The schoolgirl allegedly abducted by married maths teacher Jeremy Forrest has said that he accompanied her to France because he was concerned she might commit suicide.
The two travelled to France in September last year after discovering the sexual relationship they started while both at Bishop Bell Church of England School in Essex was about to be exposed.
Lewes Crown Court, where Forrest stands accused of abduction, heard that the 30-year-old booked two cross-channel Ferry tickets under his wife’s name when the teenager’s mobile phone was confiscated by police.
Authorities had received a tip that the girl’s teacher had sent intimate photos to the device, but none were found. Unaware, the pair boarded the Spirit of France hand-in-hand at 9.20pm before arriving in Calais in the middle of the night.
Forrest then spent seven days on the run from French and British authorities with the then 15-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons. They dyed their hair black to avoid detection, set up French email accounts, bought a French mobile phone, and drafted fake CVs to help get work.
Their makeshift plan was scuppered when an English bar owner to whom the teacher had applied for work recognised them both from media reports, leading eventually to their capture in the south-western port city of Bordeaux on 28 September last year.
Giving evidence at Forrest’s trial for the first time today, the now 16-year-old girl said she had experienced a raft of personal problems in the months before September that motivated her disappearance. She told the court that she had decided to run away from home following revelations that her parents were to divorce and her mother had fallen pregnant to a new partner, but Forrest would not let her go alone.
The two had grown close after she had confided in him during a school trip to Los Angeles in February 2012, she said. The girl added that they had held hands of the flight back from the US because she was having an anxiety attack prompted by a fear of flying.
“He was very encouraging to get help and seemed very worried about it and didn’t want to let the situation go, he really wanted to do something about it,” she said.
She added: “He tried to persuade me not to run away. I said I was going and nothing was going to stop me. I was very determined and once I had an idea in my head nobody was going to stop me, not Jeremy, not anybody.
“He was concerned that if I went on my own I would be in danger, it would be a better idea if he came with me. I was very pleased. If Jeremy has said he wasn’t coming with me, I would have dreaded what kind of situation I would have been in.
When asked to describe her mood at the time of the incident, she said she “felt very low indeed, desperate” and confirmed to defence counsel Ronald Jaffa that she was suicidal.
Speaking in person rather than by videolink, she continued: “Numerous times on the way to France he would say he [Forrest] would give me the money so I could go home but I didn’t want to go home.”
“He was very worried, he was very emotional. I don’t think he wanted to take me anywhere but I was insisting. I was adamant we had to go. I was afraid of what would happen to both of us.”
In a sharp criticism of how legal authorities handled the case, she added that she felt “manipulated” by police after being brought back to England. She said she was not happy with the evidence she gave in her second interview with officers, explaining: “If I didn’t comply with what they [the police] were doing, I faced arrest.”