Constance Marten, Mark Gordon charged with involuntary manslaughter as baby undergoes autopsy


LONDON — The story of a fugitive British aristocrat and her convicted sex offender partner began with a vehicle left burning on the side of a road in northern England. It comes to an end as the couple face manslaughter charges 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 manhunt for the pair, who appeared to be living off the grid – sleeping in a tent in freezing temperatures and hid from surveillance cameras while they fled across the country. There were widespread fears that their newborn baby, who had not received medical attention, could be at risk.

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

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

Authorities had arrived to deal with the fire — but the occupants of the vehicle were nowhere to be found. And in the back seat of the car, a placenta was discovered, prompting Greater Manchester Police to urgently search for a newborn baby, police said.

It was not clear why the couple chose to flee. Marten and Gordon were not reported missing or charged with crimes before their vehicle broke down, Camilla Moore, 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 staying in northern England in Airbnb rentals and properties booked on before the car broke down, Moore added.

The saga marked a stark 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 godmother of Queen Elizabeth II’s mother — and Marten has previously appeared in Tatler, a British lifestyle magazine that focuses on high society.

Gordon was born in Britain but raised in the United States, British media reported. He spent nearly two decades in prison in Broward County, Florida, after being convicted of kidnapping, burglary and four counts of sexual assault, according to state inmate records. 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 meeting Gordon while at drama school, the BBC reported. But in January, as 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 whatever the circumstances,” Napier Marten said in an audio message published by the Independent. you and your little one go to the police as soon as possible so that you and he or she are protected.”

The authorities similarly stressed, in appeals to the couple, that they only wanted to ensure the safety of the newborn. Chief Superintendent Michaela Kerr of Greater Manchester Police had told Marten: “As a mum… I know it’s an incredibly difficult time for you and you’re probably feeling scared, but I promise our number one priority is the same as yours — to keep your beautiful newborn safe.”

As the investigation continued into the winter, national attention focused on concerns for the baby’s safety, as the family reportedly lived a nomadic outdoor lifestyle, shuffling across the country while trying to avoid authorities.

The pair were found on Monday night in Brighton, on Britain’s south coast, about 250 miles from where they had left 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 officially identified – was found dead two days later in Brighton, police said.

The next few days could bring answers to the various questions surrounding the events of the last two months. Marten and Gordon appeared in court on Friday after being charged with manslaughter, concealing the birth of a child and perverting the course of justice, the Metropolitan Police said. It was unclear if the couple had legal representation.

The baby’s body found this week was scheduled to undergo an autopsy Friday, Moore said.

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

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

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