UK -- Runaway teacher Jeremy Forrest told a 14-year-old schoolgirl 'I love you' days before kissing her in his classroom, a court heard yesterday. A few weeks later, the married 30-year-old had sex with her at his cottage while his wife was away. He also researched the maximum jail sentence he could get for sleeping with his pupil, the Court was told.
When he realised the affair was about to be exposed, he fled to France with his lover and spent eight days on the run before being caught and returned to Britain, the jury heard. A filmed police interview with the schoolgirl soon after they were found last September was played to the court yesterday.
In it, the teenager described how after becoming close during a school trip to the US last February they began exchanging frequent Twitter and text messages, which gradually became more flirtatious. She said late in April, 2012, he sent her a message on Twitter saying: 'I've got something to tell you tomorrow.'
The schoolgirl added: 'I went into school early in the morning. He just said he was in love with me. I said the feeling is the same. That's when things became serious.'
Asked about their first kiss, she said: 'I do remember one day being in his classroom, it was just me and him and he said, "I really want to kiss you", and I said, "I really want to kiss you too", because that's what I wanted. It got to the point where there was only so much of a friendship you could have before it developed into something else.'
Shortly after she turned 15, the maths teacher took her to his house in Ringmer, East Sussex, while his wife was away. He showed the girl around the house, including the marital bedroom, before cooking her dinner. They watched TV together and spent the night side by side in the spare bedroom, but not having sex, the court heard.
They continued to meet outside school and exchange more intimate texts and photos, including one of her dressed in just her underwear and a hooded top, the court heard.
The youngster returned to Forrest's home in July last year, while Mrs Forrest was seeing her parents, and this time they had sex for the first time, she said. She had told her mother she was seeing a friend when it happened. The schoolgirl said: 'The whole thing was pretty quick. When it came to it, I don't think we spoke that much about it. I remember after not feeling guilty or that I had done anything wrong. We used contraception every single time. Obviously it was a big thing for me. It should probably have been bigger, but I was not that affected by it.'
She added that Forrest seemed nervous about having sex, but "after having sex for the first time there was pressure off".
They continued to have sex at his home, in local hotels and in his Ford Fiesta and also went on day trips to the Bluewater shopping centre near the M25 in Kent and Hastings in East Sussex.
The couple discussed their age gap and the fact that he was a teacher, but to her it was never a major concern, she said, adding: 'To him, it wasn't about age and it didn't matter to him what age I was because he just liked me as a person. It didn’t worry me because we were in love. We still are. If he was caught he could lose his job and we would be separated from each other. It was an issue, but something we knew in a few years wouldn't be. Because I'm 15 people think I don't know what's going through my head. I know my own mind, I know what I want.'
She said they would have minor rows about classmates talking to her or texting her because they thought she was single. Their secret relationship came to light after the police were tipped off and confiscated her phone, the court heard. Forrest picked up the schoolgirl the following evening and they drove to Dover to catch a ferry, it was alleged.
On the ferry Forrest threw his phone into the sea to prevent them being traced. They later drove to Paris where they dumped their car before taking a train to Bordeaux where Forrest began to relax. The schoolgirl said they did not watch TV and had 'no idea how big the story of their disappearance had become in Britain'.
But after spotting an online story about them as he was checking football results on his local paper, he began to panic again. 'He said, "I'm going to go to prison. We are going to be caught. I'm never going to see you again",' she said. 'I had to reassure him a lot that everything was going to be fine. 'He was just really worried that his family would disown him.'
Forrest was finally caught by local police after eight days on the run.
She said: 'I was trying to break free, but he just stood there like it was expected. I mouthed "I love you" to him and he mouthed it back.'
She saw him one last time as they were driven away in separate cars from the police station after giving their statements to French police. She said: 'His face was just blank. He had no expression.'
Forrest denies one count of child abduction. The trial continues.