- By Helena Wilkinson & Oliver Slow
- BBC News
A baby girl would still be alive were it not for the “reckless, utterly selfish, callous, cruel, arrogant and ultimately grossly negligent conduct” of her parents, a court has heard.
Constance Marten, 36, and her partner Mark Gordon, 49, are on trial at the Old Bailey for the manslaughter of their newborn daughter Victoria.
The court heard the baby was found inside a shopping bag covered in rubbish “as if she was refuse”.
The pair deny the charges.
Victoria’s body was discovered on 1 March 2023 in a Brighton shed after a weeks-long police search for the family.
The couple are also accused of four other offences – cruelty to their baby; concealment of the baby’s birth; causing or allowing her death; and perverting the course of justice by concealing the body.
Ms Marten was not present for the first day of her trial, while Mark Gordon was in the dock in the courtroom.
Opening the case, Tom Little KC, prosecuting, said the case involved an “entirely avoidable death of a young baby”.
“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.”
The prosecutor said the couple, who have four other children, “put their relationship and their view of life before the life of a little baby girl”.
Their other four children had all been taken into care after extensive social services interaction, and the prosecution argued the couple concealed the birth of the fifth child because they knew she would be taken into care too.
Mr Little KC added: “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 said Ms Marten and Mr Gordon deprived the baby of what it needed – “warmth, shelter and food and ultimately safety”.
The jury heard that the couple “essentially went off-grid” and lived in a tent.
They did not seek medical assistance before, during or after the birth, the court heard.
The prosecutor said the couple ended up camping on the South Downs in “freezing and obviously dangerous conditions.
“It was this grossly negligent and obviously dangerous conduct that caused the death of their baby daughter.”
Mr Little KC said that while the couple were on the run the “child was transferred to a Lidl ‘bag for life’ where it would appear it spent much of its life before it died.
“It would have been plain to the defendants… this was an utterly inappropriate way to care for any child… and remember at all times in this case the time of year and the weather conditions,” he said.
Mr Little KC told jurors that only the defendants know the precise date the baby was born but said this appeared to have been after 28 December 2022.
Jurors heard that a Peugeot 206 car which the defendants had been travelling in caught on fire on the M61 in Greater Manchester on the evening of 5 January 2023.
Ms Marten and Mr Gordon fled the scene before the police arrived, the court heard.
Mr Little KC said a placenta wrapped in a towel was discovered inside the burnt out car.
The prosecutor said friends and family of the defendants and healthcare workers had not been told of the pregnancy, adding that after the discovery in the car a high-risk missing persons inquiry was launched.
Ms Marten and Mr Gordon are charged with manslaughter by gross negligence of their baby between 4 January 2023 and 27 February 2023.
Among the other charges they face are concealing the body of their baby between 4 January and 27 February 2023.