Constance Marten defends sleeping in a tent with her newborn and says ‘Jesus survived in a barn’

By Staff

On-the-run mother Constance Marten has defended her decision to live in a tent with her newborn baby, saying: “Jesus survived in a barn.” Marten, 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.

On Wednesday, Marten was cross-examined at the Old Bailey about the couple’s decision to buy a tent and live off grid to hide from authorities.

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She told jurors that Bedouin families walk through cold deserts with children, adding: “Jesus survived in a barn.”

She said: “I would do anything to protect my child to prevent her being taken by the system that’s abhorrent, yeah.” She claimed two of her other four children were spat on and physically abused after being taken into care previously.

The wealthy aristocrat told jurors: “I have grown up with luxury, I have been blessed in that respect. I like feathered duvets and comfort. I would do anything for my baby. Anything. So it was an easy decision to make. I would rather be in a plush bed in a palace. I would rather be in a nice big bed.”

Prosecutor Joel Smith asked if she considered the conditions were uncomfortable. Marten replied: “I’m pretty outdoorsy but I would rather be in a bed.”

She went on: “We were not looking to live in a tent. We were acting on instinct. She was our number one priority. We were living in a tent for Victoria. A mother’s love for her child is incredibly strong.

“There was no way I was going to part with my child. We were hiding from the entire British public because I was worried about Victoria being taken.”

Marten accepted that camping in a tent meant there was no heating, hot water or electricity. But she said: “People around the world live in conditions like that… as long as your child is well taken care of and loved.”

Asked what they planned to do about food, she said: “It was only a pitstop. We were not thinking about being there for months. It was more in the immediacy rather than long-term planning.”

Marten repeatedly dismissed as “ridiculous” the prosecution’s suggestion that she had carried her daughter in a Lidl bag for life when she was alive.

She said: “This whole line of reasoning is absurd, that she is alive in the bag. I’m not going to put her alive in a Lidl bag, I’m sorry.”

Earlier, Marten became agitated when asked about a teddy bear babygrow Victoria was wearing in CCTV footage from East London which was later among items recovered with her “dumped” body.

She insisted Victoria was not “dumped” in the Lidl bag for life, telling 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.

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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.

She said: “As long as it’s secure. People carry children in their arms all the time.”

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.”

Marten said she did not believe medical advice warning against keeping a newborn 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.

Jurors have heard that 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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