The schoolgirl abducted by Jeremy Forrest has spoken out, saying she was old enough to make decisions for herself and that she still loves the disgraced former teacher.
Forrest, 30, was jailed for five and a half years for child abduction and five charges of sexual activity with a child. During the eight-day trial at Lewes Crown Court the jury heard that Forrest groomed the schoolgirl into having sex with him shortly after her 15th birthday. The couple exchanged indecent images and were seen holding hands on a school trip.
When police began to make inquiries seven months after initial concerns were raised, Forrest abducted the child and escaped to France, sparking a major man hunt. He spent seven days on the run with the girl but was eventually discovered after trying to secure employment in a bar in Bordeaux. It is understood that Forrest had intended to argue that as the age of consent in France is 15, he had not committed a crime.
The girl said she was “profoundly sorry” for fleeing with Forrest to France when she was 15, but remained firm that her feelings towards him had not changed.
Speaking to The Sun, she said: “I would like to make it clear that despite the outcome of the trial, my feelings towards Jeremy remain the same, and regardless of unfair and inaccurate speculation, those feelings will not change.
”I am very sorry to those who have been profoundly affected by the things that I have instigated and the consequences of my actions."
The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, thanked her friends and family for their support and for respecting ”the decisions that I have made throughout this process, of which they know I was fully capable of making“.
The girl’s mother, however, said the family had been ripped apart by the incident. Sitting in the public gallery without her daughter, who has moved out of the family home, she said her daughter was angry and blamed her for what had happened, creating a break-down of trust.
In a statement she said: “The (daughter) I knew is dead and it upsets me beyond words”.
“I feel completely useless most of the time. I feel like I have failed as a parent as I cannot understand how someone could do this to my child and I had no idea.”
She continued: “I feel like the worst mother in the world, whatever anyone else says it doesn't matter. Someone has got my child and I never saw it coming and never saw it as it was happening.
”I feel like part of (her) childhood has been robbed from me - the last day at school, dressing her up in a party dress for the school prom, all taken from us.“
She added: ”My relationship will never be the same again. She is aiming all her anger at me, that she has to give evidence in court. Somehow that is all my fault, she thinks she cannot trust me again and she has gone to live elsewhere."
Judge Michael Lawson QC sentenced Forrest to four and a half years for the five offences of sexual activity with a child and one year for the offence of child abduction, to run consecutively.
He also imposed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (Sopo) on Forrest, banning him from ever working or volunteering with children and unsupervised contact with children, and he was ordered to sign on the sex offenders register.
He told Forrest: ”Your behaviour in this period has been motivated by self-interest and has hurt and damaged many people - her family, your family, staff and pupils at the school and respect for teachers everywhere. It has damaged you too but that was something you were prepared to risk. You now have to pay that price.“
Police are now looking into whether Forrest contacted the girl to influence the evidence she gave at his trial.
Prosecutor Richard Barton told Judge Lawton there was material to suggest that a third party helped pass information between Forrest and his victim after it was noted that her evidence was different to her original police interviews.
Sussex Police have confirmed they were looking into the question of collusion.
Yesterday another teenager came forward to claim Forrest targeted her when she was a schoolgirl.
Chloe Queen, 17, told the Daily Mail that Forrest sent her Christmas and birthday cards, asked her to watch him perform with his band and made her stay after class for extra lessons.
She told the newspaper: ”I thought he wanted to teach me more, not realising he possibly had other ideas. He would invade my personal space and make me feel uncomfortable. He would routinely cuddle me.“
She added: ”He would compliment me all the time and say things like, 'You're a very pretty girl'.“
Chloe's mother, Lorna Prentice, told the Mail: ”It's scary. I'm just so thankful nothing happened to her. He taught her for five years and she would always stay behind after school for extra maths lessons - just the same as the schoolgirl.
“But we never had any suspicions at the time. He was a very good teacher, very caring. Even when she started arguments with him in class, he would never raise his voice.”
On Wednesday, following complex legal proceedings in both France and at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, Forrest waived his rights under the terms of his extradition and admitted five counts of sexual activity with a child, boosting his sentence by four-and-a-half years. He had earlier been found guilty of abduction at the end of an eight-day trial.
Following yesterday's sentencing his family said they hoped the case would lead to a full examination of the events. They added that Forrest was “very sorry” for his actions.