Forrest trial: I thought my daughter was dead, says mother

Bishop Bell School
Bishop Bell School

THE mother of the schoolgirl who ran off with her maths teacher in September last year said she thought her daughter was dead.

The woman who cannot be named for legal reasons gave evidence at Lewes Crown Court today (Tuesday, June 18).

This is the second week of the trial of former Bishop Bell Church of England School teacher, Jeremy Forrest – he is charged with one count of child abduction which he denies.

When questioned by prosecutor Richard Barton, the girl’s mother told the court she thought her daughter was staying at her friend’s house.

Forrest, 30, formerly of Broyleside Cottages, Ringmer, and the schoolgirl fled to France on Thursday September 20 last year after a relationship developed between them.

The following morning, the girl and Forrest did not turn up at school. The girl’s mum had agreed she could stay at her close friend’s house.

The girl’s mother said: “I got a text message at about 11am to say she has not registered for the first registration. I texted them back to say ‘please can you confirm she made her first lesson’. They sent a message back to say she had been absent all morning.”

The mother said she called the school straight away and after establishing that the girl’s two best friends were in school, including the one she told her mother she was staying with. The school advised her to call the police.

Mr Barton said: “You now know she was found in France seven days later on the streets of Bordeaux with Jeremy Forrest, but in fact during those seven days you did not know where your daughter was.”

She replied: “I thought she was dead and I asked the police that as well.”

The woman also told the court the school had called her before the summer term ended to tell her about rumours flying around the school about her daughter and Forrest. She said her daughter had said they were untrue and believed the rumours had started because Forrest had looked after her on the plane home from a school trip in Los Angeles as she was scared of flying.

The mother told the court that Forrest had even called her about the rumours on July 4.

She said: “He said that there have been some rumours at school that him and my daughter were having a relationship and that he was seriously concerned for his career. He said that he wanted to ‘nip it in the bud’ before school started again in September. He alluded that my daughter was being a bit of a pain – he said she kept hanging around him. He said he could not allow this to ruin his career. I was coaching him and consoling him because he became quite upset. I apologised on behalf of my daughter.”

The mother said after the call she was “mortified”, “horrified” and “ashamed – and that as a professional herself she could not believe her daughter had put another professional in that situation.

She explained how she and her daughter used to be close and that they had a healthy mother and daughter relationship.

The woman said on the morning of the day she left with Forrest that her daughter had been “jumping around like a jellybean” and had uncharacteristically got out of bed without having to be told to get up.

That afternoon, when her daughter went home to collect some things for a sleepover, she told the court she was happy and normal.

She added: “She came over to me and jumped all over me and this particular time she grabbed me and said ‘mum I love you’ and I said I love you too. Then she grabbed me and said ‘no mum, look me in the eye’, she was holding me and she said ‘you know I love you’ and I said ‘of course I know you do’. She gave me a kiss on my face and she left.”

When the pair were found and brought back to the UK, the girl went straight back to her mum.

She added: “When she came back we slept together for two nights – she cuddled up to me for two nights. She was really sad for the first few weeks, she was really worried about what was going to happen but she settled down.”