Teacher Jeremy Forrest has been found guilty of abducting a schoolgirl (Reuters)
Teacher Jeremy Forrest has been found guilty of abducting a schoolgirl (Reuters)

A married teacher who ran away to France with a 15-year-old pupil has been found guilty of abducting a child.

Jeremy Forrest, 30, a former teacher at Bishop Bell C of E in Eastbourne, East Sussex, fled to France for a week with the then 15-year-old schoolgirl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, before he was arrested in Bordeaux.

Forrest, from Ringmer, near Lewes, denied child abduction but declined to defend himself during the trial at Lewes Crown Court. He was found guilty after an eight-day trial.

As the guilty verdict was read out, the schoolgirl burst out crying. Forrest then turned toher and said: "I love you".

She replied "I'm sorry" as he was led away from the court. Forrest's father, Jim, collapsed in court before the verdict was given and was treated by a paramedic before being taken away by ambulance.

Forrest was described as a "paedophile" by the prosecution who said he had groomed a vulnerable teenage girl for sexual purposes.

Sussex Police said that Forrest had grossly abused the trust placed in him by starting the relationship with her.

The girl's mother said in a statement read out by Det Insp Neil Ralph: "As a family, for the last nine months it's been like living out your worst nightmare. Every aspect of our lives has been affected to some degree."

Betrayal of trust

Suspicions were raised about the pair's relationship when they were seen holding hands on a school trip to Los Angeles seven months before they ran away together.

The pair had sent private messages to each other on social networks. Under police questioning, the schoolgirl admitted the pair started a sexual relationship just after her 15th birthday.

Fellow teachers at Forrest's school had warned him to end the relationship with the girl, saying he was risking his job and more if he continued.

The court heard how the pair ran away together before their relationship was exposed. Their disappearance sparked a huge manhunt, with both French and Sussex police working together to find the pair.

Forrest and the pupil boarded a ferry to Calais and from there made their way to Bordeaux in the south. After their images were widely circulated, Forrest was arrested when they were spotted together in the street.

The management at Bishop Bell School said: "As a school community we have been saddened by the events which led up to this trial and the impact they have had on all concerned.

"We remain deeply shocked by the actions of Mr Forrest and his betrayal of the trust that was placed in him."

Forrest is due to be sentenced on Friday (21 June).