A maths teacher who ran away to France with a 15-year-old pupil mouthed “I love you” to her as he was found guilty of her abduction.
Jeremy Forrest, 30, who gave no testimony in his defence during his eight-day trial at Lewes Crown Court, betrayed no emotion after a jury took two hours to convict him following evidence from prosecutors that he was a “paedophile” and had groomed his teenage victim.
The schoolgirl, who had only just turned 15 when the sexual relationship began with Forrest, burst into tears in when the guilty verdict was delivered and said “I’m sorry” to the teacher as he was led down to the cells.
The pair began a four-month affair after the pupil, who cannot be named, developed a crush on the teacher at the Bishop Bell Church of England secondary school in Eastbourne, East Sussex. They fled to France last September when their relationship was about to be exposed and spent a week on the run before Forrest was arrested by detectives in Bordeaux.
In a statement read outside court, the girl’s mother said: “As a family, for the last nine months it’s been like living out your worst nightmare. Every aspect of our lives has been affected to some degree.”
Forrest, who was married and told his wife Emily that he loved her the night before he disappeared with the schoolgirl, had claimed through his lawyers that the teenager was “desperate and suicidal” and he had accompanied her across the Channel to prevent her coming to harm.
But jurors refused to believe the teacher after prosecutors said he had targeted the vulnerable teenager to satisfy his “carnal desires” and his actions amounted to a gross breach of trust. On one occasion he phoned his victim’s mother to assure her there was no truth to rumours that he was having a relationship with her daughter.In reality, Forrest would pick the girl up in her uniform and they would have sex in his car, in hotels and at his marital home.
Speaking outside court, the deputy chief crown prosecutor Portia Ragnouth said: “Not only did he breach the trust and confidence that all the parents at that school had placed in him, he also brought disgrace to his profession who are trusted to look after the children in their care.”
The disappearance of the pair led to a Europe-wide search and they were eventually found after Forrest approached the owner of an English bar in Bordeaux seeking work with a falsified CV .
East Sussex County Council said it was working with Forrest’s victim and her family to provide support.
The Bishop Bell School has previously been affected by other sex scandals involving people linked to it. In 2009, Robert Healy, a supply teacher at the school, was jailed for seven years after he groomed two pupils via a social networking site into having sex with him. But a review of the school’s safeguarding standards following the Forrest case found there was no evidence of “significant or systemic” failings.
Forrest, whose father collapsed in court shortly before the verdict, is due to be sentenced this morning.