Jeremy Forrest faces abduction charge over schoolgirl

Accused and schoolgirl fled to France after police began investigating their relationship

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 June, 2013, 8:56pm


The trial of a married British teacher accused of abducting a schoolgirl heard that he fled to France with the pupil, 15, after they started a sexual relationship, sparking a manhunt.

Maths teacher Jeremy Forrest, 30, faces up to seven years in jail if convicted of abducting the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

A jury at Lewes Crown Court in East Sussex, southeast England, heard that the pair absconded on September 20 last year, a day after police questioned the girl about the relationship.

They took a ferry to France, with her using Forrest's wife's passport, sparking a search on both sides of the Channel. Forrest was arrested in Bordeaux, southwest France, eight days later.

Prosecutor Richard Barton said on Tuesday the teacher had committed a "gross and long-term breach of trust".

"This is not Romeo and Juliet. This is a 15-year-old girl with her own vulnerabilities, and a 30-year-old teacher," he told the court.

"When parents send their children to school, they quite properly expect that those who teach their children will care for them properly."

Barton said the girl had gone willingly to France, but Forrest could not use this as a defence.

In a video interview recorded on October 3 that was played to the court, the teenager said that in the months before she and Forrest fled, they exchanged flirtatious texts and Twitter messages and eventually started meeting up for sex. The age of sexual consent in Britain is 16.

"I had had boyfriends and crushes on other people but he was older," she said. "I liked that he was older and mature.

"I didn't really like school, talking to him became a reason to start going and made me feel better about things."

The court heard that the night before they ran away, a police officer and a social worker had visited the girl's home and asked questions about the relationship.

She denied having improper relations with Forrest but her mother gave police permission to seize her mobile phone. Knowing that the messages and pictures on the phone would reveal the truth, she packed a bag.

Once in France, she and Forrest dyed their hair in an attempt to disguise themselves and began looking for work, but an English bar owner in Bordeaux recognised them from media reports and Forrest was arrested.

He had been married for a year but relations with his wife were strained, jurors were told.

The trial is due to last for two weeks.