Teacher Jeremy Forrest guilty of schoolgirl abduction

The girl found Jeremy Forrest's status as an amateur musician attractive, as Duncan Kennedy reports

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Teacher Jeremy Forrest has been found guilty of abducting a schoolgirl.

The prosecution said Forrest, 30, of Petts Wood, south-east London, had groomed the pupil at Bishop Bell CofE School in Eastbourne where he taught.

Lewes Crown Court heard the pair went to France when it became likely their relationship would be exposed. The girl was 15 years old at the time.

Forrest chose not to give evidence in his defence. Sentencing has been adjourned until Friday morning.

The maths teacher was labelled a "paedophile" by the prosecution, who said he "groomed" the vulnerable teenager and his actions were a gross breach of trust.

'I love you'

The trial has heard the pupil had just turned 15 when she started a sexual relationship with Forrest after developing a crush on him.

Forrest would pick the girl up in her school uniform and they would have sex in his car, in hotels and at his marital home, the court heard.

Fearing they were about to be exposed, Forrest booked them on a cross-Channel ferry from Dover to Calais on 20 September last year.

They spent seven days on the run in France before they were tracked down in Bordeaux.

Emily Forrest, who married the teacher in 2011, told the court that their marriage had fallen apart in the months before he disappeared with the girl.

Richard Barton, prosecuting, said Forrest's actions were an abuse of trust and he had not acted with the consent of the girl's parents.

As the foreman of the jury announced the verdict, Forrest's victim put her head in her hands and burst into tears.

As the jury arrived back in court, Forrest turned to her and said: "I love you."

The girl said to the defendant: "I'm sorry" as he was taken to the cells.

School controversy

Sussex Police said Forrest was a teacher who had "grossly abused the trust placed in him".

In a statement read outside court by Det Insp Neil Ralph, the girl's mother thanked the Sussex force and the French authorities for ensuring her daughter's safe return.

Bordeaux bar owner Alison Cummins: "They seemed perfectly normal, perfectly happy"

"As a family, for the last nine months it's been like living out your worst nightmare," she said.

"Every aspect of our lives has been affected to some degree."

Bishop Bell School has faced controversy over people linked to it in the past.

Canon Gordon Rideout, 74, an ex-chairman of governors, was jailed for 10 years in May for abusing more than a dozen vulnerable girls and boys at a now closed Barnardo's home in Crawley, West Sussex, over a four-year period.

The former Anglican priest also indecently assaulted two girls at an Army site in Middle Wallop, Hampshire.

In 2009, supply teacher Robert Healy, then aged 27, was jailed for seven years at Lewes Crown Court after grooming two Bishop Bell pupils on the social networking site Bebo.

He had sex three or four times with one teenage victim and then started a second relationship with a slightly older girl.

A safeguarding review published in April did not find evidence of "any significant or systemic failings in safeguarding" at Bishop Bell School.

In a statement released after the verdict, Terry Boatwright, head teacher of Bishop Bell School said: "In terms of our investigations, until September 2012, the school only had very limited anecdotal hearsay and no evidence of a relationship.

"However, even so, everything was investigated following appropriate safeguarding procedures.

The Crown Prosecution Service said Forrest had "brought disgrace to his profession"

"Prior to the events of September 2012 and the formal child protection investigation that took place then, the school had investigated reported concerns, involving the Local Authority at the appropriate points and following its advice.

"At no point did the school find evidence of a relationship and at no point did the reported concerns reach the threshold to involve the police formally."

Mr Boatwright said the police became formally involved in September 2012 "when further, and more serious, concerns were raised".

"At that point, in line with standard practice, the school shared its information with the police and other agencies," he said.

"Even then, having that information and after investigating more serious concerns than the school had received, the police informed the school that they too had found no evidence to support arresting Mr Forrest and handed the matter back to the school.

"At that point, it was the school's intention to refrain Mr Forrest from work whilst it undertook a further investigation of its own into possible professional misconduct. However, Mr Forrest never returned to work after 19th September."

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