'I Was 15 When I Ran Way With My Teacher, But It Wasn't A Healthy Relationship'

'I Was 15 When I Ran Way With My Teacher, But It Wasn't A Healthy Relationship'

Sitting in the lounge of her Wiltshire home, Katherine Baillie scans the papers for any news about runaway schoolgirl Megan Stammers.

Her interest is born not out of personal acquaintance — she is not a friend or relative — but from the fact that 12 years ago she found herself in an almost identical situation to the missing 15-year-old.

Like Megan, she, too, was an underage teenager. Like Megan, the man she ran away with, Paul Tramontini, was a maths teacher twice her age.

And, like Megan, the family she left behind was driven to distraction worrying about what had happened to her.

It is because of her experience that Katherine is one of the few people who can understand that hopelessly misguided sense of naive excitement and adventure — of being carried away by ‘true love’ — that, no doubt, is driving Megan blindly on.

But what she also knows is that those emotions will fade and when they finally do, the hurt inflicted will take years to repair, having spread way beyond the couple at the centre of the unfortunate drama. ‘I met Paul when I was 14,’ says Katherine, now 27.

While they didn’t meet in the classroom, he was a maths teacher at her comprehensive, Mayfield Secondary in Portsmouth, Hants.

The couple’s first, fateful encounter was at a pub gig where Katherine, a budding singer, was performing with her band. As is so typical of teenage girls, the passion she felt for Tramontini was instantaneous and intense.

‘I fell in love with him the first time I saw him,’ she says. ‘I just wanted to get to know him.’

Giving an insight into the emotions Megan may be feeling now, she says: ‘At that age I was very much in love with the idea of being in love.  Ultimately, what I wanted was to be part of a fairy tale.’

For her family, and finally for Katherine, too, that fairy tale was to turn into something darker when, in April 2000, they went on the run together for 415 days.

Sleeping rough and busking, as the couple found themselves doing, had never been part of the teenager’s romantic fantasy.

When they finally gave themselves up, Tramontini was sentenced to 18 months in prison for abduction. He ended up serving just half of it.

While Katherine stood by him, she now admits that from the very first day of their elopement she had secret doubts about their relationship.

Yet, it would take seven years — a fact that would surely chill the hearts of Megan’s parents — for her to work up the courage to walk away from him.

Today, happily married to someone else and living in a pretty three-bedroom townhouse in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, with two cats and a dog, Katherine’s life appears unmarked by her troubled past.

Yet delve deeper and the legacy of her romance with Tramontini becomes more complicated.

She admits she has suffered bouts of depression, has had counselling and has worked as a glamour model, so keen was she to fund an independent lifestyle.

Her relationship with her parents was fractured for many years, though she’s now close to her mum and was reconciled with her father before his death in 2004.

Speak to her about her life with Tramontini and she paints a fascinating picture of what it is like to be a teenage girl who is so sure she knows best and is so determined to get what she wants that she loses all sense of what is acceptable behaviour.

Not least, that it can never be right for a male teacher — who is in a position of power caring for the young — to exploit and seduce an underage girl.

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