Constance Marten, Mark Gordon charged with murder when the baby was autopsied


LONDON – The story of the fugitive British aristocrat and her partner, a convicted sex offender, began with a vehicle left on fire on the side of the road in northern England. It comes to an end when the couple are charged with murder after a baby is found dead in the woods.

The mystery surrounding Constance Marten, 35, and Mark Gordon, 48, has gripped Britain in recent weeks amid a national hunt for the pair, who appeared to live off the grid – sleeping in a tent in sub-zero temperatures and hiding from surveillance cameras as they fled around the country. There were widespread fears that their newborn baby, who had not received medical attention, could be in danger.

Interest has also been heightened by Marten and Gordon’s background: Marten is the daughter of an aristocratic British family, and Gordon spent two decades in a Florida prison after he was found guilty of sexual assault as a teenager.

The hunt began in early January after the couple’s abandoned vehicle was found on fire in Farnworth, a town about 200 miles north of London.

The authorities had arrived to tackle the fire – but the car’s occupants were nowhere to be found. And in the backseat of the car, a placenta was discovered, prompting Greater Manchester Police to quickly search for a newborn baby, police said.

It was not clear why the couple chose to run away. Marten and Gordon were not reported missing or charged with any crimes before their vehicle broke down, Camilla Moor, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police, which is handling the investigation, said in an email. The couple, who police said had no fixed address, had been living in northern England in Airbnb rentals and properties booked on before the car broke down, Moor added.

The saga marked a sharp contrast from Marten’s privileged upbringing. Marten’s aristocratic family, according to the Independent, has loose ties to the royal family – Marten’s grandmother is the goddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II’s mother – and Marten was previously featured in Tatler, a British lifestyle magazine focused on high society.

Gordon was born in the UK but raised in the US, British media reported. He spent nearly two decades in prison in Broward County, Florida, after being found guilty of kidnapping, burglary and four counts of sexual assault, according to state inmates. He was deported after being released halfway through his 40-year sentence, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which lists Gordon as a registered sex offender.

Marten became estranged from her family in 2016 after she met Gordon while attending drama school, the BBC reported. But in January, while the search for Marten unfolded, her father urged her to surrender to the police.

“I want you to understand that you are very much loved no matter the circumstances,” Napier Marten said in an audio message published by the Independent. “Although we remain estranged for the time being … I am asking you to find a way to turn yourself and your little one over to the police as soon as possible so that you and he or she can be protected.”

The authorities similarly emphasized, in appeals to the couple, that they only wanted to ensure the newborn’s safety. Chief Constable Michaela Kerr of Greater Manchester Police had addressed Marten: “As a mother … I know this is an exceptionally difficult time for you and you are probably feeling scared, but I promise our first priority is the same as yours – to keep your beautiful newborn safe.”

As the search continued in the dead of winter, national attention centered on concerns for the baby’s safety, as the family reportedly lived a nomadic outdoor lifestyle, shuffling around the country while trying to elude authorities.

The pair were found on Monday evening in Brighton, on Britain’s south coast, about 250 miles from where they had fled from the vehicle, police said. But there was no sign of the baby – and the couple refused to reveal the baby’s whereabouts, local media reported.

The body of a baby – who has not been formally identified – was found dead two days later in Brighton, police said.

The coming days may provide answers to the various questions surrounding the events of the past two months. Marten and Gordon appeared in court on Friday after being charged with grossly negligent murder, concealing the birth of a child and perverting the course of justice, the Metropolitan Police said. It was not clear if the couple had legal representation.

The body of the baby found this week was to undergo a post-mortem examination on Friday, Moor said.

Police said they had been “overwhelmed by the messages of kindness and support shown to those involved in this challenging search and investigation” and would do “everything” to “find out what happened.”

Members of the public meanwhile left flowers and tributes near where the baby’s body was found. “Sleep safe little one,” said a note.

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