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Baby ‘screaming in distress’ as on-the-run parents refused help, court told

A newborn baby cried “in distress” as her on-the-run parents refused help days before she was found dead in a shopping bag, a court has heard.

Wealthy Constance Marten, 36, and her partner Mark Gordon, 49, were allegedly motivated by a “selfish” desire to keep their daughter Victoria after four other children were taken into care.

They travelled across England in taxis and ended up living off-grid before their arrest in East Sussex last February, jurors heard.

Constance Marten and Mark Gordon
Constance Marten and Mark Gordon deny manslaughter by gross negligence of the girl between January 4 and February 27 last year (GMP/PA)

Days later, their child was found dead in a Lidl supermarket bag covered in rubbish inside a disused shed, the Old Bailey has heard.

On Monday, a member of the public described confronting the couple near Harwich port in Essex after watching a news report about their disappearance.

Dale Gosling was taking his dog for a walk when he came across the defendants sitting on a flower planter and recognised them from the television, he told jurors on Monday.

He said: “It was freezing cold. There was frost on the floor. There was chill in the air, a fresh January morning to say the least.”

Mr Gosling said the baby was dressed in a white onesie and wrapped inside Marten’s coat in a towel or blanket.

She gave the kind of cry he “could not walk away from”, Mr Gosling said.

Prosecutor Joel Smith asked: “To you, did the baby sound distressed?”

Mr Gosling said: “Most definitely.”

Describing his exchange with the pair, Mr Gosling told jurors: “I said ‘Excuse me, are you the people who are on the television advertised as missing with a new baby?’

“I cannot remember his exact words but he denied it.

“I offered them a lift to the hospital. He said he was doing the best for his child, he wanted to keep his family together and do the right thing and something like that.

“They said they thought they had plans. They knew what they were doing.

“They said they were trying to go to London to try to see family or friends.”

Mr Gosling said he felt compelled to turn around and speak to them again because something was “not right”.

He said the baby was crying “consistently” as Marten walked around cradling her in her arms trying to settle her.

Mr Gosling said he offered to take the couple home with him, give them a cup of tea and then take them to hospital.

He added that even though he thought his wife would “do her nut” at the idea, he felt it was the “morally correct thing to do”.

“Ms Marten, she seemed compliant, she was willing to come, maybe have a cup of tea, maybe get a lift to the hospital. She seems a bit swayed,” he said.

Mark Gordon court case
Marten (green arrow) and Gordon (yellow arrow) allegedly walked into Bolton bus interchange with the baby (pink arrow) under Marten’s coat on January 5 2023 (Met Police/PA)

“Mr Gordon was quite insistent he was alright. He had a plan, he was going to London to stay with his friends and family.”

During the conversation, Mr Gosling was asked what he would do for his child and he responded that he would “go to the ends of the earth to protect my son, that any parent would rightly do”.

He stressed to the couple that his concern was for the well-being of the baby and not about anything they had done, the court was told.

But Gordon just “fobbed” him off, the witness said.

Mr Gosling added that Marten looked “scared” and “anxious” and “like a woman who had just given birth”.

Mr Gosling denied a suggestion by Gordon’s defence that he had “embellished” his evidence and that the baby was not crying.

He said: “I recall a child screaming to the point where I had to physically turn around and involve myself with people because the child was distressed.

“It was really traumatising to listen to.”

Mark Gordon court case
Jurors were told that a missing persons inquiry was launched after the defendants’ Peugeot car caught fire on a motorway near Bolton, Greater Manchester (Met Police/PA)

He added that as a father himself, he knew the difference between ordinary crying and genuine distress.

Challenged on if it was a Lidl bag he had seen the couple with, Mr Gosling said he shopped there rather than another supermarket like Waitrose.

Earlier, jurors heard how a missing persons inquiry was launched last January 5 after the defendants’ Peugeot car caught fire on a motorway near Bolton, Greater Manchester.

A placenta and items belonging to Marten were found in the burnt out vehicle on the M61 and a woman was seen climbing over the motorway barrier, the court was told.

A local resident who gave the couple a lift into Bolton town centre that evening described the baby as being wrapped in a blanket.

Jurors were shown CCTV footage of the couple walking into Bolton bus interchange with the baby allegedly underneath Marten’s coat.

They took a taxi to Liverpool for around £80 before taking another cab some 240 miles, arriving in Harwich in Essex in the early hours of January 6, it is claimed.

Cab driver Ali Yaryar told jurors how a man and a woman had flagged him down on Edge Lane in Liverpool.

He said the woman was “shivering” and asked for him to turn the heating on before giving their destination in Essex.

He told jurors: “I said this is a long journey. We go to Heathrow Airport from Liverpool for £500 but it’s a quiet night, I can go there if you want for £400.”

Mr Smith said: “What did you notice about the lady?”

Mr Yaryar said he saw there was a baby inside the woman’s jacket dressed only in a nappy.

He offered the use of a car seat for the child but she declined, saying the baby was “too small”, the witness said.

During the journey, Mr Yaryar said he heard the couple arguing, with the woman saying “he’s not very helpful”.

Cross-examining for Gordon, John Femi-Ola KC suggested the baby did have clothes and only had a nappy on while being changed.

Mr Yaryar replied: “I think the baby had no clothes.”

The inside of a burnt out Peugeot 206 on the M61
The court was told items belonging to Marten were found in the burnt out vehicle (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Jurors were told it had been a cold night and the man had not been able to calm the baby down as she was crying.

The witness said he saw news stories a few days later and recognised the people he had taken in his taxi.

As the defendants were en route to Harwich, Greater Manchester Police had identified them as the occupants of the broken-down Peugeot from Marten’s passport and other documents.

They checked into the Harwich Premier Inn under the false name of Thomas with Marten paying in cash at 3am, jurors were told.

Staff noticed she seemed “quite distressed” and declined the use of a cot for the child strapped to her front under a blanket.

She appeared “drained”, spoke with a “posh” accent and looked like a character from the Disney film Brave, the court heard.

That afternoon, receptionist Rae Robson told jurors Marten appeared “stressed” when told she would have to vacate her room because she did not have any identity documents.

Giving evidence, Ms Robson said: “She asked to extend her stay for another night.

The Old Bailey
The trial was being held at the Old Bailey in London (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

“She only had cash, she had no identification on her or a bank card because it was left in the car that broke down.

“I told her I would give her about 10 minutes to get her stuff together and leave.

“Me and my manager then knocked on the door to encourage them to leave.”

After the couple came out, Ms Robson went into the room and noticed a smell “like rotten flesh” or an “infected piercing”, she said.

The defendants, of no fixed address, deny manslaughter by gross negligence of the girl between January 4 and February 27 last year.

They are also charged with 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 was adjourned until Tuesday morning.