French abandon Megan: We can’t arrest teacher as he hasn’t broken any laws, say prosecutors
- Megan Stammers, 15, and Jeremy Forrest, 30, went to France last week
- Officers ‘interviewed couple and took their phones just before they fled’
- The school and local authority silent on their investigation into affair
- Megan’s father admits he worked with Forrest, who ‘seemed a nice bloke’
- Eastbourne school was warned of their relationship seven months ago
- Megan wrote on Twitter: ‘Age is overrated… I’m probably just infatuated
French officials last night confirmed they are not even searching for missing schoolgirl Megan Stammers – because her maths teacher Jeremy Forrest is not considered a ‘criminal suspect’.
The authorities in France also said they will make no attempt to arrest the 30-year-old, even if he is found, because he has not broken any of the country’s laws, despite eloping with his 15-year-old pupil without her parents’ permission.
The revelation will fuel fears too little is being done to find the pair – who left Britain last Thursday night after Sussex Police began investigating their relationship.
Hunt: Teacher Jeremy Forrest and Megan Stammers were last seen on CCTV getting on a ferry to France almost six days ago and have vanished without a trace
Even the suggestion that French police have been waiting for Forrest to use his bank or credit cards in order to track his movements was rubbished.
The lack of interest in France in the runaway pair emerged as police in Britain faced searching questions about their own response to reports of what would have been a potentially criminal relationship.
As Megan’s parents waited for information it emerged:
- Police are said to have been in possession of her mobile phone before she ran away to France;
- She was interviewed by officers before she fled the country, according to one relative;
- Officers were accused of bungling the release of information – including getting the model of Forrest’s car wrong and the date they fled to France;
- Friends of the girl said Megan’s mother was so worried about her phone habits that she regularly confiscated her handset.
While the schoolgirl’s disappearance has been making headlines across Britain, the coverage on the Continent has been much more muted, hindering efforts to track the pair.
New pictures: These images, released today, show how Megan is a fun-loving teenager, but she has also started an inappropriate relationship with her teacher – a man twice her age
First pictures: These stills taken from CCTV camera footage filmed aboard a Dover to Calais ferry last Thursday show 30-year-old teacher Jeremy Forrest with his arm round runaway schoolgirl Megan Stammers in one picture and walking hand in hand with her in the other
Distinctive: Forrest had this image of a young girl wearing a hat and walking a dog (left) tattooed on his arm earlier this year. He also has a floral display (right) on his other arm
‘HE SEEMED LIKE A NICE BLOKE’: MEGAN’S FATHER KNEW FORREST
The step-father of Megan Stammers had worked with the teacher she has fled to France with in 2010, it has been revealed.
Martin Stammers, right, said today that he thought that Jeremy Forrest ‘seemed a nice bloke’.
The teenager’s mother and stepfather have said they were unaware of any relationship, and Sussex Police was only made aware of it last week.
Mr Stammers, 43, told The Sun that he worked with Forrest two years ago at The Causeway School in Eastbourne, where he teaches.
‘I knew Forrest as a colleague. He worked at a twin school.
‘He did some work for us about two years ago. He seemed a nice enough fellow – there was nothing out of the ordinary about him.
‘But this is all about Megan and getting her back – then the police can deal with him.’
The age of consent in France is 15, meaning any intimate relationship between them would not be deemed illegal.
French prosecutor Jean-Philippe Joubert said Megan was old enough to travel with Forrest voluntarily, and unless the authorities received a criminal complaint from their British counterparts, she would simply be treated as a ‘missing person’.
Mr Joubert, the prosecutor of Boulogne-sur-Mer and one of the most senior judicial figures in northern France, said Forrest is not a criminal suspect so it would effectively be illegal for police to arrest him.
‘The couple will only be stopped if they are spotted during an identity check on the road, or if someone recognises them from photos,’ he said.
The use of CCTV footage is much less common in France. Officials at Calais Port only began reviewing images yesterday, almost a week after the pair entered the country.
While some French media have shown a picture of Megan, many refuse to do so because of a fear of falling foul of privacy legislation, while others have had no hesitation in describing the couple as ‘lovers’.
Police in Britain are believed to have been in possession of Megan’s mobile phone before she ran away.
The teenager’s friends also claimed that her mother had confiscated the phone in the days before she vanished.
The revelations will fuel questions about how much was known about the girl’s relationship with Forrest.
Megan was interviewed by officers a few days before she fled the country, according to one relative of the missing couple.
And Forrest was due to be suspended from school last Friday, the day the alarm was raised over their disappearance.
