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Constance Marten was a ‘lioness’ who loved her ‘cubs’, court told

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A wealthy aristocrat accused of killing her newborn baby while on the run from authorities has been described in court as a “lioness” who loved her “cubs”.

Constance Marten, 36, and her partner Mark Gordon, 49, are on trial at the Old Bailey over the death of their daughter Victoria.

Jurors have heard how Marten gave birth in secret and lived off-grid in a tent on the South Downs to evade authorities after their other four children were taken into care.

Marten has claimed her daughter died by accident when she fell asleep holding the child under her jacket in the tent.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Constance Marten appearing at the Old Bailey (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Constance Marten appearing at the Old Bailey (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

The prosecution allege Victoria was exposed to cold wintry conditions with only a babygrow and vest to wear.

In his closing speech, Gordon’s barrister John Femi-Ola KC disputed the way the prosecution had cast the defendants.

He told jurors: “In opening this case, she and her partner Mark Gordon were described as callous and cruel.

“That woman you saw in the witness box over a number of days, ask yourself in all honesty, is callous the first image that comes into your mind?

“The name Constance is rooted in Latin. Constania, it means steadfastness, resolute, faithful, loyal, dedicated and perseverance no matter the obstacle.”

Mr Femi-Ola suggested that while giving evidence she had been “posh but polite, calm and intelligent”.

He said: “You may think she was resolute. You may think her deep, deep love for her children overflowed.

“She is not a person to be pushed around by any man, partner or barrister. She has a strong mind of her own.

“You may think that she is a lioness, talking about her children like her cubs. She loved them.”

Mr Femi-Ola said co-sleeping did not amount to neglect, pointing out 149,000 babies sleep with their parents every night in the UK.

On how Victoria died, he said: “It was a tragic accident and one can only imagine the sheer terror they must have felt when their beautiful daughter passed.”

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Constance Marten being questioned by her barrister (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Constance Marten being questioned by her barrister (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Mr Femi-Ola reminded jurors how the “unlikely couple” had met in a shop in Tottenham, north London, before travelling together in Latin America.

He said her family “did not approve” and were even “embarrassed” that she had children with Gordon.

Mr Femi-Ola pointed out evidence Marten’s mother had engaged a private detective for two weeks in 2016 and her father had used a private detective between 2017 and 2021.

He added: “In December 2019, legal proceedings were commenced in relation to the children with an application for wardship by Constance Marten’s father.”

He said it was a matter for the jury to consider why, when the defendant’s car exploded on the M61 last January, 34 “burner” phones were recovered.

“They fled in haste, they fled in fear and they fled in terror. Why do I say that? Everything is left behind – about £2,000, a car, a cat. All left behind,” he said.

“Why, because Constance Marten told you they were going to take the baby away from her. They wanted to protect the baby, be with the baby.

“Look at what must be going through their minds. The key to it is the burner phones. This other child is going to be taken away so they fled, leaving all their possessions behind.”

Jurors have heard how the defendants abandoned their car after it burst into flames near Bolton, Greater Manchester, last January 5.

The defendants went on the run and were finally arrested in Brighton on February 27, two days before Victoria’s body was found in a disused allotment shed.

Earlier in his speech, prosecutor Tom Little KC accused Marten of being a “serial” liar and disputed her account of how Victoria died.

He said: “We suggest there is overwhelming evidence here of both exposure and neglect.

“How anyone could think it was appropriate to lay on their back with a baby under a coat zipped all the way up so they cannot see, in those cramped conditions where it was cold outside.”

He told jurors it was hard to think of a more dangerous place for a baby – in a cramped tent with tired parents.

Referring to the decision to take the defendants’ older children into care, he said: “Baby Victoria did not die as a result of an accident.

“Those four children were lawfully taken into care and what happened on the South Downs proved that judge right.”

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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