Baby Victoria’s body was not ‘dumped’, mother Constance Marten tells jurors

On-the-run mother Constance Marten has denied she “dumped” the body of her baby in a Lidl bag, saying she had been in the grip of “fear and grief”.

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 wintry conditions last year.

Following their arrests last February, the child’s badly decomposed body was found in an allotment shed inside a Lidl supermarket bag also containing soil and rubbish.

Cross-examining Marten on Wednesday, prosecutor Joel Smith noted that a teddybear babygrow Victoria was seen on CCTV wearing was among the items recovered with Victoria’s “dumped” body.

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

She told jurors: “It’s awful, I know.

“The only thing I can say, if someone passes away the immediate reaction is panic. Mark and I were not in a good place. We were in fear and grief.

“She was not dumped anywhere. She was with us the whole time.”

Mr Smith asserted the couple were “hideously ill-prepared” to look after Victoria when they travelled from London to the South Downs.

Marten insisted they had a camouflage outfit, a couple of babygrows, a quilt, blanket and sheet for the baby.

The defendant, who described Gordon as her “amazing husband”, told jurors: “We had enough to keep her warm, absolutely. She was our number one priority.”

Jurors were shown CCTV of Marten carrying Victoria underneath her zipped-up jacket in east London last January 7.

In the footage, Marten appeared to adjust the baby after she slipped down in her arms.

Asked if that was an appropriate way to carry a newborn baby, mother of five Marten said she had “always” done it with her children.

Mark Gordon court case
CCTV image from January 7 2023 of Constance Marten holding baby Victoria under her coat in East Ham, London (Met Police/PA)

In further CCTV on the same day, Victoria was seen with her head tilted back as she was lifted up by Marten and placed in a buggy that Gordon had bought but was designed for an older child.

Mr Smith suggested it showed that Marten had treated Victoria in a “cavalier fashion”.

The defendant accepted it appeared from the video that she was not supporting Victoria’s head.

She added: “She’s fine. If she was not, she would be howling. I’m confident with my children.”

The defendant insisted the baby, who was dressed only in the teddybear motif babygrow, was “fine”.

Marten said she did not believe the medical advice warning against keeping a new-born baby outside for long periods.

“I do not agree with it because there are babies who spend hours outside. People live in countries without central heating,” she said.

Mr Smith asked: “At what stage did you decide to live in a tent?”

Mark Gordon court case
CCTV of Constance Marten, Mark Gordon and baby Victoria in a German doner kebab shop in East Ham, London last January 7 (Met Police/PA)

She said: “We were not intending to live in a tent. We were intending to lay low for a few days.”

Mr Smith asked: “Did either of you say anything to the effect I’m not sure this is a good idea?”

Marten said they did not, adding that the other choice was to put their child in care.

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 many of their belongings after their car burst into flames near Bolton, Greater Manchester, last January 5.

When they were finally arrested in Brighton last February 27, they had refused to answer officers’ urgent questions about where their baby was and whether she was alive or dead.

Victoria’s remains were found by police in the Lidl bag inside a shed on a nearby allotment on March 1 2023.

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 Old Bailey trial continues.

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