Constance Marten a victim of ‘class prejudice’ in trial over death her baby with Mark Gordon, court told

Marten’s defence claims the baby’s death was a ‘tragic accident’ after her parents took her ‘off-grid’ in the South Downs

Amy-Clare Martin
Crime Correspondent
Wednesday 17 April 2024 19:52 BST
Marten, 36, and Gordon, 49, both deny gross negligence manslaughter of their newborn
Marten, 36, and Gordon, 49, both deny gross negligence manslaughter of their newborn (PA)

Lawyers for aristocrat Constance Marten claim she is a victim of “nasty class prejudice” as they insist her baby’s death while on the run was a tragic accident.

In his closing remarks to the jury, Francis Fitzgibbon KC, defending Marten, said the newborn’s death was “no crime” after she fell asleep holding the infant, named Victoria, as she sheltered in a tent with her partner Mark Gordon.

“What happened to Victoria was no crime. But rather a terrible, tragic accident,” he told the Old Bailey on Wednesday.

He insisted allegations the couple had carried the baby in a Lidl carrier bag while she was still alive to move around the country undetected were nothing more than a “smear”.

Mr Fitzgibbon also claimed repeated references to Marten’s “rich and privileged” background and her trust fund by the prosecution were a “distraction” and an “irrelevance”.

“The comment made yesterday about her Upstairs, Downstairs attitude was just throwing in a bit of nasty class prejudice,” he added. “Just another little smear.”

It comes after prosecutor Tom Little KC yesterday suggested Marten had an “Upstairs, Downstairs mentality” after she referred to a witness as a “random workman”.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Marten and Gordon at the Old Bailey (PA)

Marten, 36, and Gordon, 49, both deny gross negligence manslaughter of the newborn, whom they took off-grid to stop her from being taken into care like their four other children.

The mother previously told the court how she fell asleep with the infant zipped inside her jacket as they camped in wintry conditions in a “flimsy” tent on the South Downs last January, but awoke to find her dead.

The child’s remains were eventually found in a Lidl carrier bag covered with rubbish in a disused shed in Brighton on 1 March, two days after the parents were arrested after 53 days on the run.

The prosecution claims Victoria died of hypothermia after her parents “recklessly” fled with just a vest and a babygrow for the newborn.

However Mr Fitzgibbon, defending, told the jury that Marten had found it virtually impossible to accept the removal of her four other children by a family court.

“As a mother she laments the loss of her four children. She finds it virtually impossible to accept that those decisions were right,” he told the jury.

He later added: “Constance and her husband didn’t want another child to be taken from them so they kept themselves – and continued to keep themselves – out of sight and then later off the grid entirely.”

He admitted they may have felt somewhat “paranoid” as they travelled the length and breadth of the country amid high-profile appeals to find them.

But he insisted Marten’s account of events was accurate and Victoria died on 9 January – a day after they pitched a tent on the South Downs.

“Conditions were not freezing. There was no ice or snow or frost,” Mr Fitzgibbon told the court.

“It was not toasty warm, for sure, but neither was it freezing cold or wintry. So carried within Constance Marten’s puffer jacket – was she likely to become dangerously cold?”

Victoria’s remains were found in a Lidl bag in a disused allotment shed in Brighton (PA)

Mr Fitzgibbon insisted that the infant’s death in her mother’s arms was a “tragic accident” which could have happened anywhere.

He said parents are prosecuted in cases where the children are found to have been abused, but “we say there is no such abuse here”.

“A woman who has given birth two weeks or so before will be exhausted by caring for her baby wherever she may be,” he added.

The couple both deny gross negligence manslaughter of their daughter Victoria between 4 January and 27 February last year.

They also deny charges of perverting the course of justice by concealing the body, along with concealing the birth of a child, child cruelty, and allowing the death of a child.

The Old Bailey trial continues.

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