Search for aristocrat’s baby continues amid fears child may have ‘come to harm’

CCTV Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The search for Constance Marten’s baby continued on Wednesday as a heavy police presence remained at the scene near Stanmer Villas, Brighton.

A red search dogs van was seen making its way into the adjoining Golf Drive, which leads to the allotments that have been a focus of the police search since Marten and her partner Mark Gordon were arrested on Monday evening.

A number of marked police vehicles were stationed along Golf Drive and a uniformed officer stood guard at the bottom of the road.

The pair were further arrested on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter on Tuesday after being stopped in Brighton on Monday following several weeks of avoiding the police, but the baby was not with them.

A member of the public, who had seen media reports about the couple, phoned 999 after seeing them withdraw cash from a convenience store in Hollingbury Place shortly before 9.30pm.

Officers arrived six minutes later, with Marten and Gordon being detained at nearby Stanmer Villas and arrested on suspicion of child neglect.

Since then, more than 200 officers have been searching an area of seven miles by 13 miles for the baby, from where the couple were last sighted to where they were arrested – including allotments and woodland.

Detective Superintendent Lewis Basford said police still hoped to find the child safe and well, with a helicopter, sniffer dogs, thermal imaging cameras and drones being used in the search.

However, confirming Marten and Gordon had been re-arrested on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter, Mr Basford said police had to consider the possibility the baby had “come to harm”.

He said officers had received no information about the welfare or location of the child since the pair were detained.

Mr Basford said: “We have had a significant period of time in custody facility with both Constance and Mark.

Detective Superintendent Lewis Basford and Superintendent James Collis speaking to the media outside Roedale Valley Allotments, West Sussex Credit: Jordan Pettitt/PA

“At this time we have not furthered that information, which has now obviously led to the position where we feel that the risk is getting so great that we now have to consider the possibility that the baby has come to harm.

“I can now confirm that they have been further arrested on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter and that they remain in custody at police stations in Sussex.

“The baby was not with them and we have not found the baby as yet.”

The lengthy police search for Marten, 35, and Gordon, 48, began on January 5 when their car was found on fire abandoned next to the M61 in Bolton.

Inquiries revealed Marten had given birth recently – possibly one or two days before the incident – and had not been assessed by medical professionals.

Greater Manchester Police established the family had left the car and the motorway safely.

Mark Gordon and Constance Marten walking through Flower and Dean Walk near Brick Lane, east London Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

They used taxis to first travel to Liverpool, then Harwich in Essex, and on to east London, before arriving in Sussex on January 8.

The couple avoided detection by only making payments in cash, hiding their faces on CCTV and often moving around at night or in the early hours of the morning.

Mr Basford said officers are looking into footage shared online of Gordon seen with a stick before he was arrested, adding that there was sufficient intelligence to suggest the pair had spent most of their time in outdoor open spaces while avoiding police.

He conceded the cold weather meant that officers had to be open to the investigation not “ending in the way we would like”.

The baby was born in early January and has had no medical attention since then, with its parents sleeping rough in freezing temperatures much of the time.

Mr Basford said police are yet to locate items bought by Marten and Gordon at Argos on January 7, adding: “We would still say we are actively looking for those.”

Police search teams in Brighton Credit: Jordan Pettitt/PA

Marten’s father said it was a huge relief that his daughter had been found but it was “very alarming” that her baby remains missing.

Napier Marten told the Independent he loves his daughter but it would have been “far better” if she and Gordon had handed themselves in earlier.

Marten, who is from a wealthy aristocratic family, was a promising drama student when she met Gordon in 2016.

Since then the couple have led an isolated life and, in September, as Marten’s pregnancy progressed, began moving around rental flats.

Gordon served 20 years in prison in the US for rape and battery committed when he was 14.

It is unknown if their baby was full-term or has any health issues.

In an appeal a week ago, Shereen Nimmo, director of midwifery for Barts Health NHS Trust, urged the couple to bring the baby in for checks.

She said: “You’re putting your baby at risk by not accessing medical care, so it’s really important that you come and see a midwife, doctor or another healthcare professional as soon as possible.

“Please do the right thing for your baby and go to your nearest healthcare facility so my caring colleagues can take care of you and your baby. All we want to do is help you.”

Anyone who may be able to assist in the search for the baby is urged to contact 999.