Jurors have seen dramatic video of the moment fugitive aristocrat Constance Marten was arrested on the street and repeatedly asked: “Where is your child?”
Constance Marten, 36, and Mark Gordon, 49, were reportedly living off the grid in a tent in the South Downs with their newborn baby while on the run from police.
Last February 27, police finally tracked them down in the Hollingbury area of Brighton after they were spotted by a member of the public.
They refused to say where baby Victoria was and on March 1 her body was found in a Lidl supermarket bag covered in rubbish in a disused shed.
Police Sergeant Robert Button was among the officers who arrested the defendants at 9.35pm on February 27.
In evidence, Mr Button said Marten appeared to be wearing “furniture padding” for insulation and smelled “unclean and unwashed”.
He said both she and Gordon had a distinctive odor that he associated with the homeless.
The officer’s body-worn video showed the moment they were arrested on suspicion of child neglect.
Mr Button approached Gordon and said: ‘Hello. Sorry buddy, can you stop for a second? Okay, stop, I need to talk to you.”
Asked what happened, Mr Button said: “Well, because I think you may have been in the national news.”
When Gordon denied it, he was asked why he ran and was repeatedly ordered to put down the stick he was carrying.
As the defendant resisted, he was told: “Relax, you are under arrest until I confirm who you are.”
Gordon complained that he was hungry and that he was “doing nothing”.
CCTV footage of Constance Marten buying supplies at Texaco in Newhaven last January 12 (Met Police/PA) A distressed Marten then intervened and said: “Please stop him, he’s not doing well.”
She continued: “Oh my god, I can’t watch. Leave him alone. Let him eat his food. He is hungry.”
Another officer later turned to Marten and said, “I agree with you, you are under arrest for child neglect.”
Marten replied: “To do what?”
She was then asked by officers: “Where is your child? Where is your child? Sorry, where is your child, we need to know?
The defendant did not respond.
A dog handler then said, “Tell me now, because I’m going to send the dog into the woods to try to find someone, so you tell me where he is now.”
Discussion was heard about conducting an ‘open search’ before Marten was further arrested for concealing the birth of a child.
Marten insisted it was “not an arrestable offence”, adding: “You can’t arrest someone for hiding a pregnancy.”
Officer Matthew Colburn helped Gordon with the handcuffs and repeatedly asked where the child was and if he was still alive, while the defendant demanded food and water.
When the suspect received ginger beer, chicken and chips from his shopping bag, he asked if he could add mayonnaise.
PC Colburn was heard on body-worn video saying: “I’m not going to make you a sandwich, we have to find a child.”
Gordon said he “didn’t want to talk” and asked why finding the baby was the “bigger deal.”
The officer replied: “We may have to save a life. That is priority number one. It may not be your priority, but it is everyone’s priority.”
Gordon made muffled noises as he ate his chips on the floor, and PC Colburn asked: “Is the child dead?” Is the child dead?”
The officer told Gordon he was concerned there was a “baby possibly alone” and that the defendant was “more interested in eating.”
He added: “I’m afraid if we don’t find the child, your child could die, and that’s the most important thing here and now.”
In evidence in court said Pc. Colburn said he never fed a suspect after previously arresting him.
He told the judges: “I quickly came to the realization that they may not have eaten for days, weeks or even months, and from my perspective it was the humane thing to do.”
The defendants made headlines last January when Greater Manchester Police launched a missing persons investigation after finding a placenta in the couple’s burnt-out car on a motorway near Bolton.
On February 20 last year, the defendants were caught on camera trying to break into Hollingbury golf course near Brighton, East Sussex, and ‘rummage’ through a bin, the court heard.
On the evening of February 27, CCTV captured Marten attempting to steal food from a store.
She then withdrew money from an ATM and Gordon bought food at a convenience store.
Resident Dale Cooley saw Gordon carrying a cane with one foot wrapped in a plastic bag, which he thought was “strange.”
Mr Cooley recognized the couple and checked a story on the local Argus newspaper website to confirm his suspicions.
Describing how he called his wife, he said: “I told her it was definitely the couple from the news because the descriptions matched and their behavior seemed strange, like they were trying to stay hidden.”
He tried to strike up a conversation with them, asking if they were on Stanmer Drive, and Gordon replied: “We don’t know,” in a gruff Northern accent, the court was told.
In a statement to the court, Mr Cooley said: “Their body language suggested they did not want to be disturbed. I saw a paramedic car and waved them down. I asked what to do and they said call 999.”
Mr Cooley, who had driven out of his car to dispose of coffee cans and visit a cash machine, alerted police at 9.26pm.
The defendants, who have no fixed address, deny manslaughter of baby Victoria by gross negligence 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 abuse and causing or permitting the death of a child.
The Old Bailey trial continues.