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Europe

‘No French investigation’ into runaway British schoolgirl

Latest update : 2012-09-30

French police are not searching for runaway British schoolgirl Megan Stammers because she is over the age of consent and has not broken any laws in the country, a French prosecutor confirmed to FRANCE 24 on Thursday.

The French authorities are not investigating the disappearance of a 15-year-old British schoolgirl who ran away with her maths teacher last week because she is over the legal age of consent in France.

Megan Stammers, from Sussex in southeast England, and her teacher Jeremy Forrest, 30, were caught on CCTV on the cross-channel ferry from Dover to Calais in northern France last Thursday.

And while a major investigation is under way in the UK, Sussex police confirmed that Stammers’ disappearance was not being treated the same way in France because the couple have not broken any French laws.

Boulogne-sur-Mer prosecutor Jean-Philippe Joubert told FRANCE 24 that Stammers and Forrest would not be committing a criminal offence in France simply by being together because she is over the age of consent, which is 15 in France, and that no complaint of criminal activity had been made.

“Sussex police have filed an EU missing persons report, so if they are recognised by police or customs officials they will be detained,” he said. “But it’s important to stress that the police have dozens of people on these missing persons’ registers and they will not be actively searching for the couple.

“For example, the police will not be searching their mobile phone or credit card details because they are not part of any official investigation.”

Couple ‘could be anywhere in Europe’

British authorities were put on alert on Friday after Stammers failed to show up to school. The pair were last seen boarding a ferry from Dover in the UK to Calais in northern France on Thursday night in the teacher's black Ford Fiesta.

On Tuesday, Sussex police released CCTV footage of the couple boarding the ferry for France at 9:30pm Thursday.

However, French police said Stammers and Forrest could have easily left France after their arrival. “She could be anywhere in Europe by now,” the London Evening Standard quoted a French police officer working on the case as saying. “The case is being well publicised in the media, but there has been no breakthrough.”

Calais lies only a half-hour away from France’s border with Belgium by car, and only another hour away from the Netherlands.

The couple had return tickets for Sunday, but did not show up at the ferry terminal.
Chief Inspector Jason Tingley of Sussex Police has asked members of the public who may come across Forrest's black Ford Fiesta - registration GJ08 RJO - to contact British or French authorities.

School suspicions

The British press reported on Tuesday that officials at the school where Forrest worked were about to suspend the mathematics teacher the day that he and Stammers vanished.

The school was apparently first made aware that the two were in a romantic relationship eight months ago.

The Evening Standard quoted a 15-year-old friend of Stammers saying she was angry the school in East Sussex had not done enough to protect the student. “She would tweet about being in love and show us his texts,” the friend was quoted as saying.

In 2009, the school was at the centre of another scandal. Teacher Robert Healy, then 27, was jailed for seven years after admitting to having sex with two schoolgirls, one 15 and one 16.

The British press also reported that Forrest and his 31-year-old wife had longstanding marital problems and police had been called to intervene in arguments.


(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2012-09-25

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