Police officers searching for a missing baby have discovered the remains of an infant near to where the child’s parents were arrested after weeks of evading authorities.

Constance Marten and Mark Gordon were arrested on suspicion of child neglect and later gross negligence manslaughter after refusing to reveal the location of their missing child, who had not received any medical attention since its birth in early January.

Marten, 35, and Gordon, 48, were detained without their child near Stanmer Villas in Brighton on Monday night after a tipoff from a member of the public.

The arrests brought to an end a 53-day nationwide search for the couple and triggered a “painstaking” search for their baby, with hundreds of officers trawling open land across an area of 90 sq miles in Sussex.

On Wednesday evening police officers said the search had reached a “heartbreaking” conclusion and remains had been found near to where the child’s parents had been arrested.

Speaking at Sussex police headquarters, Det Supt Lewis Basford, the senior investigating officer with the Met, said: “It is my very sad duty to update this afternoon, police officers searching a wooded area close to where Constance and Mark Gordon were arrested discovered the remains of a baby. A postmortem examination will be held in due course. A crime scene is in place and work at the location is expected to continue for some time.

“This is an outcome that myself and that many officers who have been part of this search had hoped would not happen. I recognise the impact this news will have on many people who have been following this story closely and can assure them that we will do everything we possibly can to establish what has happened.”

Ch Supt James Collis, of Sussex police, said: “I understand that the conclusion of this search will be heartbreaking for the local community and the wider public who have been impacted by and so supportive of this search and the investigation from the outset.”

Marten and Gordon remain in custody after police officers applied to Brighton magistrates court to extend their detention.

Marten is from a wealthy aristocratic family with connections to the royal family and was a promising drama student before meeting Gordon in 2016. The couple have led an isolated life, cut off from family and friends. From about September last year, they began living on short lets in Airbnbs around the UK and had amassed a significant amount of cash to enable them to live off grid and avoid the attention of the authorities.

They had been travelling around the UK by taxi since their car was found burning on the M61 outside Bolton, Greater Manchester, on 5 January. Evidence was found to suggest Marten had given birth in the car. Taxi drivers used by the couple in the first few days after they went missing said they heard noises coming from a baby. It is not known whether the baby was born full-term or had any health problems.

Authorities previously believed the couple had been sleeping rough in a blue tent and had avoided being traced by the police by moving around frequently and keeping their faces covered from CCTV. They travelled from Bolton to Liverpool, then to Harwich in Essex, to east London and to Newhaven in Sussex, where they were reportedly seen near the ferry port on 8 January.

Just over a week ago, Shereen Nimmo, the director of midwifery at Barts Health NHS trust, had urged the couple to bring their baby in for checks. “You’re putting your baby at risk by not accessing medical care, so it’s really important that you come and see a midwife, doctor or another healthcare professional as soon as possible,” she said. “Babies need a safe, warm environment and all new mums are given information about safe sleeping for their baby to prevent sudden infant death syndrome.”

After the arrests, Marten’s estranged father, the film and music producer Napier Marten, told the Independent: “It is an immense relief to know my beloved daughter Constance has been found, tempered by the very alarming news her baby has yet to be found.”

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