'Missing Megan': Why the French didn’t care to know

While the tale of a runaway schoolgirl and her maths teacher excited and horrified Brits in equal measures, the French barely batted an eyelid. A case of child abduction or an ill-fated love affair? The cross-Channel viewpoint couldn’t have been more different.

 

 

Fifteen-year-old Megan Stammers and Jeremy Forrest (above) were discovered strolling through the streets of Bordeaux on Friday, apparently unaware that a European arrest warrant had been issued against the 30-year-old teacher for copping off with a minor.

 

That’s because in France the news went largely unreported. If the couple had chosen to turn on a television, they would have learnt more about a smoking Orang-utan who gave birth in an Indonesian zoo than the continent-wide appeal to have Forrest arrested. 

 

While the British tabloid press had the couple plastered across every inch of newspaper, TV screen and website possible, the French authorities responded to the affair with what seemed like a very laissez-faire attitude indeed, refusing to launch a criminal investigation and arguing that the couple “could be anywhere in Europe by now”. 

 

Well, now we know they weren’t. But they weren’t breaking any French laws either: here in France the age of consent is 15. Unless Stammers’ parents had accused Forrest of kidnapping her, the police were left dealing with a missing persons case, which did not merit much time or resources.

 

'Lolita'

 

Police, press, public: nobody in France seemed to care much for “Missing Megan” in France. “She’s missing of her own accord,” French people shrugged when asked whether they thought she would be found. Why did she run off with her teacher? “People can do very silly things when they’re in love”.

 

And there’s the big difference. While this story was viewed as clear case of child abduction in the UK, in France it was deemed a love story – a couple of impassioned morons who had defied law and morals in order to be together; a real life Lolita. When news of their sighting in Bordeaux broke, there was almost a sense of regret. Their romantic escapade was over, and Forrest was left facing several years in prison and a definite end to his career.

 

More stupid than dangerous

 

Looking at the online evidence of their affair – and there’s plenty of it – Megan Stammers seems to have been as infatuated with Jeremy Forrest as he with her. On Twitter, Stammers wrote naively about awaiting their future together and of “things going perfect [sic]”. Forrest, an amateur musician, replied “Without you there aren’t reasons left to find.” In a blog post he published on May 19 – a few months into their affair – he wrote of “a moral dilemma” he had struggled with but that he had come to “have faith in [his] own judgements”. 

 

The heartfelt television appeal made by his parents on Thursday only added to the emerging personality of a man who was more stupid than dangerous. Yes, he broke the law, and worse, he abused the trust of a minor in his care. But his mother’s excruciating appearance at the press conference on Thursday transformed Forrest into a kid himself - albeit overgrown - not the unshaven paedophile monster the British press had painted him out to be.

 

Nonetheless, it was only on Friday when Stammers was found – far from a ditch and with all her limbs intact – that British tabloid readers could finally heave a sigh of relief. Unfortunately for Forrest, there is no “happy ending”. While Stammers might be able to return to a normal life in the future, Forrest knowingly sacrificed everything – his marriage, his career, his freedom – for a brief and impracticable love affair.

 

