Megan, 15, flies back from France – to the relief of family and friends
Maths teacher detained in Bordeaux but is co-operating with police over extradition
Susie Mesure writes interviews, news and features for the Independent on Sunday, Independent and i, and has done for the last ten years or so give or take two lengthy maternity leaves. She is interested in just about any topic, especially anything Scandinavian, food, or consumer-orientated, and used to be the Independent’s Retail Correspondent
Sunday 30 September 2012
She left Britain on a Calais-bound ferry from Dover, and eight days later she was back, touching down at Gatwick airport yesterday afternoon on an easyJet flight from Bordeaux.
Megan Stammers, 15, from Eastbourne, East Sussex, had travelled to the wine town in south-west France by train from Paris, with her maths teacher, Jeremy Forrest.
Unlike the schoolgirl, Forrest, 30, remained in France yesterday, where he was remanded in custody at Gradignan prison on suspicion of child abduction.
It was understood Megan, who boarded the flight wearing black jeans and a baggy black jumper, was reunited with her mother, Danielle Wilson, in private. It emerged earlier that she had used her mother's passport to run away with Mr Forrest on 21 September, raising questions about the strictness of security at British and French borders.
Mr Forrest will appear in court on Tuesday before returning to face charges in the UK, "without the need for protracted extradition proceedings", said his lawyer, Phil Smith, of Tuckers Solicitors.
The pair had driven from Calais to Paris in Mr Forrest's car, a black Ford Fiesta, which is thought to have been abandoned near a mainline train station, before they made the 400-mile journey to Bordeaux.
Mr Forrest's lawyers said he is upset but is being treated well and with some sympathy. His co-operation means he will avoid lengthy extradition proceedings, although experts say it will be several days before he returns to the UK.
The couple were discovered on Friday lunchtime, during an afternoon stroll down Bordeaux's pedestrianised shopping street, the Rue Sainte-Catherine.
A legal source yesterday revealed that Mr Forrest's parents had tipped off the police that their son was likely to be in Bordeaux, a long-time favourite family holiday destination. On arriving in the town, Mr Forrest had begun to look for cash-in-hand bar work. A local had spotted the teacher, who plays in a rock band, and his pupil on Friday morning, then contacted French police.
Sussex Police yesterday declined to comment beyond issuing a statement, saying: "Specially trained officers are supporting the victim and family. There is no ongoing risk to the victim or other people."
Neighbours in Eastbourne were delighted that Megan, who attended the Bishop Bell Church of England school, had returned home. Kersti Barnes, 38, whose daughter Casie, 15, is a friend of Megan's from junior school, said: "We're absolutely made up that she's safe. We're just overwhelmed. They're a fantastic family. They now need to be left alone to deal with Meg."
It was a different story in Ringmer, near Lewes, where Mr Forrest lived with his photographer wife, Emily. The windows of the Forrests' house, where a new conservatory was added three weeks ago, were covered in sheets of paper and the blinds drawn. Mrs Forrest stayed inside with her parents. She hadn't left the house since Saturday last week, not even answering the door when flowers were delivered.
At Gatwick airport yesterday, measures were taken to protect the teenager from media attention. The easyJet flight was diverted to the north terminal. Two Sussex police officers waited at arrivals, while Megan was taken through a different exit to avoid a waiting press pack.
One passenger, Robin Blanch, 67, from Uckfield, East Sussex, said: "There were people looking down the cabin to see if they could see [Megan]. But the only sign she was there at all was the television cameras in Bordeaux airport and the plane's diversion to a different terminal."
There has been controversy over Megan's school's apparent lack of urgency in investigating after concerns about the maths teacher were first raised.
A police spokesman said they would talk to Megan after she had spent some time with her mother and stepfather, Martin Stammers.
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