Fugitive aristocrat feels responsible over death of baby, court told

Fugitive Aristocrat Feels Responsible Over Death Of Baby, Court Told
Constance Marten and her partner Mark Gordon went on the run in a bid to keep their baby after their four children were taken into care. Photo: PA
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By Emily Pennink, PA Old Bailey Correspondent

On-the-run mother Constance Marten has told jurors she “feels responsible” over the death of her baby daughter.

The aristocrat (36) and her partner Mark Gordon (49) are on trial after baby Victoria died while they were camping on the South Downs in England in wintry conditions last year.


Giving evidence on Friday, Marten told jurors: “She was our pride and joy. I had four kids. I know how to look after children. Our primary concern was Victoria.

Mark Gordon court case
CCTV from January 7th of Constance Marten, Mark Gordon and baby Victoria in a shop in London (Met Police/PA)

“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.”

Cross-examining, prosecutor Joel Smith repeatedly asked Marten if she accepted that taking her newborn baby to live in a tent in the winter was a “very bad idea”.

Marten said: “Obviously being in a house would be better than being in a tent.”

Mr Smith said: “Can you see that bringing your newborn child into a tent in the middle of winter with no heating and hot water, can you see that was a very bad decision?”


Marten replied: “You are looking at it from a very Western perspective. There are kids who live in igloos.”

She added: “It was the only decision I had at the time. She was well cared for and well loved.”

Asked if she regretted the decision now, she said: “I regret falling asleep in the way I did.”

Mark Gordon court case
A shed where a Lidl bag was found to contain the body of Victoria (Met Police/PA)

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 5th and were finally arrested in Brighton last February 27th.

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 1st, 2023.

Mr Smith asserted that Marten went underground with her baby because she thought social services were wrong.

He asked: “Has it occurred to you that they were right?”

Marten replied: “Victoria would be alive if it were not for them. I’m not saying they are to blame for her death. I’m saying we were in a very unfortunate position.”

The defendant was asked about the circumstances in which she had her first child.

Marten told jurors her family was “extremely oppressive and bigoted”, would not allow her to have a child with her husband and would do anything to “erase the child from the family line”.

Mark Gordon court case
Court artist sketch of Constance Marten being questioned by her barrister Francis FitzGibbon KC (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Mr Smith went on: “Has it occurred to you in trying to prove them (social services) wrong you proved them more right than ever?”

The defendant denied she was trying to prove anyone wrong.

Earlier 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.

Mark Gordon court case
Baby clothing found in a Lidl bag in a shed, which included the body of baby Victoria (Met Police/PA)

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.”

Mark Gordon court case
Court sketch of Constance Marten and Mark Gordon at the Old Bailey, London, where they are charged with the manslaughter of baby Victoria (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

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 12th 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 9th.

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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