Runaway aristocrat Constance Marten's defence begins as jury told there is 'no obligation' for a women to register pregnancy

6 March 2024, 20:52 | Updated: 7 March 2024, 08:26

Constance Marten, 36, and her partner Mark Gordon, 49, are accused of the death of their newborn daughter Victoria
Constance Marten, 36, and her partner Mark Gordon, 49, are accused of the death of their newborn daughter Victoria. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

The defence in the trial of runaway wealthy aristocrat mother Constance Marten has begun at the Old Bailey today, as the jury was told there is 'no obligation' for a mother to register her pregnancy with the NHS.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Marten, 36, and her partner Mark Gordon, 49, are accused of the death of their newborn daughter Victoria while living off-grid in a tent on the South Downs in wintry conditions.

A manhunt for both Marten and Gordon was launched in January last year after a placenta was found in the couple's burnt-out car on a motorway roadside near Bolton, Greater Manchester.

Following a desperate search, the two were eventually taken into custody almost two months later at the end of February.

But Victoria did not survive and her decomposed body was found in a Lidl bag in an allotment shed in Brighton, East Sussex.

The cause of the newborn's death is "unascertained", but jurors have today been told that she may have died from the cold or co-sleeping.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Constance Marten and Mark Gordon at the Old Bailey, London, Tuesday
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Constance Marten and Mark Gordon at the Old Bailey, London, Tuesday. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Dutch tram firm that transported Jews including Anne Frank to Nazi death camps chased invoices after end of WWII

Read More: Woman sectioned under Mental Health Act after murder arrest for three children found stabbed to death in Bristol

Speaking as a defence witness in the Old Baily on Wednesday, Dr Ehsan Rafiq told the jury pregnant women were not legally obliged to receive antenatal care and some people, such as members of the travelling community, did not routinely access the service.

He also noted that many women are opting for "natural births" over Covid infection fears amid a general trend towards less authoritative parenting styles.

Dr Rafiq said it would be "entirely up to the mother" whether or not to have medical intervention on giving birth if there were no concerns for her health.

Quizzed about the practice of "hypnobirthing", Dr Rafiq said it was not available on the NHS but agreed the practice was about creating a relaxed environment through a variety of techniques including hypnosis.

Prosecutor Joel Smith queried the advisability of not having antenatal scans, saying: "There are very many significant problems that are relevant both to the child's health and the mother's health that can be picked up on a scan in antenatal care.

"While it remains the mother's decision, your advice is to take advantage of antenatal care?" The witness replied: "That's correct."

CCTV image dated 07/01/23 of Mark Gordon and Constance Marten walking through Flower and Dean Walk near Brick Lane, east London
CCTV image dated 07/01/23 of Mark Gordon and Constance Marten walking through Flower and Dean Walk near Brick Lane, east London. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Pictured: Boy with 'heart of gold' who died after taking part in 'chroming' social media craze at friend's sleepover

Read More: Man, 35, who murdered ex-partner and boyfriend days after being released given whole life order

Mr Smith continued: "Your advice would be not to live in a tent in winter with a newborn child because that poses obvious danger to the life of a child?". Dr Rafiq agreed.

Expert on sudden deaths in children, Dr Srinivas Annavarapu told the court that Victoria was probably born before last January 3.

It is alleged the defendants went on the run two days later because they wanted to to keep their daughter, after four other children were taken into care.

Following her arrest, Marten told police Victoria died when she fell asleep in the tent while holding her under her jacket.

The court has heard that Marten had previously been warned by social workers of the risks of falling asleep with the baby on her and that a tent would be "wholly inappropriate for a baby to live in".

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 trial at the Old Bailey continues.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Joe Biden has tested positive for Covid

Joe Biden cancels campaign event after testing positive for Covid-19, but insists 'you won't get rid of me easily'

Starmer is set to push for a migrant return deal with the EU

Starmer to push for new migrant return deal with EU, as he seeks to 'renew UK's relationship with Europe' at summit

Keir Starmer faces a challenge over the two-child benefit cap

Keir Starmer seeks to stave off Labour backbench revolt over benefit cap with child poverty taskforce

A man has been shot dead in Kirkby

Man shot dead on residential street close to Liverpool training ground, as police launch murder investigation

Joe Biden has hinted he could step aside from the race against Donald Trump for the White House

Biden hints he could quit election race against Trump on medical advice, as top Democrat calls for him to stand down

The scandal surrounding Strictly Come Dancing has deepened after footage showing former professional dancer James Jordan telling his celebrity partner Georgina Bouzova "kill you" surfaced on social media.

Strictly scandal deepens as footage showing ex-pro telling partner he will 'kill her' emerges

Liz Truss

Reference to Truss' 'disaster' mini-budget removed from King' Speech files after ex-PM complains to civil service chief

Police found "over a dozen" firearms at Crooks' home

Thomas Crooks' father 'called police on the day of the Trump rally shooting'

Cameron Jones left his dying fiancee Demi by the side of the road

Moment driver flees from car wreckage leaving fiancee to die - before he later blames her for horror crash

Kim Johnson wants the two-child benefit cap to be scrapped

Labour MP calls for two-child benefit cap to be axed as she plans King's Speech amendment after policy retained

Adele has played 90 shows in Las Vegas

Adele announces she is stepping back from music after growing to ‘absolutely hate’ fame

Two British travel agents are believed to be the pair found shot dead and their bodies burned in a car in Malmo.

British travel agents thought to be pair shot dead and burned in car in Malmo

Two dead and two children in hospital after house fire in Blackpool

Two die and two children rushed to hospital after house fire in Blackpool

Locals have been warned to avoid the area

Locals warned 'do not open your doors' as huge fire erupts on Birmingham industrial estate

Joe Biden his facing pressure to step down ahead of November's election.

Joe Biden wrongly claims he will cap rent rises at $55 in latest gaffe

A man accused of killing two people and dumping their remains in suitcases by Bristol's Clifton Suspension Bridge and in a flat 116 miles away has appeared in court.

Man accused of killing two and dumping their remains in suitcases on Bristol bridge appears in court