Baby found in woodland ‘may have been dead for some time’, police say

Baby found in woodland ‘may have been dead for some time’, police say

Police in the Constance Marten and Mark Gordon investigation believe a baby found in woodland in Brighton “may have been dead for some time”.

Officers have also been unable to confirm the infant’s gender after the remains were found on Wednesday, and a post-mortem has not yet taken place.

It is “too early” to provide a specific date of death, the Metropolitan Police said, adding that the infant has been dead for “several weeks”.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Detective Superintendent Lewis Basford also said the case has been referred to the police watchdog.

He said: “At this stage we have not yet been able to confirm the baby’s gender and post-mortem examination has not yet taken place.

“Despite this, based on our inquiries we’ve carried out so far, we believe sadly the baby may have been dead for some time before they were found.

“It is too early for us to provide a more specific date.

Missing baby remains found in Brighton
Metropolitan Police Detective Superintendent Lewis Basford (centre) and Sussex Police Chief Superintendent James Collis (left) pay their respects at a tribute on Golf Drive in Brighton, East Sussex, on Thursday (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

“Because we believe the death occurred during the course of a missing person investigation we have made a mandatory referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). This is standard protocol for such circumstances.”

The IOPC said in a statement that it is “currently assessing the referral to determine what, if any, further action is required from us”.

Det Supt Basford added that officers investigating the case are “devastated” by its outcome as he confirmed Marten and Gordon remain in custody – with the warrant for their detention extended until Thursday evening.

“We are truly devastated by the outcome and we know this emotion is being felt here in Brighton and across the country today,” he said.

Missing baby remains found in Brighton
Sussex Police Chief Superintendent James Collis and Metropolitan Police Detective Superintendent Lewis Basford (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

“We know there are still many unanswered questions, and it is important that we give the investigation team the time and space they need to establish more details about the circumstances of this tragic death.”

Chief Superintendent James Collis of Sussex Police said the investigation has reached a “new phase” and the police presence around Brighton will be scaled back.

He added that officers have been “overwhelmed by kind messages and support” from the public and thanked “the huge number of people who have helped or offered to help in any way that they can”.

Marten, 35, and Gordon, 48, were arrested on Monday on suspicion of child neglect after a passer-by spotted them in Brighton, and they were re-arrested on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter the following day.

Missing baby remains found in Brighton
A drone view of allotments in Brighton, East Sussex, after remains were found in the search for the baby of Constance Marten and Mark Gordon (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

The couple had been on the run since January 5 when their car was found abandoned and on fire next to the M61 in Bolton.

The community remained in shock as the probe continued in Brighton on Thursday.

A member of the public said they “should have followed” the baby’s “cries” in a card they left at the scene.

The anonymous message read: “RIP little darling, am so traumatised. I should have followed your cries.”

Missing baby remains found in Brighton
Teddy bears with a note at a floral tribute (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Residents living near a woodland area between Brentwood Crescent, Hutton Road and Burstead Close told the PA news agency they noticed a heavy police presence around the time officers said remains had been found on Wednesday.

Julia, 83, whose house overlooks the woodland said: “I was having dinner and my granddaughter said ‘they have found the baby.’

“I looked out of the window and said ‘they must have found the baby at the back.’

“They had the forensics out in tents, there were half a dozen people and there were two white tents.

“I think they found the baby right opposite my bedroom.

“It is very upsetting, we were all in tears last night.”

Constance Marten missing
Police search teams scouring an area of woodland next to Golf Drive in Brighton (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Danielle Mansell, 33, whose garden overlooks the same woodland, told PA: “”Last night there were big floodlights then out of the blue there was a tent as well.

“I saw the news that the baby had been found and then half an hour later there were all the lights at the back of the house.

“It is going to make it very difficult to look out of my bedroom window now. I did it this morning and I burst into tears. It is heart-breaking.”

The mother-of-three also laid flowers at the scene in the baby’s memory.

She added: “It is just a sign of respect, it is just something you would do.

“This baby was loved by the whole community, it was loved by our community. The whole community is completely crushed.”

Well-wishers laid flowers, teddy bears and cards at the scene to pay their respects.

(PA Graphics)

Hayley Bolton, 37, also laid flowers at the scene.

She told PA: “When we heard the news last night it was extremely upsetting and I felt sort of overcome with emotion, so I told my family I would come and lay some flowers today just to express our sympathies.

“That baby has been acknowledged by many people throughout the country.

“Situations like this don’t happen in our community and it’s a massive shock.”

One mother-of-two, 37, who did not want to be named told PA: “Parents are concerned about what they are hearing and what is going to be said at school.

“Everyone is a bit in shock, we can’t quite believe it.”

Lilia Robertson, 48, told PA: “It is awful. We have got young children who have been questioning what is happening.

“I feel worried about going into the wood and that’s where I would normally walk.”

On Thursday, a cordon was in place at allotments which were at the centre of Wednesday’s search.

They were still being swept by officers from the Metropolitan Police, which is leading the investigation.

A cordon on Golf Drive had been removed by Thursday afternoon.