The phone call that Martin Stammers and his family had spent seven long, arduous days hoping – indeed praying – for finally came shortly before lunchtime today.
Megan’s stepfather, who brought the 15-year-old up from an early age with her mother, Danielle, emerged from his home in Eastbourne with his thumbs in the air to speak of his “pure elation, pure relief” after being told by Sussex Police that she had been found safe and well minutes earlier in Bordeaux.
Speaking as news of the arrest of Jeremy Forrest, a 30-year-old maths teacher, brought a cavalcade of television cameras and reporters to his doorstep, an elated Mr Stammers, himself a teacher, revealed some of the pressure that the family had been under.
He said: “The relief, the outpouring of love from everyone, has just been amazing. We’re so happy … As time goes on you despair even more, but knowing Megan, knowing the girl she is, I always had that belief that she was strong enough within herself to remain safe and well.”
Asked what his feelings were towards Mr Forrest, with whom he had once worked and found him to be a “nice bloke”, Mr Stammers said: “No comment.”
On the streets of Eastbourne, there was relief that the disappearance which had seen a full procession of British and international media descend on the town had ended with Megan being found safe.
At Bishop Bell Church of England School the headteacher, Terry Boatwright, said everyone was delighted at the outcome.
Mr Boatwright added: “Clearly much needs to be done now to support Megan, and her family, as they seek to return to some sort of normality and we will do all we can to play our part in that.”
Last night Megan was expected to be reunited with her family within hours while the maths teacher was being held in the austere headquarters of the Bordeaux police, ahead of a likely fast-tracked return to Britain to face criminal charges.
The fact that Mr Forrest was held on a European Arrest Warrant obtained on Tuesday by Sussex Police means that he can expect to be handed over to British officers and travel back to the UK to face formal questioning after a court hearing scheduled for early next week.
The procedure, which differs from a traditional extradition in so far as the requesting country is not required to produce a full dossier of evidence, could be delayed if Mr Forrest objects to being removed back to Britain.
Once Mr Forrest returns, the process will begin of deciding what charges he should face. He has been arrested on charges of child abduction by taking Megan with him without her parents’ permission.