Runaway aristocrat Constance Marten was allegedly “groomed” as a teenager by the leader of a Nigerian sect, it is reported.
The 35-year-old, who has been charged with manslaughter of her baby ‘Victoria’ through gross neglect along with her lover Mark Gordon, spent six months as a teenager in a camp near the country’s capital, Lagos.
While there, she was forced to stay in a dormitory of 50 girls who were guarded by armed guards, starved, awakened to Bible readings, and forced to call the leader “Daddy.”
An ex-partner said her time there left her traumatized, while a former member of the same cult revealed she would have been forced to take part in “intense” work while on the compound.
Marten and Gordon are currently in custody after a seven-week manhunt for them and their child came to an end last week ahead of a hearing at the Old Bailey later this month into their involvement in Victoria’s death.
Constance Marten, pictured, was reportedly ‘looked after’ by a Nigerian cult leader after being sent to Lagos as a teenager
Constance Marten (far right), pictured here with her lover Mark Gordon (far left) in a courtroom sketch, is charged with homicide by gross negligence
Marten, who grew up on a £100 million estate in Dorset and whose grandmother was the goddaughter of the late Queen Mother, is said to have traveled to Nigeria in her teens.
In Lagos, she joined the Synagogue, Church of All Nations (SCOAN), a Christian sect led by televangelist Temitope Balogun Joshua, better known as TB Joshua.
Joe Hurst, a former British soldier who joined the group but left before Marten arrived in 2006, said she spoke to him years later to say she and other whites in the compound had been humiliated by the controversial pastor.
Speak against The independentMr Hurst said she claimed she was forced to eat Joshua’s leftovers and placed in social exile – a punishment given to members who were not ‘focused enough’ on the pastor or who talked about their lives before they reached the entered the compound.
He added that when she talked about what happened in the compound, she asked, “How can God allow this to happen to us?”
Matthew McNaught, author of a book about the megachurch, said she contacted him several years later when she was “trying to understand what had happened to her,” adding, “she was confused and traumatized” .
The church has been involved in a number of controversies, with other Nigerian pastors calling Joshua, who died aged 57 in 2021, a “imposter.”
In April 2021, YouTube suspended his channel, Emmanuel TV, after claiming that homosexuality was the result of possession by demonic spirits.
It is alleged that Marten spent time in a compound run by the Synagogue, Church of All Nations (SCOAN), a Christian sect led by televangelist Temitope Balogun Joshua (pictured)
Marten, pictured here leaving Crawley Magistrates’ Court on Friday, has been charged with manslaughter by gross negligence, concealing the birth of a child and perverting the course of justice
Marten’s ex-partner Francis Agolo, 44, was quoted by The sun while saying the experience in Nigeria seemed to have been “traumatic” for her, adding, “She (Marten) clammed up when she talked about her time there.”
He added: ‘When I knew Constance she was caring and loving. It seems very strange.’
Marten had previously talked about the experience in an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine, revealing that she was one of 50 girls who shared a dormitory in a religious cult.
She added: “The leader looked me in the eye and said, ‘Your family doesn’t matter anymore. I’m your father now.'”
Marten and Gordon, 48, have been charged with manslaughter by way of gross neglect, concealing the birth of a child and perverting the course of justice after ‘Victoria’ was found in a shed in Brighton on Wednesday.
A hearing before magistrates in Crawley on Friday was told the girl had been found in a plastic bag and buried under a pile of diapers in an allotment garden.
It was a tragic conclusion to a 53-day nationwide search for the couple, who went missing in January, sparking concerns for their well-being and that of the child.
The aristocrat was seen smiling and blowing a kiss to Gordon in front of a packed courtroom, speaking only to confirm their name, date of birth and that they had no permanent abode.
Prosecutor Jeremy King told Crawley Magistrates’ Court 1: ‘It was on 5 January this year that a placenta was discovered in an abandoned motor vehicle with Miss Marten’s passport next to it. Miss Marten had been in a relationship with Mr Gordon since 2015.’
He said a missing persons campaign had been launched.
Mr King said the couple traveled around the country using taxis and stayed in hotels. In Whitechapel they were spotted buying camping equipment and were last seen in Newhaven on CCTV close to the ferry.
King said: “Initially they refused to answer police questions. An extensive search was carried out in an overgrown allotment garden.
“In a locked shed, wrapped in a plastic bag under diapers, the baby was found inside. Life was declared extinct.’
Flower tribute left for baby Victoria near the allotment where her body was found in a plastic bag
Magistrates in Crawley were told the case would be transferred to London’s Central Criminal Court.
Defending for Marten, Lewes Power KQ said that while there would be no application for bail on Marten’s behalf today, but he “notified the court,” there would be one at a future date.
Marten and Gordon had been arrested by police in the Hollingbury area of Brighton on Monday evening after being spotted by a member of the public earlier in the day.
It ended a nationwide police hunt that began when they fled with their baby seven weeks ago – but when they were found by police, the child was nowhere to be seen.
However, the couple was without their newborn baby when officers rushed in to arrest them.
Sussex detectives and the Metropolitan Police launched a major search of public allotments near where they were arrested.
Search teams with sniffer dogs, drones, helicopters and agents using heat-seeking equipment struggled to find the body.
They alerted the police who immediately entered an area of woodland and allotments that had not yet been searched by officers.
At a press conference, Met Police Detective Superintendent Lewis Basford said it was clear the baby’s remains had been there for “several weeks.”
Marten and Gordon will appear before the Old Bailey on March 31.