Judge approves extradition of teacher accused of abducting schoolgirl Megan Stammers
A FRENCH judge has approved the extradition of a British maths teacher who eloped to France with a 15-year old schoolgirl.
Jeremy Forrest, 30, was arrested in the south western city of Bordeaux last Friday on suspicion of abducing Megan Stammers.
The pair evaded police for eight days, staying in low-cost hotels as he sought cash-in-hand jobs in bars using a bogus CV. It is thought they hoped to stay in France until Miss Stammers turned 16.
Mr Forrest has spent the last six nights in a tough, overcrowded remand centre on the city outskirts and asked to be extradited back to the UK, where he faces child abduction charges, to be “nearer to the one he loves”.
In France, where he was first accused of the crime, he would face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine equivalent to 60,000 pounds.
Today judge Eric Grafmuller, sitting at the Bordeaux appeal court, said “everything is regular” with the European Arrest Warrant issued for Mr Forrest.
He re-iterated that under the so-called “specialty rule” on extradition, the British judicial system could only charge Mr Forrest with child abduction – the charge on the warrant.
The ruling means Mr Forrest can technically return today, although formalities for his departure could take up to three days - the maximum legal delay.
"It could be today, it could be tomorrow, it could be over the next few days," said Mr Forrest’s French lawyer, Daniel Lalanne, adding: "This is precisely the ruling we expected."
Earlier in the week Mr Lalanne said Megan had not been subjected "to violence or manipulation" and now Forrest "only wants to be reunited with Megan".
Mr Forrest was not present in court today, but on Tuesday his British lawyer Phil Smith said: "Now that he has agreed to be extradited to the UK, we look forward to the full story emerging. He is very appreciative of the support of his family."
Mr Smith said his client was “concerned about the impact of this on all those concerned”, and was worried about “all those impacted” by what had happened.
The teacher was recognised from TV coverage in France as he looked for work in Bordeaux, where the pair had almost run out of money.
He left the UK with Megan, from Eastbourne, on September 20 when they were captured on CCTV arm-in-arm and holding hands on a cross-Channel Dover to Calais ferry.
Megan had earlier that afternoon told her mother, Danielle Wilson, that she was going to spend the night at a friend’s house.
In fact she was preparing to abscond, using what is believed to have been a passport belonging to Forrest’s wife, Emily.
There was no mention of Emily in court this morning.
Despite being the subject of a huge manhunt, the pair were even seen posing for pictures in the historic centre of Bordeaux which Mr Forrest, an amateur musician, had first visited in 2009 as a busker.
It later emerged that Forrest had been giving Megan extra-curricular maths lessons, and that the pair’s closeness during a trip to LA in February had been reported to other teachers at the Bishop Bell School in Eastbourne.
Mr Forrest, who had a tattoo of a young girl inked on his arm this summer, was allegedly due to be suspended by the school the day before he and Megan eloped to France.
East Sussex County Council has confirmed it was “addressing and investigating concerns” about Forrest.
Megan returned to the UK from Bordeaux on Saturday, and is now back home in Eastbourne with her parents.
By Henry Samuel Telegraph.co.uk