Jury retires to consider verdict in trial of Constance Marten and Mark Gordon

Marten and Gordon both deny gross negligence manslaughter of their daughter Victoria after going on the run

Amy-Clare Martin
Crime Correspondent
Tuesday 30 April 2024 16:27 BST
Constance Marten (Handout/PA)
Constance Marten (Handout/PA) (PA Media)

The jury has retired to consider their verdict in the trial of aristocrat Constance Marten and her partner Mark Gordon over the death of their baby.

Marten, 36, and Gordon, 49, both deny gross negligence manslaughter of their daughter Victoria after they went on the run to stop her from being taken into care like their four other children.

The mother insists she fell asleep with the newborn 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 last March. The parents had been arrested two days earlier after spending 53 days on the run.

Prosecutor Tom Little KC alleged the parents had also carried Victoria in the bag while she was still alive as they tried to travel the country undetected - something which Marten denied when she gave evidence.

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

Concluding his case earlier this month, Mr Little said the prosecution’s primary case is that Victoria died as a result of hypothermia after they fled with just a vest and a babygrow for the newborn.

He insisted Marten and Gordon’s four other children had been lawfully taken into care by a family court judge, adding: “What happened on the South Downs proves that judge right on the conduct of those parents.”

However John Femi-Ola KC, defending Gordon, insisted Marten was a “lioness” who deeply loved her children – adding that Victoria’s death was a “tragic accident”.

Mr Femi-Ola told the court the newborn died in her mother’s arms and insisted co-sleeping does not amount to neglect.

“It was an accident. It happened and it can happen. It happened and it can happen anywhere that a mother and baby are together,” he said, adding 149,000 babies co-sleep with their parents in this country every single night.

“We suggest that sleeping with a baby doesn’t amount to neglect and is not unlawful,” he added.

The moment police discovered the remains of Constance Marten and Mark Gordon’s baby covered in leaves in a rubbish-filled shopping bag
The moment police discovered the remains of Constance Marten and Mark Gordon’s baby covered in leaves in a rubbish-filled shopping bag (Metropolitan Police)

While Francis Fitzgibbon KC, defending Marten, said the newborn’s death was “no crime” after she fell asleep holding the infant as she sheltered in a tent with her partner Gordon.

“What happened to Victoria was no crime. But rather a terrible, tragic accident,” he told the Old Bailey in his closing remarks.

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”.

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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