Constance Marten: Aristocrat accused of killing newborn says babies ‘don’t require that much to survive’

Constance Marten and partner Mark Gordon deny gross negligence manslaughter of daughter Victoria

Tara Cobham
Thursday 14 March 2024 17:49 GMT
Moment Constance Marten arrested by police

An aristocrat accused of killing her newborn baby has defended the conditions her daughter was left in while she and her partner were on the run, telling jurors: “Babies don’t require that much to survive.”

Constance Marten, 36, and her partner, Mark Gordon, 49, are accused of gross negligence manslaughter after their daughter Victoria died while they were camping on the South Downs in wintry conditions last year.

During her fifth day of testifying at the Old Bailey, the 36-year-old told jurors on Thursday: “People have survived without houses and hospitals for millennia. Babies don’t require that much to survive – they just need food, warmth and care.”

Pressed during cross-examination on the conditions the infant was forced to endure while the pair were on the run, the mother later insisted: “They can cope as long as me as a parent can give her what she needs.”

She added: “You don’t need that many items for a newborn baby.”

Constance Marten, Mark Gordon and baby Victoria in a shop in East Ham, London, while on the run from authorities last year (PA Media)

The court previously heard Marten and Gordon had gone off grid to hide from authorities in a bid to keep Victoria after their four other children were taken into care, with the pair also concealing the mother’s pregnancy.

Following the couple’s arrests last February, the baby’s severely decomposed body was found in an allotment shed inside a Lidl supermarket bag that also contained soil and rubbish.

A tearful Marten was pushed by the prosecution over the state the newborn was left in after she admitted to putting Victoria’s remains in a “bag for life”.

The plastic Lidl bag in which the body of Constance Marten and Mark Gordon’s baby Victoria was found (Metropolitan Police)

Prosecutor Joel Smith told the court Victoria in her own faeces, to which Marten replied: “I found it too difficult to change her nappy after she passed, so I wrapped her in a blanket and put her in the bag. I had no intention of keeping her in the bag.

“I know it looks awful objectively – but neither of us were in the right frame mind... We weren’t in a normal situation… it was a nightmare.”

The couple deny charges of gross negligence manslaughter of Victoria between 4 January and 27 February last year, 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 mother did admit to the court on Thursday that her newborn daughter “could’ve had better” after she died.

Mr Smith asked: “Is putting her in a ‘bag for life’ the best that anyone could give her?”

Marten replied: “Of course it’s not.” She caveated: “But that’s not my child… it’s a part of her, but it’s not her… I think we’re all more than our flesh, we’re spirit, our body is our casing.” But pressed again, Marten told jurors: “After she passed away, of course she could’ve had better.”

However, she insisted that what happened to her baby “could’ve happened to anyone”, describing the newborn’s death as a “horrible accident”.

Mark Gordon and Constance Marten's burning Peugeot 206 on the M61 (PA)

Rejecting the prosecution’s suggestion that she put Victoria in a position that endangered the infant, the 36-year-old told jurors it was her falling asleep that led to her daughter’s death. She also refuted the notion that Victoria had died from hypothermia while camping.

Instead, she described living in the tent as a “self-sacrifice” for the newborn, insisting she gave the best to her baby that anyone could have given while she was still alive.

“What we were doing was for Victoria – it was a self-sacrificing act,” she told the court. “I did it because I loved her so much that I would’ve done anything to save her.”

Marten also defended putting on a fake accent and falsifying parts of the story she told while on the run, telling jurors she was forced to in order to “save my child”.

She said she was “up against” both social services and her “influential” family, who she said have “connections in high places”. Taking aim at her family, she said: “I masked my accent – but the story I gave was true to myself... except for the masked accent, and parts. But I had to escape my family who didn’t agree with me having children with Mark.”

After moving between various hotels and Airbnbs, the couple abandoned many of their belongings after their car burst into flames near Bolton, Greater Manchester, last 5 January, which alerted them to the police.

When they were arrested in Brighton on 27 February, they had refused to answer officers’ urgent questions about where their baby was and whether she was alive or dead.

Fighting back tears as she gave evidence, Marten added on Thursday: “If there’s any fear of your child being taken from you, most parents would do anything.”

The trial continues.

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