Aristocrat Constance Marten and her boyfriend will face a trial next January over allegations they killed a new-born baby girl and left the body in an abandoned shed.
The 35-year-old faces a manslaughter charge alongside her boyfriend, Mark Gordon, 48, with both also facing allegations of concealing the birth of a child and perverting the course of justice.
A court hearing earlier this month heard a dead baby girl called Victoria was found wrapped in a plastic bag under nappies inside an overgrown allotment shed during a widespread police investigation into the couple’s disappearance.
The pair appeared in the dock of Courtroom 1 at the Old Bailey on Friday morning, greeting each other affectionately as they took their seats.
A security guard sat between the couple during the 20-minute hearing, as Judge Richard Marks KC, the Common Serjeant of London, set a timetable for their case.
They are due to enter pleas on August 18, with a trial set for January 2, 2024.
Marten, whose legal fees are being privately paid, wore a cream and black-patterned blouse for the hearing, while Gordon was dressed in a prison-issue grey tracksuit.
She took notes throughout the proceedings, and was clutching a stack of legal papers as she was led away to the cells at the end.
At Crawley magistrates court earlier in March, prosecutor Jeremy King said the couple were arrested in early March after a 53-day police investigation, and two days later baby Victoria’s body was located.
“In a locked shed, wrapped in a plastic bag, under nappies, the baby was found inside”, he said.
“Life was pronounced extinct - the charges flow from that discovery.”
According to the charge, the couple are accused of manslaughter by having “unlawfully killed baby Victoria”, it is said the birth was concealed between Janaury 27 and February 27, and they are accused of “doing an act or acts by concealing the death of baby Victoria which had a tendency to pervert the course of public justice.”
Marten and Gordon, who have dated since 2015, were reported missing after the discovery of placenta in an abandoned motor vehicle on the M61 in January.
“A national missing persons campaign was launched, which was ongoing until February 27”, said the prosecutor.
“It appears both parties were staying in and around hotels in the country, using taxis to get around.
“There were various sightings of them.”
Marten, who hails from a wealthy aristocratic family with members who have served the Royal Family, grew up at Crichel House, the family seat in north Dorset. She is being represented in the legal proceedings by leading barrister Lewis Power KC.
The Metropolitan Police was drawn into the search for the couple, in an operation which ultimately involved more than 200 officers.
The couple were finally found in Stanmer Villas, Brighton, about 9.30pm on February 27, after a tip-off from a member of the public.
Responding to the news, Marten’s father Napier said: “It is an immense relief to know my beloved daughter Constance has been found.”
Mr Marten, a former page to Queen Elizabeth II, added: “When the time comes, I am longing to see Constance to reassure her that, whatever the weather, I love her dearly and will support her as best I can through the difficult weeks and months here on in.”
Around 48 hours after the arrests, police announced the discovery of the baby’s remains in woodland in the Hollingbury area of Brighton.
Both Marten and Gordon are remanded in custody.