one in the news for so long, I didn’t have any trust in the system,” she said.

“I just think there had been so much media presence and the truth wouldn’t be accepted and they just wanted to make us out as awful people, basically, so I wasn’t prepared to tell them what happened.”

But she said there was “no point” in saying “no comment” after police found her baby’s body.

The defendants, of no fixed address, deny manslaughter by gross negligence, perverting the course of justice, concealing the birth of a child, child cruelty and causing or allowing the death of a child.

The trial continues.

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