Boys' stories of sex with teacher 'sold to tabloids'

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The Independent Online

Three schoolboys who allege they were seduced by a female science teacher, and three of their friends, were offered a total of £41,000 by tabloid newspapers to tell their stories, a jury was told yesterday.

The teenagers were recalled by the court to be questioned about whether their testimony had been influenced by newspaper deals. The boys had given evidence in the trial of Amy Gehring, 26, a biology teacher from Hampton, west London, who faces five charges of indecently assaulting the boys, who were pupils at the Surrey comprehensive where she worked as a supply teacher.

Ms Gehring is accused of having had sex with a 15-year-old in an alleyway, in a lavatory at a party and in a garden at a New Year's Eve party; with another boy, also 15, at the same New Year's Eve party; and with the first boy's 14-year-old brother after getting drunk at another party. She denies the charges.

One boy, now 16, said his family had agreed a newspaper deal worth £10,000 to talk about his allegations. He told Guildford Crown Court the agreement was with the Sunday People and The Mail on Sunday. The teenager, now a sixth-form college student, said he had joked to a friend before the trial that he could make millions by selling his story.

He told the court: "A few weeks ago I said jokingly, 'Oh, we could have millions!' But I never had any real intention of telling the press until all the letters starting coming through." The boy also said he had discussed the issue of media coverage with the other two teenagers but only after they had given evidence. He also said he had sent text messages to other witnesses before they gave evidence to wish them good luck.

A second boy, who was approached by newspapers outside court and at his home, told the defence counsel, Andrew Thompson, that his family had agreed a minimum £10,000 deal with the Daily Mail. His older brother is alleged to have had sex with Ms Gehring three times, but insisted that no agreement had been made to sell his story.

Mr Thompson asked each boy in turn at what point in the trial they had been approached by reporters and whether they had agreed to sell their stories. Although each teenager said he had been approached by the media, all three said this happened only after they had given their evidence.

The jury heard from five other teenage witnesses in the case who had socialised with Ms Gehring. They all said they had been approached by journalists and three of them had agreed deals worth up to £10,000.

One girl who gave evidence against Ms Gehring said she was offered a total of £6,000, another £10,000 by the News of the World. One teenage boy who gave evidence told the court he had been offered £5,000 by the Sunday Mirror if the story appeared on the front page and £4,000 if it appeared elsewhere.

All the witnesses insisted they had not been approached before giving evidence and that their testimony had not been influenced by the prospect of selling their stories.

Ms Gehring is accused of having had sex with the schoolboys within six weeks of starting work as a supply teacher at the school in Surrey in November 2000. The case continues.