Abuse at the hands of ‘phoney prophet’: Inside cult linked to Constance Marten
A missing aristocrat who is on the run with her rapist partner and newborn baby may have been brainwashed at a Nigerian church where “disciples” were allegedly abused by the group’s self-proclaimed prophet.
Constance Marten, who has been missing with Mark Gordon since early January, is said to been left confused and traumatised after spending six months at the Synagogue, Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Lagos where she would have been forced to undergo “intense” running of the church while living in dorms alongside some 100 other disciples, many also British nationals.
On one occasion, the 35-year-old was apparently forced to eat the leftovers of the church’s “prophet” and controversial leader, TB Joshua. Another time, she was placed in social exile – the customary punishment for disciples who were not “focused enough” on the church leader or spoke about their former lives.
After leaving the church, Ms Marten spoke about experiencing paranormal activity after meditation which became so out of control that she once collapsed on the floor laughing while queueing in Starbucks.
The 35-year-old runaway, whose family used to own the £100m Crichel House estate in Dorset and whose grandmother was a god-daughter of the late Queen Mother, has been estranged from her family since she met Mark Gordon, who was jailed in the late 1980s in Florida, US, after raping and assaulting a woman when he was 14.
Her father Napier, a Page to the late Queen, has called for police investigating the couple’s disappearance to probe his daughter’s links to the church in light of The Independent’s investigations.
Ex-disciple and former British soldier Joe Hurst joined the group in 2006 in Nigeria. Although he left before Ms Marten joined later that year, he told The Independent that she got in touch with him some six years later because she wanted to do a documentary about the church.
Mr Hurst, who now lives in India, said Ms Marten told him that white disciples would often be targeted and humiliated by TB Joshua.
“She said she played along but it was really weird. She said it was humiliating. Her take was that it was the white British people who were typically humiliated in this way,” Mr Hurst toldThe Independent.
Referring to the incident with the leftovers, he added: “It was taken as a big honour to eat his food.”
Mr Hurst said he advised Ms Marten, who he knows by her nickname Toots, against running the documentary on the cult, where disciples sleep in gender-separated dorms of around 50 lined bunkbeds, with lights left on at all hours of the day.
In their conversations about the cult, Mr Hurst said Ms Marten’s experience had left her doubtful about the Christian faith and she would ask “how could God allow this to happen to us?”
He added that, after dissuading her against doing the investigation because of the risk of getting caught, they would speak about their wider thoughts on spirituality and faith.
“She would talk about paranormal activity in her life,” Mr Hurst said. “She said she would meditate and she would get a buzz and an aura would come over her. But after her a while she said it got out of control and would become quite scary.
“She said it culminated when she was in the queue in Starbucks and she collapsed and was just laughing on the floor. She knew it was a problem and she was really scared, so she told some church people to pray for her and it stopped after that.”
Mr Hurst said he lost contact with Ms Marten and was surprised when he heard she had gone missing.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Ms Marten did pitch a documentary while working with Al Jazeera about the church.
Her profile reads: “Pitched an idea for a documentary about a religious cult in Nigeria. Wrote, researched and investigated the corruption charges and illegal activities of the group. Tracked down former members of the sect, in the UK, Nigeria, Ghana and S. Africa, in order to gather solid first-hand information.”
Matt McNaught, author of the book Immanuel, which details the secrets of the African megachurch and others like it, said Ms Marten contacted him in 2011 seeking help in response to one of his blogs about the manipulation of the cult.