The runaway aristocrat and her rapist lover: A £15,000 escape fund, burner phones and growing fears about their baby nearly 50 days after the couple were last sighted
- The trio has been one of the most high-profile police searches of recent years
- The police have implored the couple to come forward for the sake of the baby
Dawn breaks one January morning and the hunched silhouettes of a man and woman are caught on camera heading into the Sussex countryside carrying a tent and sleeping bags.
It is cold and dark — no time for camping and certainly no place for the new-born baby concealed beneath the coat of the female figure.
Tomorrow marks the 50th day since that sighting. Fifty days in which Constance Marten, her partner Mark Gordon and their child have seemingly vanished into thin air.
In that time, the trio has been the focus of one of the most high-profile police searches of recent years, one that has seen 100 officers trawl through endless hours of CCTV footage while following up 350 calls from members of the public. Search teams on the ground and thermal imaging drones in the air have been used to scour hundreds of acres of land.
In appeal after appeal, Marten’s family and the police have implored the couple to come forward for the sake and health of the baby. A £10,000 reward has been put on offer. And yet still no sign of them.
Tomorrow marks the 50th since that last sighting of Constance Marten (pictured), her partner Mark Gordon and their child
Marten is a blue-blooded aristocrat, Mark Gordon a convicted rapist who served 20 years in a U.S. jail
Constance Marten and Mark Gordon on Avis Road, Newhaven, January 8, 2023. It has been more than six weeks since police found the car that they were believed to be travelling in
‘They could be absolutely anywhere in the UK,’ admitted the Metropolitan Police’s Detective Superintendent Lewis Basford, speaking exclusively to the Mail this week.
To many it will seem incredible that in modern Britain, a nation bristling with CCTV cameras, anyone could evade detection for so long. Marten is a blue-blooded aristocrat, Gordon a convicted rapist who served 20 years in a U.S. jail. So where on earth could they be?
There are a number of possibilities, none of which has been ruled out by police.
One theory is that they might have been smuggled across the Channel in a small boat. As thousands of migrants have demonstrated, if you have the money it’s possible and Marten, with a family trust fund, most certainly does. Before going on the run she withdrew large amounts of cash, — between £5,000 and £15,000.
Then there is the fact that in the days following the birth of their child they headed first to the port of Harwich in Essex and then to Newhaven in East Sussex. Yet it can be revealed neither Marten nor Gordon has a passport.
Another possibility is that they could be being helped by a sympathetic third party. Police have ruled out family or friends — Marten is estranged from everyone — but someone could have been persuaded with cash.
But most likely of all, say police, is that they are simply hunkered down and living ‘off-grid’. Detectives who studied CCTV of their movements in the days after they went missing have established they knew the risk of their phones being traced and were swapping SIM cards in and out of their mobile devices.
Exhibiting ‘paranoid’ behaviour, they quizzed the taxi drivers who ferried them around the country to find out whether their vehicles were equipped with cameras.
Police released this picture of Marten and Gordon outside East Ham station at around 11.45am on Saturday January 7, 2023
Marten is believed to have been spotted wrapped in red blanket in Harwich Port, Essex on Saturday at 9am on January 7, 2023
Marten is described by Det Supt Basford as ‘very, very intelligent’ while other experts say Gordon’s time in a U.S. prison will mean he is ‘hyper-vigilant’.
And so police are once again calling on the public to help, warning that every passing day is another in which the baby is living in far from ideal circumstances.
‘We just need someone who has a concern, or an intuition, to ring us,’ Det Supt Basford says. ‘That would give us a lead and allow us to pick up on them again.’
At 6.33pm on Thursday, January 5, the emergency services were called to reports of a broken-down car on fire on the hard shoulder of the M61 near Bolton. Its occupants were nowhere to be seen.
But what was found inside — blood and a placenta — caused immediate concern.
An investigation was launched by Greater Manchester Police, who located 35-year-old Marten’s passport in the car. It was quickly established that the vehicle had been bought for cash by the couple just days earlier in London, where they had been living.
