THEY are images which have been broadcast around the nation and across Europe - grainy CCTV images of Eastbourne schoolgirl, Megan Stammers, walking hand in hand with her maths teacher Jeremy Forrest on a France-bound ferry last Thursday.
Sussex Police is hoping that the images, taken on board the Dover to Calais ferry at 9.30pm, will help them in their search for the pair as Megan’s tearful mother Danielle Wilson and stepfather, Martin Stammers, have appealed for their 15-year-old daughter to return home.
The pair are believed to be travelling in Mr Forrest’s black Ford Fiesta, and Sussex Police is liaising with French authorities and Interpol in a bid to trace the pair.
It’s not the first time that Bishop Bell Church of England School where Megan was a pupil and 30-year-old Mr Forrest taught has been caught up in controversy.
In 2009, PE teacher Robert Healy was jailed for seven years after grooming two pupils on the social networking site Bebo.Then in March this year it was revealed that the Priory Road school has allowed Canon Gordon Rideout, who had been suspended from the church following a Criminal Records Bureau check and allegations of child sex abuse, to remain as a governor.
Seventy-three year-old Canon Rideout, who stood as a governor at the school until last November, is due to stand trial at Lewes Crown Court charged with committing 38 offences over an 11-year period between 1962 and 1973.
Bishop Bell School has expressed its concern for Megan and also defended itself about its safeguarding policy.
Headteacher, Terry Boatwright said: “Bishop Bell School has a robust safeguarding policy in place, takes safeguarding very seriously and the effectiveness of its safeguarding procedures is rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.”
The school said it had made Sussex Police aware of concerns over the relatonship between Megan and Mr Forrest.
It is understood that friends of Megan raised the alarm with other teachers seven months ago after seeing her holding hands with Mr Forrest, a married man, on a flight home from a trip to the US. Mr Forrest had also reached an arrangement to give Megan extra maths lessons.
However one children’s charity has criticised Bishop Bell for its approach.
Lucy Duckworth, from the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, told the BBC that she had concerns for some time over the school’s safeguarding policy. “Policies are still not in place to foster a culture where safeguarding is a priority as it should be in any institution where adults act in loco parentis,” she said.
East Sussex County Council has said it will be investigating concerns which have been raised about the case.
There have been numerous Facebook and Twitter appeals for Megan to come home.
Chief Inspector Jason Tingley said that he hopes releasing the photograph might help trigger someone’s memory. He said: “We are releasing this photo to show Megan and Jeremy’s appearance at the time they travelled to France as we believe it will improve the public’s ability to recognise the pair together.
“Although they entered France, it is possible that they are elsewhere now. Therefore our objectives are to identify where they are and for them to contact us, so we can bring Megan home safely.
“We are working with Interpol, a dedicated liaison officer in France and the French Missing Persons Bureau, as well as other law enforcement agencies in Europe.
“At this time our foreign liaison is focussed on raising awareness of the pair and gathering information about where they could be.
“We have the ability to request other support and resources from the European authorities when the need arises.
“On an enquiry like this, there will always be reports of unconfirmed sightings, which we will follow up. We will not comment on speculation about locations, but with public awareness being a key factor in this enquiry, we will publicise confirmed sightings.
“We would like to thank the public and media for their assistance. We are particularly grateful for the efforts of the international media in raising awarenes