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British runaway flown home, teacher awaits extradition

Latest update : 2012-09-29

A 15-year-old British schoolgirl who ran away to Bordeaux with her 30-year-old maths teacher was flown home to England on Saturday while he remained in custody awaiting extradition. The couple had eloped to France after an 8-month affair.

A 15-year-old British schoolgirl who ran away to France with a married teacher twice her age flew back home Saturday, while he stayed in prison awaiting extradition.

Megan Stammers boarded a flight for London's Gatwick airport, not far from her home in Eastbourne, Sussex, accompanied by a man and a woman.

She looked straight ahead of her without smiling as she walked towards the EasyJet plane, dressed in a black long-sleeved sweatshirt and black jeans, carrying a black bag with white flowers.

Dozens of journalists were kept some 100 metres away. The plane took off at 1326 GMT from Bordeaux's Merignac airport.

Stammers and Jeremy Forrest, her 30-year-old maths teacher, were found in the southwestern city of Bordeaux on Friday, 10 days after they took the ferry from Dover.

Forrest is being held in nearby Gradignan prison pending a court hearing on Tuesday, and has said he will not oppose being handed over to British authorities, according to his lawyer Daniel Lalanne.

Forrest, seen by a witness Friday evening in the corridor of a Bordeaux court without handcuffs and "a long face", surrounded by police, was "very disappointed by the sudden brake put on his romance," Lalanne said.

"He is not on the run, he was arrested while he was in Bordeaux looking for work in order to carry on his romance in a country that might be more understanding," the lawyer added.

Under French law, a 15-year-old is not considered a minor in sexual terms, unlike in Britain, where the age of consent is 16.

Lalanne, who saw Forrest early Saturday along with British lawyer Henrietta Ronson, added that Forrest was not depressed. He had been well treated by French authorities and in prison, he said.

He described Forrest as "charming", seeming younger than his age and "very self-effacing."

Police in Sussex said Stammers' parents had been in contact with their daughter by telephone but had remained in Britain as they await her return.

British media had reported that Stammers' mother Danielle Wilson would be flying to Bordeaux to bring her home, but a French source close to the case said Stammers had been travelling on her mother's passport.

Forrest's British lawyer Phil Smith said in a statement: "He has agreed to return to the UK as soon as possible without the need for protracted extradition proceedings."

The pair were discovered strolling down Bordeaux's main shopping street after a member of the public recognised Forrest from media coverage of the runaways.

The manager of a hotel in Bordeaux where the couple stayed one night said they were "discreet" and "not particularly amorous".

"They arrived on September 21 late afternoon and left Saturday morning but I did not know at all that they were illegal," said Eric, the hotel manager who did not want to give his full name.

(AFP)

Date created : 2012-09-29

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