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Runaway aristocrat and boyfriend 'let baby die to stop her being taken into care' like their four other children
25 January 2024, 13:47 | Updated: 25 January 2024, 14:29
An aristocrat and her partner who went on the run with their newborn baby lived “off-grid” in freezing conditions before she died, the Old Bailey was told.
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Constance Marten, 36, and Mark Gordon 48, sparked a national manhunt when they went missing in January 2023, in an alleged bid to avoid their baby being taken into care.
Jurors heard that the infant was the couple's fifth baby, with their other children having been taken into care.
It was their "selfish desire" to keep the baby that ultimately led to her "entirely avoidable" death, prosecutor Tom Little KC said on Thursday.
Opening their trial at the Old Bailey, Mr Little described the couple as "reckless, utterly selfish, callous, cruel, arrogant and ultimately grossly negligent", adding that they treated the child "as if she was refuse" by dumping her in body in freezing conditions after months on the run.
"They put their relationship and their view of life before the life of a little baby girl," he told jurors.
Mr Little said the defendants decided they "knew best" and ignored the advice they were given.
"They decided that, in the middle of a cold winter and in cruel and obviously dangerous weather conditions, they would deprive the baby of what it needed - warmth, shelter and food and ultimately safety," he said.
"They essentially went off-grid and lived in a tent with hardly any clothes, no means of keeping and remaining warm and dry, and with scarcely any food.
"Their selfish desire to keep their baby girl led inexorably to the death of that very baby.
"They went, and remained, on the run. Giving birth to the baby on the run. Not seeking any medical assistance before, during or after birth. Not registering the birth but moving from location to location.
"When the hunt by the authorities to find them, which became national front page news almost exactly a year ago, intensified, so their desperate selfishness increased and so did the risks and the dangers to the baby."
Marten became pregnant in early 2022 and gave birth after December 28, the court heard.
"No doubt because they knew that the child would be taken into care this pregnancy and the subsequent birth was concealed from everyone including family and friends, healthcare professionals and social services," Mr Little said.
The couple began camping in "freezing and obviously dangerous conditions on the South Downs with insufficient clothes, equipment and food and no medical assistance", the court was told.
Mr Little said they travelled hundreds of miles across the country after a car they were in was found on fire between junctions 3 and 4 of the M61 near Bolton on 5th January 2023.
He said they used taxis and paid in cash to move from the town to Liverpool, then Essex, East London and Newhaven in Sussex over the following few days, in one instance paying £475 for a ride.
He said: “The defendants fled the scene of the fire. A search of the vehicle found a large number of burner mobile phones in the vehicle.
“And wrapped in a towel in that car, was a placenta. That revealed the existence of a new-born baby and this is the new-born baby girl that lies at the heart of this case.
“As a result of the finding of the placenta, a high-risk missing persons enquiry was launched. It became bigger and bigger news as the days went on and despite this and the defendants becoming aware that they were front page news they did not contact the Police or other authorities. They tried to do exactly the opposite and hide their whereabouts.”
The jury heard that while in East London, Mark Gordon had bought a buggy for their baby but after deciding to camp, despite the cold temperatures, and buying a tent, sleeping bags and pillows, the buggy was “ditched” and instead a carrier bag was used to transport the newborn.
“All they have at this stage is the tent, sleeping bags, pillows, a buggy, a bag for life and the baby. A buggy that could’ve been able to keep the baby dry, was just left," jurors were told.
“The baby was then transferred and carried in a Lidl bag for life where it would appear it spent much of its life before it died.”
The couple deny manslaughter by gross negligence of the girl between January 4 and February 27 last year.
They are also charged with perverting the course of justice, concealing the birth of a child, child cruelty, and causing or allowing the death of a child.
The trial before Judge Mark Lucraft KC is expected to go on until March 8.