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Constance Marten and her partner due in court charged with manslaughter as hundreds attend vigil for her newborn
3 March 2023, 06:56
Constance Marten and her partner Mark Gordon are set to appear in court charged with manslaughter after the remains of a baby were found in a wooded area.
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The pair have been charged with gross negligence manslaughter, concealing the birth of a child and perverting the course of justice, the Metropolitan Police said.
Officers found the body of a baby on Wednesday in the Hollingbury area of Brighton, East Sussex, following a two-day search operation.
The infant is yet to be formally identified and a post-mortem is due to take place on Friday.
Marten, 35, and Gordon, 48, both of no fixed address, are in custody and will appear at Crawley Magistrates' Court on Friday.
It comes after a candle-lit vigil was held for the baby on Wednesday night.
Attendees gathered for the vigil outside St Mary Magdalen Church in Coldean, East Sussex, near to where the remains of a baby were found.
Mourners were seen holding candles and lighting a small fire outside the church to pay tribute.
The event was attended by the Bishop of Lewes, Will Hazlewood.
The vicar leading the vigil Reverend Betsy Gray-Hammond said: "This has caused such a cloud of darkness in this area, and we feel we want to bring some light back into that darkness.
"There will be members of the whole community, not just church members. Anyone who wants to come along is welcome to do so.
"People here have been so affected by everything that has gone on. When you've seen searches taking place in your local woodland, it's brought home to you, and it's that tiny little innocent life that none of us can explain what happened or why it happened.
"We're not here to judge and not here to make a judgement. We're here to try and bring some peace and grace back into this area."
Marten and her partner went missing with their newborn baby in January, prompting a nationwide search by police, amid concerns about Marten their child's welfare.
After the couple were found weeks later without the baby, another search operation was launched to find the infant as police questioned the pair.
During the search, the remains of a baby were found, with police revealing the following day that the infant may have been dead "for some time".
After the discovery, tributes were left for the baby in East Sussex, near where the body was found, including a card attached to a white teddy bear which read: “RIP little darling."
Barry Hughes, chief crown prosecutor for CPS London North, said on Thursday: "The CPS has authorised the Metropolitan Police to charge Constance Marten and Mark Gordon with gross negligence manslaughter.
"Constance Marten, aged 35, and Mark Gordon, aged 48, have also been charged with concealing the birth of a child and perverting the course of justice. These charges arise from their arrest on Monday as a result of a lengthy police investigation to establish their whereabouts and that of their baby.
"The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against Constance Marten and Mark Gordon are active and that they have the right to a fair trial."
Detective Superintendent Lewis Basford, who has been leading the investigation, said: "My team has been working on this investigation for the past eight weeks and we have travelled across the country as part of our searches for this baby.
"We are all truly devastated by the outcome and we know this emotion is also being felt here in Brighton and across the country today.
"While there are still many unanswered questions it is important that we give the investigation team the time and space they need to establish more details about the circumstances of this tragic death.
"At this stage we have not yet been able to confirm the baby's gender and a post-mortem examination has not yet taken place.
"Despite this, based on the enquiries we've carried out so far, we believe, sadly, the baby had been dead for several weeks before they were found. It's too early for us to provide a more specific date.
He added that the force has referred itself to the Independent Office of Police Conduct, adding that this was "standard protocol for such circumstances".
The pair were spotted by a member of the public after nearly two months on the run.
The couple had vanished from the Bolton area after their car was found alight on the motorway. They had an infant who, it was believed, had not been seen by medical professionals.
Police found most of the belongings destroyed, but Ms Marten's passport was still relatively intact. Blood and placenta were also found on the back seat, indicating Ms Marten had given birth.
They used taxis to travel across the UK, eventually emerging in London before they were finally tracked down to Brighton.
In January, it emerged that Marten is from an aristocratic family with links to the royals, although she has not been in touch with her family for some time.
Her grandmother is Mary Anna Marten, whose godmother was the Queen Mother, meaning Constance Marten is the great-granddaughter of Captain Napier Sturt, Baron Alington.
Her father was a page to Queen Elizabeth but renounced the family's £115 million fortune, saying a voice in his head told him "to shave my head and go to Australia".
It was later reported that Ms Marten featured in society magazine Tatler when she was 21 as "Babe of the Month" and said her special skill was "crunching a Coke can between my shoulder blades".
She added that the best party she had been to was a Bacchus-themed bash thrown by one Viscount Cranbourne.