Poignant: Megan Stammers’s mother Danielle Wilson, left, revealed their final conversation before her 15-year-old daughter, right. ran off with a maths teacher from her Eastbourne school
A friend claimed Megan’s mother, Danielle Wilson, confiscated her phone just days before she ran away.
The 15-year-old friend, who spoke to the Mail with her mother present, added that this was not the first time Megan’s mother had taken the phone.
She said that on August 29 she received a message from Megan asking her not to text her as her mother was due to take it away and would see her messages.
The text from Megan read: ‘Hi, could you not text after this as my mum is taking my phone away. Hahahahaha.’
Married: Maths teacher Jeremy Forrest, 30, pictured with his wife Emily on their wedding day in Brighton
The revelations follow confusion surrounding Sussex Police’s response.
In Britain, police have said that they were only told about Megan’s relationship with Forrest last week, but have declined to specify which day.
They also first said that the pair left Britain in a Ford Focus, but subsequently corrected this to say they were in a black Ford Fiesta.
It was also unclear if officers initially realised that the couple had booked return ferry tickets from France to come back on Sunday night.
A spokesman for Sussex police declined to comment on a report that officers had confiscated the phones of both Megan and Forrest before they left, although a source said the report contained ‘inaccuracies’.
Anne Diamond faces a storm as she says of the runaways: So what?
Anne Diamond caused outrage yesterday after she flippantly dismissed the hunt for Megan Stammers as ‘a bit so whatish’.
The former breakfast TV presenter said the age gap between the missing teenager, 15, and Forrest, 30, was ‘not sickeningly huge’.
Her comments – made during Tuesday evening’s paper review on Sky News – prompted a wave of angry comments from viewers who said the 58-year-old was ‘out of touch’.
Miss Diamond, who has four children, began by telling Sky News presenter Anna Jones: ‘Clearly, this is wrong.
‘He shouldn’t have done it and he must be tracked down and he must be brought to book for it, but it’s just got everybody talking about relationships others had with their teachers.
‘She’s 15, he’s twenty-something.’
The presenter interrupted to correct Miss Diamond about Forrest’s age but undeterred she continued: ‘At any rate it’s not a sickeningly huge age gap.’
Ignoring the fact that Megan is still classed as a minor, she added: ‘I’m not making light of what is a crime here…but nevertheless, again I feel it’s a bit so whatish.’
Miss Diamond’s remarks sparked an almost immediate backlash among Twitter users.
Jennifer de Santos wrote: ‘Anne Diamond just said “So what?” regarding Megan Stammers on Sky News. How utterly appalling and senseless.’
Lynn Ede wrote: ‘Cannot believe Anne Diamond on Sky News is saying can’t understand “big” press on runaway pupil with teacher! Have to say, presenter on Sky News also looked pretty shocked at Anne Diamond’s views…’
Richard Dixon wrote: ‘Bizarrely complacent attitude from Anne Diamond on Sky News re girl running off with teacher at school with poor safeguarding record.’
Search continues: Megan Stammers, 15, was last seen on CCTV boarding a ferry to Calais on Thursday night in a car driven by Forrest
Another user told Miss Diamond: ‘I cannot believe what I have just heard you say. Out of touch. That teacher is a disgrace to all in the profession.’
Paul Bradley added: ‘Anne Diamond on Sky papers. What a travesty. More clueless than she was in the 80s!’
Miss Diamond, who presents a radio show on BBC Berkshire, was unavailable for comment last night.
A spokesman for Sky News said: ‘We do not necessarily condone or agree with comments made by our guests.’
Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, said it had so far not received any complaints about Miss Diamond’s comments.
‘AGE IS OVERRATED… I’M PROBABLY JUST INFATUATED’: MEGAN’S TWEETS
Megan and Forrest had been exchanging cryptic messages on Twitter for six months, many of which included song lyrics by various bands about being in love and having relationship problems.
She wrote messages such as: ‘Age is overrated’, ‘I’m probably just infatuated’ and ‘I just want to get on a train / in a car and go somewhere with you’, reported the Daily Telegraph.
When she wrote ‘I just want to runaway forever’, Mr Forrest replied: ‘Me & you. 🙂 Let’s just run away.’ He also wrote: ‘Your beauty took my breath away, in awe all day…’
Megan also tweeted in May: ‘Liking being around someone and their company so much that you just want to be with them 24/7… but you can’t even get 5 minutes with them.’
And Forrest wrote: ‘I want to go everywhere with you baby, & for the record you never look anything less than absolutely beautiful… ‘