A ‘cruel’ aristocrat and her lover allegedly caused the death of their baby girl after going on the run from authorities who had taken four other children into care.
Constance Marten and Mark Gordon are accused of fleeing across the country in a ‘desperately selfish’ bid to prevent their fifth child being taken away from them.
The Old Bailey heard today that the couple described as ‘reckless, utterly selfish, callous, cruel and arrogant’ treated the infant ‘as if she was refuse’ dumping her body when she died in freezing conditions after two months on the run.
When police caught up with the couple in February last year, the child’s body was found in a shopping bag covered in rubbish in a disused shed, it was alleged.
In a case which gripped the country, Marten, 36, is said to have given birth in secret and decided to go ‘off-grid’, living in a tent in the middle of winter with Gordon causing the ‘entirely avoidable death’ of their child.
Aristocrat Constance Marten is said to have given birth in secret and decided to go ‘off-grid’
Constance Marten (left) and Mark Gordon (right) both deny manslaughter by gross negligence
Prosecutor Tom Little, KC, said: ‘A young baby girl who would still be alive if it was not for the reckless, utterly selfish, callous, cruel, arrogant and ultimately grossly negligent conduct of these two defendants – who were the parents of that young baby girl.
‘They put their relationship and their view of life before the life of a little baby girl. So that, in just a few words, is what this case is all about.
‘Rather than act in the obvious best interests of a vulnerable baby and one that they should have cared for and looked after, they decided instead that they knew best.’
He told jurors: ‘They decided that in the middle of a cold winter and in cruel and obviously dangerous weather conditions that they would deprive the baby of what it needed – warmth, shelter and food and ultimately safety.
A court artist’s sketch of Mark Gordon, 49, in the dock at the Old Bailey in London today
A court artist’s impression of prosecutor Tom Little KC opening the case at the Old Bailey today
‘They essentially went off-grid and lived in a tent with hardly any clothes, no means of keeping and remaining warm and dry and with scarcely any food.
‘Their selfish desire to keep their baby girl led inexorably to the death of that very baby.’
The court heard that Marten, whose father was a page to the late Queen, had had four other children with her boyfriend Marten, who had all been taken into care.
She became pregnant with their fifth child in early 2022 and gave birth sometime after December 28, the court heard.
Mr Little said: ‘No doubt because they knew that the child would be taken into care this pregnancy and the subsequent birth was concealed from everyone including family and friends, healthcare professionals and social services.’
He told the court: ‘This led to them camping in freezing and obviously dangerous conditions on the South Downs with insufficient clothing, equipment and food never once seeking.
Marten’s brother Tobias Marten and mother Virginie de Selliers arrive at the Old Bailey today
A sketch of Marten (left) and Gordon (right) with a dock officer at the Old Bailey in March 2023
‘After the baby had died the defendants did not hand themselves in but instead remained off-grid and trying to hide, leaving the body of their dead baby in a shopping bag covered in rubbish, as if she was refuse, and left in a disused shed.’
Today Gordon appeared alone in the dock wearing a light blue shirt and tie.
Jurors were told a video link had been provided for Marten but she was not present.
Her mother Virginie de Selliers and her brother Tobias Marten watched proceedings as the case was opened.
The wealthy family lived at Dorset estate Crichel House during Marten’s youth and her grandmother was a playmate of Princess Margaret and goddaughter to the Queen Mother.
Marten and Gordon deny manslaughter by gross negligence, concealment of the birth of a child and perverting the course of justice.
They also deny causing or allowing the death of a child, an alternative charge to manslaughter, between January 4 and February 27 last year.
The case continues.