Who is Constance ‘Toots’ Marten? Aristocrat on the run with ex-convict Mark Gordon - who is father Napier?

Mark Gordon spent 20 years in prison in Florida for a rape he committed aged 14

A missing aristocrat who has been living off-grid with her newborn baby and partner has been sleeping rough in sub-zero temperatures, police have said.

Constance Marten, 35, and her convicted sex offender boyfriend Mark Gordon, 48, were last seen on January 7 in east London after buying a tent and bedding. The couple sparked a police hunt after being spotted leaving a burning car on foot on the M61 near Bolton earlier in the month with their newborn baby.

Detectives fear for their baby’s safety in freezing temperatures and having received no medical attention since birth in early January. Despite being estranged from her family, who own the enormous Crichel Down estate in Dorset, it is believed that Constance has a substantial amount of money, allowing her and Gordon to “live off the grid”.

Her father Napier Marten made a public appeal on Thursday (19 January) urging his “darling” daughter to “do whatever is necessary for your safe return to us”. He said the family has lived “in great concern”, knowing of Gordon’s past, “for some time”.

The last sighting of the couple was on 7 January in London buying a tent and bedding, which followed positive identifications in Bolton and Essex. Police have drawn attention to the fact the couple are using cash and urged hotels to review any recent bookings where the payment was made in cash.

Crichel House, Dorset, where Constance Marten grew up. Credit: Toby / Crichel House, Moor Crichel/CC

Who are the Marten family?

Constance, also known as Toots, comes from the aristocratic Marten family, who have long been the subject of national intrigue and speculation. Her grandmother Mary Anna Marten made legal history during the Crichel Down affair, which caused a political scandal in 1954 and led to new guidelines applying to compulsory purchase being drawn up and implimented.

Mary Marten was the god-daughter of the Queen Mother and Toots’ father Napier Marten is reported to have been a page to Queen Elizabeth II. Mary’s wedding to Lt.-Cdr. George (Toby) Gosselin Marten was attended by George VI, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.

The Crichel estate includes a Grade-I listed mansion, four villages and a cricket club. It was put up for sale by the family in 2010 and was bought by an American buyer.

Napier Marten made headlines in 2013 after renouncing his £115 million inheritance and giving up the Crichel estate in Dorset, after being told to “by a voice”. The Times reported at the time that he gave up the family’s seat to live a life of whale-watching, spiritual discovery and tree surgery, swapping the grand estate for living in a lorry.

In an interview with a woman he claims to have met 400 years ago in Dorset in a previous incarnation, he explained his reasons for shaving his head and giving up his inheritance. He said that he was obeying a voice “inside of me saying daily and sometimes many times daily to shave my head and go to Australia”.

He revealed he had got to a point “where everything in my life materially was a completely empty shell”.

Constance Marten

Who is Constance Marten?

The 35-year-old missing mother has been moving around the country with her partner since September last year, renting Airbnbs in different locations. She studied at the University of Leeds, spending a year abroad in Cairo and according to her LinkedIn page won Al Jazeera’s 2013 ‘Through the Lens of Al Jazeera’ competition for a photo taken during the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

On a now-defunct website constance.marten.com she is described as a “journalist and photographer” focusing on “documentary photography, travel, culture, and religion photography”. The digital archive Wayback Machine shows the site in 2018, featuring an image with a copyright marking crediting Constance Marten.

Her LinkenIn page shows that she worked as a researcher for Al Jazeera for 11 months between 2012 and 2013 as well as a spell as a project manager for Rich Mix Theatre and a freelance journalist for the Daily Mail. She had previously featured as an "it girl" in Tatler Magazine.

It's also been reported that she had trained at the East 15 drama school in Essex and developed a reputation as a talented actor. In 2016, Constance began dating Mark Gordon and became estranged from her family. They are reported to have lived in the Eltham area of south London until 2020.

Despite being pregnant, it has been reported that Constance did not seek any medical assistance throughout the pregnancy. Authorities have urged her to come forward to make sure the baby is “safe and well”.

Mark Gordon

Who is Mark Gordon?

Constance’s partner is 48-year-old Mark Gordon. The pair are said to have been together since 2016 and are currently missing. He served 20 years in prison in Florida for rape and battery. Gordon was just 14 when he committed the crimes and they related to an attack on a woman in her early 20s.

Gordon is a registered sex offender in the US. His records have been made public on Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s website. The records also show that Gordon was convicted of kidnap in relation to the attack on the woman in Florida in 1990.

Gordon’s mother Sylvia recently told the Daily Mail: “I am very concerned. I love my son. He is a good boy so I don’t know what this is all about. I am worried for all of them. I am thinking, I wonder if someone kidnapped them?”

