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‘I neglected myself’: Constance Marten says baby Victoria died because she was exhausted on the run

Court artist sketch of Constance Marten appearing at the Old Bailey (PA Wire)
Court artist sketch of Constance Marten appearing at the Old Bailey (PA Wire)

Constance Marten has denied neglecting her baby – insisting the infant died because Marten didn’t look after herself while on the run in the days after she gave birth.

The aristocrat also told jurors she and her partner Mark Gordon did not hand themselves in to the authorities because she does not trust the police or social services after their other four children were taken into care.

The parents deny gross negligence manslaughter of Victoria, who died when zipped inside Marten’s jacket while they were camping on the South Downs last winter.

Marten, 36, told the jury the baby was “extremely well loved” but died after Marten keeled over in exhaustion holding her inside the tent pitched on the South Downs as she hid from the authorities.

“I think Victoria passed away because she was so loved but I was actually neglecting myself. I loved her so much I wasn’t thinking about myself,” she told the court.

“I gave birth but I didn’t even have time to rest myself, I got straight in a car and was up and down the country in different hotels.

“I didn’t allow myself to rest, I neglected myself and that’s why I fell asleep in that tent.”

The mother, who concealed her pregnancy and gave birth unaided in a holiday cottage on Christmas Eve, claims she awoke to find the baby dead inside her jacket on 9 January 2023.

Wealthy Constance Marten, 36, and her partner Mark Gordon, 49, were allegedly motivated by a ‘selfish’ desire to keep their daughter Victoria after four other children were taken into care (PA Media)
Wealthy Constance Marten, 36, and her partner Mark Gordon, 49, were allegedly motivated by a ‘selfish’ desire to keep their daughter Victoria after four other children were taken into care (PA Media)

The court heard the couple considered cremating the newborn but placed her body in a carrier bag and carried her around for several weeks because Marten wanted her to have an autopsy.

By the time of their arrest on 27 February last year, after 53 days on the run, the parents were staying in an abandoned shed in a Brighton allotment – where baby Victoria’s remains were eventually found covered in rubbish in a Lidl bag for life.

She also admitted advising Gordon, 49, to lie to police about being present when their daughter died because she thought they would “automatically blame him, being a black guy”.

She said Gordon told her not to tell police that Victoria died while she was holding her – while she advised him to tell police he was not there when she died.

Asked if she advised Gordon to lie to the police, she said: “Yes, I’m very protective over my husband because I feel that he gets blamed for everything.”

She added: “I thought they were going to automatically blame him, being a black guy, and I am the good one usually.”

Asked if it was fair to say that Gordon advised her to lie and she advised him to lie in order to protect each other, Marten said: “Yes.”

Marten told the court she had discussed handing herself in with Gordon but said she did not trust the authorities.

“There was a point where I did trust the system. After what I experienced with my children I am sorry, I don’t trust the police, I don’t trust social services and I was panicked… that somehow they would blame me, and I panicked,” she told the court.

She later added: “For me, I believe that once the police have you in their sights they shoot and they shoot to kill. They pile up charges and they like to prosecute.”

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)
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)

The mother also insisted she never intended to spend “months on end” living in a tent with Victoria.

Continuing her cross-examination at the Old Bailey, she told Joel Smith KC they bought a tent to spend a “day or two away from prying eyes” because the whole country was looking for them amid a high-profile police search.

“We said if we can’t find a house within the next day or two we’re probably gonna have to hand Victoria in. Because we never intended to stay there for any period of time,” she told the court.

She insisted they had taken her off-grid out of love and did not want her to be taken into care like their four other children.

“It was because we loved her so much. We thought we have got to save our child from being separated from her parents and potentially going in care where neglect is rampant,” she said, adding her actions were the “opposite of neglect”.

Challenged over the safety of raising a baby in a tent, she told Mr Smith you “might as well arrest half the world” for raising children in tents.

Earlier this month, Marten argued their period living in a tent on the South Downs was being looked at from a “Western perspective”, adding that Bedouin families walk through cold deserts with children while others live in shanty towns.

The prosecution alleges the couple’s “reckless and utterly selfish” behaviour led to the “entirely avoidable” death of the newborn.

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 Old Bailey trial continues.