THE Eastbourne teacher who eloped to France with his 15-year-old pupil girlfriend in September last year declined to give evidence in court today (Wednesday June, 19).
Jeremy Forrest, 30, formerly of Broyleside Cottages, Ringmer, and a maths teacher at Bishop Bell School in Eastbourne has denied one count of child abduction.
During the trial the court heard that a defence case statement had not been prepared and that Forrest was submitting only character statements written by friends and family.
While the statements were read out by his defence counsel, Ronald Jaffa, Forrest, his mother and sister all wept.
In a statement from Forrest’s sister, Carrie Hanspaul, she said: “Jeremy and I were very close growing up. For a number of years it was just the two of us until our younger brother Thomas was born.
“Jeremy has always been the quietest of us all. He is very good natured and extremely mild mannered. He never has a bad word to say about anyone, and always strives to do whatever he can to help other people and care for them. Unfortunately, I believe this has contributed to his recent actions.
“Jeremy has been in a difficult relationship for the last six years, but did not want to worry any of his family especially our parents, with his problems. Instead he withdrew more and more and tried to deal with the issues himself. I believe he became more and more depressed.”
Forrest’s best friend, Dale Ives-Routleff, sent a statement from Abu Dhabi where he is currently working.
He wrote: “I have known Jeremy for almost 18 years and in that time we have always been very close and he has been like a brother to me, I was also best man at his wedding.”
Mr Ives-Routleff went on to say that during the last three to four years he had noticed a big change in his friend’s demeanour “as he became a much quieter and more withdrawn version of himself.”
He said Forrest didn’t go out as much and was much harder to engage in conversations and jokes the two usually shared.
The friend added: “During Christmas, 2011, I really got an idea as to the reasons for this change in him. He was visiting me at home and was even more withdrawn than he had been previously. This concerned me greatly and when pressed he effectively broke down and admitted he was unhappy at home and described his home life as ‘miserable, lonely and depressing.’”
A former colleague from Bishop Bell C of E School also spoke highly of Forrest.
Benedict Beaumont was an ICT and history teacher at the school from September 2006 until October 2011. The men became good friends and lift shared for two years.
He said: “Jeremy was one of the most gifted teachers that I have ever met. He was a natural communicator and he made maths fun and interesting. His classrooms were always buzzing with energy and hard work, but pupils enjoyed working for him.
“He was popular with pupils and staff at the school, but more importantly was respected by everyone as a talented and conscientious teacher.
“He is still relatively young, but had a very bright future in teaching ahead of him.”
Susan Pinder was in a senior position at a school in Bromley where Forrest took up his first teaching post.
She wrote: “I am aware that Jeremy has been charged with abduction and is currently on remand at Lewes Prison where we have been in regular correspondence and where I have visited him.
“During his time in prison, Jeremy has been able to use his teaching expertise to assist other prisoners in developing their own literacy and numeracy skills – something that must be unique and demonstrates the respect that both other inmates and prison personnel have for Jeremy.”
Forrest’s mother’s cousin who is a serving police officer also wrote a statement.
Terry Meegan said: “When the news broke about Jeremy (and his student) going off to France, I was very shocked because in all the years I have known him, he has never broken the law and I know he has always supported law and order.
“In all the years I have known Jeremy I have never heard him complain about having to go that extra yard to help someone out.
“In fact I have never known Jeremy to say a bad word about anybody and he was always willing to accept people’s different viewpoints.”
John Forrest, the defendant’s paternal uncle, said: “I have known Jeremy all his life. In the last four years, I have noticed a change in Jeremy’s personality in that he had become withdrawn and generally unhappy. I believe Jeremy is a gentle and responsible person who does not pose a threat to another person.
“He is deeply upset by the position in which he finds himself and is embarrassed and remorseful about the upset which he has caused to his friends and family.”