‘I had to escape my bigoted family,’ Constance Marten tells court as she says she ‘feels responsible’ over baby’s death

8 March 2024, 14:39 | Updated: 8 March 2024, 14:50

Constance Marten said she feels 'responsible' for falling asleep on her baby
Constance Marten said she feels 'responsible' for falling asleep on her baby. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Aristocrat Constance Marten today told a jury that she went on the run with her new born baby and partner because she was trying to escape her “oppressive and bigoted” family.

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Marten, 36, told a court that her family did not want her to have children with her partner and that they "will do anything to erase that child."

She and her partner Mark Gordon, 49, are on trial after baby Victoria died while they were camping on the South Downs in wintry conditions last year.

"I had to escape my family, they are extremely oppressive and bigoted," she told jurors today during cross-examination.

"They would not allow me to have children with my husband - they will do anything to erase that child and that is what ended up happening."

"I didn't want to be found on any of the systems... my family are extremely oppressive, if they found out I'd had a baby they would try and get him taken away.

"I knew the only way I could get help was once i had given birth, I could approach them [a local authority] and get housing."

She also told jurors she "feels responsible" over the death of her baby daughter and that she ‘regrets’ falling asleep.

Marten told the court: "She was our pride and joy.

"I had four kids. I know how to look after children. Our primary concern was Victoria.

"I do feel responsible for falling asleep on her if that's what happened.

"I'm not sure because the autopsy was inconclusive but I do feel responsible for her."

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Constance Marten and Mark Gordon, 49, are on trial
Constance Marten and Mark Gordon, 49, are on trial. Picture: Alamy

Under cross-examination, Marten said her baby’s death was “something I could not have forseen in any way shape or form.

“It was a decision I was pressed in to doing. It wasn't the best [decision]... i've worked around the world with children and there are plenty living in tents with newborn babies - you just have to look at France, Calais.

"It was the only deicsion i had available at the time - and she was well cared for"

She said the child was “was protected in the tent" and asked by prosecutors whether she regretted her decision, she said: "I regret falling asleep.”

The couple with their baby in a cafe in East Ham
The couple with their baby in a cafe in East Ham. Picture: Alamy

Jurors have heard how the couple went on the run from authorities in a bid to keep their baby after their four other children were taken into care.

They abandoned their car after it burst into flames near Bolton, Greater Manchester last January 5 and were finally arrested in Brighton last February 27.

The couple had refused to answer officers' urgent questions about where their baby was and whether she was alive or dead.

Her remains were found by police in a Lidl bag inside a shed on a nearby allotment on March 1 2023.

On Friday, Marten told jurors how she and Gordon "lay low" and wanted to "hide away from people" in the days after Victoria died and were reduced to rummaging in bins for food.

They left Victoria in the tent a couple of times when they ventured out but usually carried her with them, disguising themselves with glasses and a cap, the court was told.

They narrowly avoided arrest on one occasion when they ate sandwiches on Brighton beach with Victoria's body.

She said: "We had walked to Brighton once with her body and went to the beach two-and-a-half weeks before being arrested.

"Someone noticed us on the beach, police cars started coming to the beach. We, by hook or by crook, got back to the park undetected. We stopped going out. Mark got extremely thin."

Soon after, they stopped going into Brighton because they were "just too scared" and Gordon began looking anorexic, she said.

Defence barrister Francis FitzGibbon KC asked: "How did you think this was all going to end?"

Marten replied: "I don't think I was really thinking to be honest. We were in a heightened state of grief and fear. I kept toying with handing myself in."

The defendant was asked about CCTV footage showing her and Gordon rummaging in bins for food at Collingwood Golf Club.

Marten went on: "I realised we could not live like this. It was not sustainable. We were sharing one piece of bread out of the bin.

"It was not sustainable so I said to Mark we are just going to have to try to get some money out.

"I said 'Baby, you are not in a good state, neither am I. We have got to get some food, get blood sugar up and figure out what we are going to do.

"My blood sugar was very low. Mark was hobbling with a stick. He had ripped the end of one of his toes off. It was getting infected. He was in a bad way."

Marten was asked about why she did not want to speak to police when she was arrested with Gordon in Brighton.

She said: "I was terrified, fear of this happening. What's happening now. Being on trial, the press. I just think there had been so much media presence that the truth would not be accepted and they would make us out to be awful people and I was not prepared to tell them what happened."

She added: "I just knew they were going to have an absolute field day with us. We had been number one in the news for so long I did not have any trust in the process, the system.

"When they told me they found the body, there was no point in saying no comment because they had found her. There was no point."

Asked how she was feeling at the time, Marten said: "Depressed, grief, stress."

Under cross-examination by Gordon's lawyer John Femi-Ola KC, Marten said that for the first three days after Victoria's death she was "overwhelmed" and spent time just holding on to her.

She did not go out again until January 12 when she was picked up by CCTV buying snacks at a Texaco garage.

On Thursday, Marten described how Victoria was born at a rental cottage on Christmas Eve 2022 and died last January 9.

On how Victoria died, she said: "I had her in my jacket and when I woke up my head was on the floor. And when I was sitting up and when I woke up she was not alive."

She told jurors her children meant the world to her and she had done nothing to Victoria "but show her love".

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.

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