Constance Marten went ‘up against social services and influential family’ over children’s care

Wealthy aristocrat Constance Marten has told jurors how she went up against “influential” family members with “connections in high places” as she fought for her children.

Marten, 36, is on trial over the death of her newborn daughter Victoria while on the run from authorities with her partner Mark Gordon, 49.

The Old Bailey has heard that four of their children had already been taken into care and they were determined to keep their fifth child.

Victoria died while they were living off grid in a tent on the South Downs in wintry conditions last year.

On Thursday, Marten (pictured with Victoria inside her coat) told jurors she was “not a disgruntled parent” but did disagree with the findings in her children’s case.

She said: “It’s abhorrent. My case might not be the same as other parents.

“The problem I had was I was not just up against social services but family members who were very influential with huge connections in high places including Parliament.

“If they said to social services ‘jump’, social services will say ‘how high’.

“They were highly embarrassed about the fact I had children with Mark and the fact they do not come from an upper class, privileged background.”

She added that the unnamed family members would go to “any lengths” to get what they wanted.

Marten was asked about lies she had told when giving birth to one of her children in hospital.

She told jurors: “I had to come up with a reason why I was in hospital without having been on an NHS database, no history of myself. That’s why I had to have the Irish Traveller background.

“I knew my family will stop at nothing because they disagree with my choices.”

She added: “I would be prepared to lie to save my children. I would throw myself in front of a bus to save my children. I would do whatever I have to do to save my children.”

The court has heard how the defendants fled with Victoria 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 a Lidl bag inside a shed on a nearby allotment on March 1 2023.

Prosecutor Joel Smith challenged Marten’s claim Victoria died last January 9, suggesting she was alive at least until mid-January.

The defendant replied: “It’s ridiculous. If she was alive longer I would have said so. She died on the 9th.”

She cast doubt on eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen them, saying they were “curtain twitchers”.

Mr Smith said: “You lied about the date because you knew you kept her out in the cold, the outdoors and she got cold.”

Marten asserted that people have been living outdoors for millennia.

“The issue here is it’s just not true. This is the narrative the prosecution have been wanting to portray from day one because the police made such a big deal in the press,” she said.

Mr Smith said: “Victoria had her teddy bear onesie and nothing more. She did not have enough clothes for a winter walk, let alone roaming the country.”

The prosecutor asserted that sleeping with her and Gordon in a tent was a “thoroughly dangerous” thing to do.

Marten denied it.

Mr Smith said: “You decided to put your child face down on your chest, zipped up. That was no accident. Did you not think that was dangerous?”

The defendant denied it.

Mr Smith went on: “Given you could roll in your sleep, given Mr Gordon could roll in your sleep, given the crowded nature in the tent, did you not think that was dangerous?”

Marten replied: “She was fine.”

Mr Smith asserted: “You had reduced yourself to a position where you could not possibly care for that child.

“Your account to police was to cover up your neglect after the event.”

Marten denied it, saying: “You do not want to believe my account because of all the media presence. You want something sinister to have happened when the truth is it was a terrible accident.”

Mr Smith continued: “You ended up putting her in a plastic bag sitting in her own faeces.”

Marten became emotional and said she “not in the right frame of mind”.

The prosecutor repeatedly asked: “Do you accept you stripped her of dignity in death?”

Marten said that at the time she was “living like a rat, scurrying through bins”.

“I never intended to keep her like that.

“It’s her flesh but we are all much greater than her flesh. Her spirit is what is important. Of course I want to give her a proper burial,” she said.

Marten told jurors she considered “having a pyre to get rid of the evidence” because she did not “trust the process”.

Gordon noisily reacted in the dock as his partner was being cross-examined.

Earlier, Judge Mark Lucraft KC issued written directions about the family court findings in Marten’s case.

He told the jury: “It is important that you understand that the decisions made by the independent judge sitting in the family court are ones that she was entitled to make based on all of the material available to her, and in this trial, there can be no going behind any of the determinations she made.”

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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