A van driver who witnessed the car of Mark Gordon and Constance Marten on fire has said he fears the baby may still be alive if he had stayed with the vehicle.
Ken Hudson was following the couple’s Peugeot 206 when it caught fire on the M61 motorway in Greater Manchester.
Marten’s passport, “burner” phones and a placenta wrapped in a towel were discarded in the wreckage, jurors were told.
Mr Hudson, who was travelling with his son, asked if the baby – which was to be named Victoria – was okay, before touching her on the head and saying “God bless” as he left the scene.
A high-risk missing persons inquiry was then launched and the couple became front-page news, the court was told.
The defendants were picked up by a member of the public and taken to a Morrisons store in Bolton, where they arrived just before 8pm.
Mr Hudson told the court he was on his way home from work in Stockport when he realised he could smell burning, and it was coming from the car in front of him.
“The smoke became a flame, then I tried to inform the vehicle in front by flashing my lights,” he said.
Gordon and Marten pulled over to the hard shoulder, where they both got out of the car and ran, the jury heard.
While calling the emergency services, Mr Hudson noticed Gordon open the boot of the car before “frantically” trying to get things out and throw them over the crash barrier, the court heard.
Footage filmed by Mr Hudson showed the car alight with smoke billowing out of it.
Mr Hudson said that having noticed Marten carrying a baby, he asked if it was okay, to which Marten replied: “She’s fine”.
Marten told Mr Hudson he was fine to leave the scene, and as he did so, he “put his hand on the baby’s head and said God bless”, he told the court.
Asked by prosecutor Tom Little KC if the baby had been warm to the touch, he said it seemed cool, “but it was winter”, he added.
Asked if he had heard any noise from the baby or seen any movement, he replied: “None whatsoever.”
Mr Hudson added that he was “cut up because I believe that if I stayed with the vehicle, the baby may be still alive.”
Marten later told officers she and Gordon ran away with the baby after their car “exploded” assuming that police would take their daughter away, and then decided to “remove ourselves from society” when people started to recognise them on the streets.
Before their car caught fire, the couple moved across the Pennines and checked into the Ibis hotel at the Lymm Services in Cheshire in the early hours of the morning, the court heard.
Later that same day, they also checked into the AC Hotel in Manchester.
In a statement read to the court, a receptionist from the Ibis hotel said Marten had been “very well spoken” when they met, and had introduced herself as a “freelance journalist”.
Jurors heard that both Marten and Gordon “looked absolutely exhausted”, with Gordon seen ferrying bags from the car to both hotel rooms.
A member of staff from the Manchester hotel said Gordon reminded her of “someone who is homeless and is carrying all their things around with them”.
The couple, 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 trial continues.