A runaway aristocrat was caught on CCTV purchasing a bottle of petrol to allegedly cremate her dead baby, a court has heard.
Constance Marten, 36, and her partner Mark Gordon, 49, are accused of manslaughter after spending weeks living in tents in sub-zero temperatures with their newborn daughter Victoria carried in a Lidl bag for life. It is alleged the couple travelled across England in taxis and lived in a tent on the South Downs in a bid to keep the baby, after four other children were taken into care.
Jurors have now been shown images of Marten filling up the bottle at a Texaco garage on 12 January last year, while also buying three packs of Jacob’s Mini Cheddars and a newspaper.
The court previously heard that she told officers during her police interview: “I don’t know if you found, there’s a bottle of petroleum in the bag because I debated whether to cremate her myself, get rid of the evidence, but I decided to keep her because I knew at some point in the future I was going to be asked about it, but I just didn’t know what to do.”
She claimed that her baby had died on 11 January and that she had kept her body as she wanted a post-mortem examination to be carried out.
A large manhunt was launched for the couple on 5 January, after their car was found burning on the M61 motorway in Greater Manchester, with a placenta found in a towel as well as newborn baby products.
Rather than contacting the police, the jury was told Marten and Gordon spend thousands of pounds on taxis and Airbnbs to hide their whereabouts, and began to live “off-grid” by withdrawing money from Marten’s wealthy trust fund.
They were eventually arrested in East Sussex on 27 February while Victoria’s body was discovered days later in a Lidl bag covered in rubbish in a disused shed.
Prosecutor Tom Little KC previously told jurors: “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 and food and ultimately safety.”
On Monday, one witness said she overheard the “high-pitched, urgent” cries of a baby during a stormy night on the South Downs, at the time the couple were living off-grid in the area.
In a dramatic video of their arrest, officers can be heard demanding: “Where’s your child? Where’s your child? Sorry, where is your child, we need to know?” while the defendants failed to respond.
While difficult to ascertain a cause of death for baby Victoria, the pathology was consistent with death caused by hypothermia or exposure.
The couple, 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 trial continues.