Forrest trial: Crush ‘became sexual relationship’

Teacher Jeremy Forrest has been found guilty of child abduction. Picture: PA
Teacher Jeremy Forrest has been found guilty of child abduction. Picture: PA
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A MARRIED Scots-born teacher fled to France with a 15-year-old pupil who had a crush on him the day after police questioned her about their sexual relationship, a court has heard.

The pair had sex at Jeremy Forrest’s marital home while his wife was away and in hotels while the girl told her mother she was staying with friends,

jurors were told.

Fearing they were about to be exposed, 30-year-old Forrest booked them on a ferry to Calais before spending seven days on the run, it is alleged.

Jurors heard that their relationship amounted to Forrest committing a “gross and long-term breach of trust”.

Lewes Crown Court heard that keen musician Forrest taught maths at Bishop Bell Church of England School in Eastbourne, Sussex, and that his marriage to wife Emily was strained.

On the run in France, he and the girl dyed their hair to try to avoid detection. Forrest set up a French e-mail account and bought a mobile phone, and they drafted bogus CVs in an internet cafe to get them work.

Prosecutor Richard Barton said Forrest used the alias Jack Dean and the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, gave herself a bogus name on the false CVs.

But an English bar owner to whom Forrest had applied for a job recognised the pair from media reports, leading eventually to them being caught in the south-western port city of Bordeaux on 28 September last year.

The girl spoke of how she “panicked” when she realised police had been made aware of their relationship.

In a videoed police interview played in court from 3 October last year, she said: “I wanted to leave because I didn’t want to face my mum when she found out.”

She said she knew Forrest was married because he wore a wedding ring, but she developed feelings for him following a school trip to Los Angeles and they were spotted holding hands on a flight.

In the interview, she said: “I found him attractive, I had had boyfriends and crushes on other people but he was older, it was a lot more different. I liked that he was older and mature.”

Forrest broke down in tears in the dock at one point as the girl said he was a source of comfort to her as she dealt with personal issues.

The teenager said: “He gave me a hug and said it’s going to be OK. He did the teacher thing and said I could speak to someone at school who can help.”

The pair started exchanging tweets and then private messages on the social networking site Twitter, and then text messages, the court heard.

The girl said in the interview: “When we first began texting, we were gradually getting more like into a relationship, and there were photos and stuff like that, and text messages.

“But we didn’t start a relationship until the end of May and we decided that it was what we wanted to do. We began to meet up outside of school.”

The court heard they had sex in his car and he booked them into local hotels for overnight stays, including one across the road from the court.

Mr Barton said the girl was a willing participant in them fleeing the country, but that could not be used by Forrest as a defence to the charge he faces.

Their disappearance led to several anxious days for the girl’s family and involved intensive searches by authorities on both sides of the Channel, he added.

A “third party” tipped off police on 14 September – six days before the disappearance – about pictures Forrest is said to have sent the girl, and about their relationship.

Four days later, a joint meeting was held between police, education officials and the school. It was decided that the girl should be asked about any relationship.

The following afternoon, a police officer and a social worker went to the girl’s home and spoke to her mother, Mr Barton went on. The girl told Forrest about the visit.

Realising their relationship was about to be revealed, the girl secretly packed some belongings and her passport, Mr Barton said.

They arrived in Calais in the middle of the night before Forrest drove to Paris. In a diary the girl kept during the journey, she told how they tried to dodge being caught on CCTV cameras, jurors heard.

Back in the UK that morning, the girl’s mother was alerted that she was absent from lessons.

When it emerged that the friend with whom she was supposed to have stayed overnight was at school, the police were called. At 2pm, officers contacted Forrest’s wife as he was also absent from school.

Forrest, of Chislehurst Road, Petts Wood, Kent, denies child abduction. The case continues.