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Constance Marten trial: 'Cruel' parents accused of killing baby and leaving body in shopping bag covered in rubbish

A baby girl died after her "cruel" parents went on the run and lived "off-grid" in a tent in "freezing and obviously dangerous" weather conditions, a court has heard.

"Wealthy" Constance Marten, 36, and Mark Gordon, 49, feared their daughter would go into care after their four other children were previously taken away by social services.

Marten gave birth while the couple were on the run and sought no medical assistance before, during or after the arrival of their daughter, jurors at the Old Bailey were told on Thursday.

The defendants travelled across England in cars and taxis, with the newborn baby hidden underneath Marten's coat and later kept inside a Lidl "bag-for-life".

She and Gordon set up camp on the South Downs without proper clothing, equipment or food, meaning the baby "never stood a chance".

They left the lifeless infant in an unlocked shed, inside a shopping bag covered in rubbish, "as if she was refuse", prosecutor Tom Little KC told the court.

The defendants' "selfish desire" to keep the baby led to her "entirely unavoidable" death, it was said.

She would still be alive had it not been for the "reckless, utterly selfish, callous, cruel, arrogant and ultimately grossly negligent conduct" of Marten and Gordon, Mr Little told jurors.

The couple both deny the manslaughter of their daughter by gross negligence between 4 January and 27 February 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.

Defendants 'put relationship before daughter's life'

Opening the case for the prosecution, Mr Little said: "[Marten and Gordon] put their relationship and their view of life before the life of a little girl.

"They decided that, in the middle of a cold winter and in cruel and obviously dangerous weather conditions, they would deprive the baby of what it needed - warmth, shelter, food and ultimately, safety.

"They essentially went off-grid and lived in a tent with hardly any clothes, no means of keeping and remaining warm and dry, and with scarcely any food."

"Their selfish desire to keep their baby girl led inexorably to the death of that very baby," Mr Little told the jury.

"They went, and remained, on the run. Giving birth to the baby on the run. Not seeking any medical assistance before, during or after the birth.

"Not registering the birth, but moving from location to location.

"After the baby had died, the defendants did not hand themselves in but instead remained off-grid and trying to hide, leaving the body of their dead baby in a shopping bag covered in rubbish, as if she was refuse, and left in a disused, unlocked shed."

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While on the run, the defendants booked a holiday cottage in Northumberland on 20 December 2022, leaving it in a "disgusting state", jurors heard.

On 5 January last year, the couple were forced to flee a vehicle which caught fire on the M61 in Greater Manchester.

A placenta wrapped inside a towel, together with Marten's passport and "burner phones" - cheap devices typically used by criminals to evade detection by authorities - were found discarded in the wreckage.

This prompted the authorities to launch an appeal, attracting national media coverage, almost exactly a year ago, the court heard.

The couple eventually made their way to Whitechapel in east London, where Gordon is alleged to have purchased the tent, before they spent £475 on a taxi from the capital to Newhaven, East Sussex on 8 January.

Marten "comes from a wealthy family" but prioritised transport over "warmth and safety", Mr Little said.

He told the jury: "She has not had a deprived upbringing. She had potential access to money and whatever help she needed, and all of this begs a number of questions which she is going to have to answer in this trial."

The trial, which is expected to last until 8 March, continues.