Heiress Constance Marten and her partner Mark Gordon have been accused of manslaughter after a dead baby was found wrapped in a plastic bag under nappies inside an abandoned shed, a court has heard.
The couple appeared at Crawley Magistrates’ Court on Friday accused of the manslaughter of a baby called Victoria, concealing the birth of a child and perverting the course of justice. They were remanded in custody.
Marten, 35, and Gordon, 48, spoke only to confirm their names, dates of birth and that they were of no fixed abode during a short hearing in front of a packed courtroom.
The pair sat in the dock together at Crawley Magistrates’ Court, touching hands briefly and having a number of conversations with each other.
At one stage Marten, who comes from an aristocratic family with royal connections, blew a kiss to Gordon, who wore a grey jumper over his head throughout the hearing.
The pair will appear at the Old Bailey on 31 March.
Police discovered the remains of the baby in a wooded area near where Marten and Gordon were found after being missing for almost two months, and said the infant may have been dead for "several weeks".
In a statement released on Thursday by the Metropolitan Police, Detective Superintendent Lewis Basford said: "My team has been working on this investigation for the past eight weeks and we have travelled across the country as part of our searches for this baby.
"We are all truly devastated by the outcome and we know this emotion is also being felt here in Brighton and across the country today.
"While there are still many unanswered questions it is important that we give the investigation team the time and space they need to establish more details about the circumstances of this tragic death.
"At this stage we have not yet been able to confirm the baby’s gender and a post-mortem examination has not yet taken place."
"Despite this, based on the inquiries we’ve carried out so far, we believe, sadly, the baby had been dead for several weeks before they were found. It’s too early for us to provide a more specific date."
Marten and Gordon were found in Brighton on Monday without their child after avoiding police for more than seven weeks and arrested on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter, for which they were later charged.
They refused to tell police where the baby was, sparking a massive hunt involving more than 200 officers and specialist search teams across a wide area of the Sussex countryside.
Marten is the 35-year-old daughter of a wealthy aristocrat and was travelling with convicted sex offender Gordon when they were discovered in Brighton.
The couple spent weeks travelling by taxi around the UK after their car was found burning by the side of the M61 near Manchester.
Marten, whose father was a page to Queen Elizabeth and whose grandmother was Princess Margaret's childhood friend, is believed to have given birth in the car several days before it was discovered on 5 January.
Marten's estranged father, Napier Marten, had publicly begged his daughter to make contact during her time evading the authorities.
"Darling Constance, even though we remain estranged at the moment, I stand by, as I have always done and as the family has always done, to do whatever is necessary for your safe return to us," he told The Independent.
"The past eight years have been beyond painful for all the family as well as your friends, as they must have been for you. And to see you so vulnerable again is testing in the extreme.
"Please Constance, find the courage to present yourself to the police as soon as possible."
Read on for a timeline of the couple's disappearance:
5 January: A burning car was discovered on the side of the M61 near Manchester. Authorities established that Marten and her 48-year-old partner Gordon – who spent 20 years in a US prison for rape and battery – were the owners of the vehicle.
Police believe the couple walked along the side of the hard shoulder after their vehicle caught alight and that most of their belongings had been burned in the fire.
They also established that Marten had likely given birth inside the car several days prior to the vehicle's discovery.
7 January: The pair were spotted in Harwich, Essex, at around 9am, along with a baby. Police believe the couple had first travelled to Liverpool and then Harwich in a taxi after their car caught alight.
Later, the trio travelled to East London, where Gordon was seen buying supplies, including a tent that police believe the couple were planning to sleep in, at an Argos on Whitechapel Road.
In the evening, they dumped a number of items (including a pram) close to East London's Brick Lane before getting a taxi to Haringey.
8 January: The couple once again travelled by taxi to Newhaven, where they were last seen at around 5am.
9 January: Essex Police launch an official investigation into the missing couple, reviewing CCTV footage in a number of areas where the couple were spotted.
12 January: The Metropolitan Police take over the investigation and said they were making "urgent enquiries" to find the missing couple and their baby.
They said "neither she nor the baby have been assessed by medical professionals" and implored the pair to contact the authorities, saying: "Please think of your baby's health and wellbeing."
30 January: Police offered a £10,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of the couple.
Det Supt Basford said: "Previous appeals have resulted in around 300 calls from members of the public, but sadly they have not led to the couple and their baby being found.
"While we are very grateful to everyone who has already called, we still need to hear from anyone who has seen the couple since Sunday, 8 January and we are offering a reward of up to £10,000 for any information that leads to the family being found."
27 February: Marten and Gordon were found and arrested on suspicion of child neglect by police at Stanmer Villas in Brighton after being spotted by a member of the public at around 9.30pm.
They were re-arrested hours later on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter, and their baby has not yet been found.
Det Supt Basford said: said police had to consider the possibility that the child had “come to harm”, given the pair had now been in custody for a “significant period of time”.
1 March: Police continued to search for the baby, with a heavy police presence remaining at the scene near Stanmer Villas.
A red search dogs van was seen making its way into allotments that were a focus of the police search as they remained closed.
Det Supt Basford gave an update on the search for Marten and Gordon’s baby, saying officers “must consider that the baby has come to serious harm”.
Later he revealed that remains had been found in the search for the child in a wooded area close to where the couple were arrested.
2 March: The pair were charged with manslaughter, concealing the birth of a child and perverting the course of justice.
3 March: The pair appear in court and are remanded in custody.
The court is told the remains of a baby were found in a plastic bag under some nappies in an allotment shed.
A court date is set for 31 March.
Read more: Constance Marten: The former Tatler It-girl who became estranged from her aristocratic family (The Telegraph, 3-min read)