A schoolgirl looked her mother in the eye and told her she loved her hours before running away to France with her married maths teacher.
Megan Stammers (15) had said that she was spending last Thursday night with a friend, but at 9.30 that night was thought to have boarded a Dover-Calais ferry with Jeremy Forrest (30) apparently for an illicit weekend away.
Megan's mother, Danielle Wilson, described the last time she had seen her. "She was really happy. She grabbed my shoulders and she said to me, 'Mum can you look me in the eye?' I looked her in the eye and she said, 'I love you'."
She added: "Sweetheart, I don't care what you've done or why, I just want you home.
"From me to you sweetheart, you know your adorable princess wants her adorable mermaid back."
Ms Wilson let her daughter stay at a friend's house on Thursday night and gave her dinner money. It was the last time she saw her. The alarm was raised on Friday after she failed to turn up for school.
Police said that they believed Megan, who had been receiving extra maths tuition, had left of her own accord with Mr Forrest.
Detectives had hoped the pair would come back on Sunday night when their return journey was due. When they failed to appear, the search widened.
Last night they were at the centre of an international manhunt, as Sussex police denied that a missing person's alert issued on Saturday may have frightened the teacher into staying in hiding.
It was disclosed that Megan had apparently sent a text message to a friend to say she had arrived in France. Police said it had not been sent from her phone but it gave "some comfort" she had been safe.
It was believed to be the last contact from her. In a message to the teenager, chief inspector Jason Tingley said: "We need to hear that you are okay. Your family and friends are extremely worried, but you are not, and I must stress, you are not in any trouble."
His message to Mr Forrest was: "Our priority is to know that Megan is safe. I would ask you to do the right thing and make contact with us. We will work with you to get you both safely back into this country."
Megan attended Bishop Bell Church of England School in Eastbourne, East Sussex, where Mr Forrest is a maths teacher.
Her family said they had no suspicion of a relationship between her and Mr Forrest, a married amateur musician, who lives in Ringmer, near Lewes.
Megan's stepfather Martin Stammers and Ms Wilson both said Megan's disappearance was out of character. Neighbours of Mr Forrest yesterday expressed astonishment that he could have disappeared with the pupil.
On a blog apparently written by Mr Forrest under the name of Jeremy Ayre, he writes about a "moral dilemma" in a posting four months ago headed "You hit me just like heroin". (© Daily Telegraph, London)