Constance Marten and Mark Gordon have been missing for two weeks with no medical intervention for their newborn. Credit: Met Police

When was Constance Marten last seen?

Despite having been moving between Airbnbs around the country in recent months, Constance and Gordon were reported missing after their car broke down and caught fire near junction four at Farnworth, Bolton on 5 January.

There have been further sightings of the couple since then, however in the CCTV footage captured of them they have either been covering their faces or looking away as well as keeping the baby covered up. Investigators say the couple appear to know how to evade authorities – making the search for them harder.

Police believe they could be anywhere in the UK and are appealing to the public to come forward with any information that may help find them. The couple are said to have a substantial amount of cash, allowing them to live off-grid. They were seen on 7 January when they took a taxi to East Ham Station in Newham, London.

After that, police said that Gordon went into Argos on Whitechapel Road, east London, at 6.19pm on to buy camping gear including a blue two-person tent. He was seen walking around the area with Constance for more than three hours, trying to flag down three black cabs who all refused to take them as passengers. They were last seen walking along Brick Lane, towards Bethnal Green Road, at 10.01pm that night.

Mark Gordon and Constance Marten near Alder Street in London. Credit: PA

What has Constance Marten’s family said?

Constance is believed to have been estranged from the Martens since 2016, when she began seeing Gordon. The couple have lived an isolated life, cutting off contact with friends and family.

In an audio appeal, made through The Independent, Napier Marten said while he remains estranged from his “darling” daughter, his family is willing to “do whatever is necessary for your safe return to us”.

Napier said: “Darling Constance, even though we remain estranged at the moment, I stand by, as I have always done and as the family has always done, to do whatever is necessary for your safe return to us. I beseech you to find a way to turn yourself and your wee one in to the police as soon as possible so you and he or she can be protected.

“Only then can a process of healing and recovery begin, however long it may take, however difficult it may be. I would like you to understand that the family will do all that is needed for your wellbeing.

“And I also wish you to understand you are much, much loved, whatever the circumstances. We are deeply concerned for your and your baby’s welfare. The past eight years have been beyond painful for all the family as well as your friends, as they must have been for you, and to see you so vulnerable again is testing in the extreme.”

Full list of sightings of the couple so far

The first confirmed sighting came on 5 January when they were spotted with the baby on the M61 near junction four at Farnworth, Bolton. It sparked a public appeal from Greater Manchester police.

Constance and Gordon then walked to Anchor Lane Bridge, where they got a taxi to Liverpool before getting another to Harwich, Essex.

They were seen around Colchester on Friday, 6 January and Saturday, 7 January when they took another taxi to East Ham Station in Newham, London. The final sighting was later that day around Brick Lane, in east London. Gordon went into an Argos, in Whitechapel Road, at 6.19pm, and then the family spent three hours walking around the area, with facemasks on, trying to hail a cab.

CCTV footage of Constance Marten was seen in Harwich, Essex . Credit: Met Police

What have police said about Constance Marten?

Det Supt Lewis Basford, who is leading the investigation, said: “We are extremely concerned that a newborn baby – less than a week old at the time on January 7 – has been exposed to sub-freezing cold temperatures if Mark and Constance have been camping out somewhere as our evidence suggests.

“No child, especially a tiny, newborn baby, should be forced to endure such dangerous, potentially life-threatening conditions. This is why it is absolutely vital that anyone with information about their whereabouts contacts us as a matter of urgency – whether it is with a recent or older sighting. Every piece of information is crucial to enabling us to find the baby and ensure it is OK.

“My officers will continue working tirelessly behind the scenes to piece together the family’s movements and current whereabouts. It could be that they are trying to blend in with homeless communities, either here in London or further afield, or they could be camping in more rural or wooded areas.

“They could be absolutely anywhere in the country. Please keep your eyes peeled, especially while you are out and about in waste ground or beauty spots, or while you’re walking the dog, and report any information, no matter how insignificant you think it is, to us.”

In the first appeal, Greater Manchester Police’s head of public protection Ch Supt Michaela Kerr said: “As a mum, I would like to make a direct appeal to Constance. Constance, I know this is an exceptionally hard time for you and you are likely feeling scared, but I promise that our number one priority is the same as yours – to keep your beautiful newborn safe.

“As you know, it’s really important that both you and your baby are assessed by medical professionals as soon as possible, so please make contact with emergency services or make your way to your nearest hospital, wherever that may be. I would also like to appeal to members of the public – not just in Bolton but across Greater Manchester and beyond.

“If you have any information about this family’s whereabouts, please do nothing more than contact emergency services. GMP can be contacted via Live Chat on our website or 999. Even the most minor detail might help us keep this mum and baby safe.”