Teacher given jail term for year on run with his pupil

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A teacher who went on the run with a 15-year-old schoolgirl for more than a year was described as "every parent's nightmare" by a judge when he was jailed for child abduction yesterday.

Paul Tramontini, 34, triggered an international police hunt when he disappeared with Katherine Baillie, a former pupil now 16, in April last year.

Tramontini was jailed for 18 months. He had pleaded guilty to charges of abduction and perverting the course of justice at a previous hearing.

Judge David Selwood at Portsmouth Crown Court said yesterday that a custodial sentence was essential to deter other teachers from doing the same thing.

He told Tramontini: "You were in a position of trust and also in a position of power and this offence represents a gross breach of that trust.

"The public will expect a degree of deterrent in the sentence today because you, and whatever you say, are every parent's nightmare," he added.

Tramontini, of Malmesbury, Wiltshire, first met Katherine when she was a 14-year-old pupil at Mayfield Secondary School in Portsmouth, where he was a maths teacher.

The couple had arrived and left the court hearings holding hands. The relationship began after Tramontini watched Katherine playing in a band. They continued seeing each other despite the opposition of the teenager's parents, Margery and Tom.

In April last year, Katherine disappeared from home for four days after a row with her parents. Tramontini was interviewed by police and used condoms were found at his home. Richard Onslow, for the prosecution, told the court that after the search Tramontini sent a text message to Katherine via a friend's mobile phone, advising her not to have a police medical examination.

Tramontini pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to perverting the course of justice by sending that text message.

The court was told the relationship between Katherine and her parents deteriorated and on 26 April last year she ran away from her home.

The couple then disappeared for 415 days and are thought to have fled to Italy.

An extensive police search, including appeals on Crimewatch UK and repeated media coverage, failed to find the pair. Katherine's picture appeared on posters and milk cartons throughout the country and Tramontini's name was placed on the police wanted list and on Interpol.

Tramontini handed himself in to police in June this year and was charged with abduction.

Robert Duvall, for the defence, said Tramontini was a man of good character who felt he could not abandon the teenager after she left home. "Their feelings ... are genuine and they are true," he said.

Teaching unions condemned Tramontini's actions and agreed that a jail sentence was appropriate. Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "It is quite wrong for any teacher to get involved emotionally or sexually with a pupil in any way. Teachers are in a position of trust and authority and to do so is an abuse of that privilege."