A pathologist was able to estimate the baby — sex unknown — was probably born in the last 24 hours. ‘If it wasn’t for that car fire, we probably, today, would be unaware that the baby had been born,’ admits Det Supt Basford, explaining that Marten had concealed the pregnancy.
Since meeting Gordon in 2016, police say the pair had led an extraordinarily ‘insular’ existence together. They had strikingly different backgrounds. Constance was privately educated and her family boasted links to the royals and a £100 million Dorset estate.
Friends claim she was traumatised after spending six months at a cult-like Nigerian church in 2006 where ‘disciples’ were allegedly abused by the group’s self-proclaimed prophet. Her father described it as ‘a trigger’, setting up a pattern of behaviour ‘exposing her to easy manipulation’.
Marten’s family and the police have implored the couple to come forward for the sake and health of the baby
Constance Marten is missing with her rapist boyfriend and their newborn baby in the UK
Quite what attracted her to Gordon is unclear. Raised in Birmingham, he was the youngest of seven children born to mother Sylvia, a nurse who came to Britain from Jamaica as part of the ‘Windrush generation’.
In the mid-1980s, when Gordon was 11, the family moved to Florida. It was here, in 1989, the then 14-year-old Gordon was arrested by police for attacking two neighbours. His first victim was a 30-year-old whom he held captive for more than four hours, threatening to kill her two children sleeping in the next room as he sexually assaulted her.
Weeks later he broke into another neighbour’s home, attacking him with a shovel. He was convicted of rape, kidnap and battery and served 20 years in prison before being deported to the UK in 2010.
On returning, he met Marten who largely funded their transient lives together. Where they were heading when their car broke down is unclear. After they were pictured buying camping gear at Argos on Whitechapel Road on January 7, they took a taxi to Haringey, and then, in the early hours of Sunday morning, to Newhaven — paying with cash.
Dropped outside the port shortly before 5am on January 8, they sheltered in an underpass before being seen for the final time walking towards the South Downs National Park. By the time Scotland Yard found that footage, several weeks had passed. While detectives believe they may have camped in the area, subsequent searches found no trace of them.
The CCTV footage captured in those early days only served to raise the concerns of the authorities. ‘Preparing to go out and camp, walking into the field with the tent and sleeping bags and the baby under a coat that is two days old. All the decisions we have observed in that time period point to vulnerabilities and risk,’ says Det Supt Basford.
As to where they may be now, the detective says he has not ruled anything out but thinks it is unlikely they have left the country by legal or illegal means.
‘My belief is that they don’t have the criminal associations to be able to do that,’ he says. Police also think they may be starting to run low on money. ‘If they had carried on moving at that rate that money would have finished a few weeks ago.’
Newhaven ferry port CCTV picked up the couple on January 8, circled in red in this still
Detectives continue their appeal to the public to help the find a newborn baby. They went into Argos on Whitechapel Road, E1, at 18:19hrs on Saturday, January 7, 2023
As for third-party help, he says he is confident there is no one known to them or linked to them that is actively aiding them.
‘My only concern — and that links into us offering a £10,000 reward — is have they come across somebody who is anti-police, anti-establishment and they have said to them, “We have got cash, can you help us?”’
On social media sites the couple’s disappearance has attracted widespread discussion, with some calling for the police to let them get on with their lives.
The officer says the wider public needs to trust the police’s ‘evaluation and risk assessments’ and to be aware that they have the full support of Marten’s family.
He added: ‘We have a genuine concern for the health and wellbeing of the baby, and Constance and Mark, and it is our duty to ensure that they are OK.’
Marten’s father and mother, who are divorced, have both issued heartfelt appeals to their daughter. Her mother, Virginie de Selliers, said: ‘I know that you want to keep your precious new-born child at all costs. With all that you have gone through, this baby cannot be removed from you but instead needs looking after in a kind and warm environment.’
Something a tent on the South Downs, or a life on the run, can clearly never offer.
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