Sound familiar? Now you know why he felt safer in France…

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29 Comments
A few questions . . . Do the ages of consent in Europe pertain to everyone over that age or do they refer only to close-in-age relationships for the involvement of those under age 18? What are the legal criteria on this? If what they did was legal in France, how can anyone there get prosecuted for engaging sexually with anyone 15-18? This is a contradiction. Can someone please answer my query above and explain this to me? I would appreciate it. Thank you. Some clarity can avoid confusion on the part of the reader who might not know all the details . . . And, yes, I am aware of the case involving authority figures, which is different than non-authority figures, no? . . . Just another clarification: paedophiles ("pedophiles" in America) are adults with a penchant for PREPUBESCENT children, not teenagers. The DSM shows this, and the recent proposal for "hebephilia" (an adult's attraction to young pubescent teenagers) was just rejected by the APA and most of the psychiatric community throughout Europe. Please become clear on the distinction. Adult attraction to adolescents is not paedophilic or pathological in any way, just illegal if the youth is under the country's age of consent . . . That said, he shouldn't have broken the law. Since he did, he should get punished for it . . . By the way, I am not trying to be crass above. My apologies. I just want to know why the paedophilia/pedophilia misconception persists despite expert clarification and confirmation to the contrary. Take care US01
It is M**** S******* I feel sorry for. I think she has been treated very badly by the system. Has she committed an offence other than playing truant from school? Press releases would suggest no. Despite that she had the humiliation of being detained in Bordeaux, deported effectively without the need of an official order and sentenced to a medical examination. I wondered what crime she had committed to deserve the sentence. As I understand it she had no choice but to submit to the medical without any option to decline. A forced medical examination can be objectionable, embarrassing and humiliating and should a fifteen year old girl be subjected to one particularly when in a so called place of safety. Having to strip for an anonymous police doctor is no less humiliating than being stripped by Jimmy Savile or one of his ilk. I hope that when she is sixteen she will consider taking action against whoever ordered the examination and the medic who carried it out.
Like others I don't think Jeremy Forest is a paedophile but he is certainly a stupid young man. I think the police went over the top with the European Arrest Warrant. We were told it's purpose was to facilitate dealing with major criminals and terrorists. So what was Jeremy Forrest? I also believe Megan was abused whilst she was in the custody of the British Consulate at Bordeaux in so much as she was forced to under go a medical examination possibly against her will. How about her human rights? I think the police have gone all out to get Jeremy with Megan having to bare the brunt of the attack by her treatment during the investigation
I am sorry but i can not get my head round why people think this is some romantic story.....  She is a child and he started this whilst she was only 14 years old, she could have been younger..  No one knows..   At the very best, his very naïve, immature and delusional to think what he did would be acceptable to most people in British society. Particularly as he is well educated and comes from what looks to be a stable loving family. He would have known whilst planning and doing what he did that it is and was against the law.. He had a duty of care for the children he taught and he abused his position. When parents think their children are been taught by teachers, they trust their teachers are teaching them maths, chemistry or whatever and not using that time for their own personal immoral relationship fantasy with a child placed in their trusted care. Therefore he knew it was wrong, he knew it was against the law and against ethical behaviour a teacher should be displaying..  He has made the teaching community look poor and the majority of them are excellent teachers who only wish the best for their students. Unfortunately this debate has dragged their profession into a murky space… The CPS need to prosecute him to the full extent otherwise they will be giving a message that an adult can take any child out of the country as long as they say it was love...  Ridiculous.
I dont see anything wrong with falling in love, although she is young, they would have made a great couple ! perhaps they should have waited for a few more years.
How about his wife? Seems to me she's been treated like a piece of nothing. No one cares about her. The motto of this story: never get married; better be a mistress than a wife. Especially in France. Period.
she is not a child - by the look of her body she is a sexually mature woman. In a few months time what would have been the reaction of a 16 year old running off with an immature 30 year old. In France the age of consent is 15. The only issue is whether a teacher should get involved with pupils whatever their age. But it does not deserve a prison sentence. Certainly, he is not a paedophile. The 15 year old is not a child - she will suffer more now if those at school and her parents and her step father treat her as such !
This story makes me embarrassed to be British. We are the laughing stock of Europe this week, paranoia and determination to set example of our outdated and unforgiving laws. I sincerely hope that he is man enough to stand by his love for her and that she refuses to testify against him. As another comment says this would make a fantastic movie, if it was allowed to be released in the UK that is. Note how none of the British papers dare allow comments on these stories!
Agree this guy is not paedophile
Maybe they were in love and maybe she looked and acted older than 15. But but she is just a 15 year old girl and not a grown woman. Thusly she doesn't realise the consequences of her actions. The teacher 30 years old and you go to bed with a 15 year old girl and run away with her?? Shame on you, you should have known better.
I was hoping for them that they never got caught, they obviously are in love and saw no other way to be together other than run away together.
Funny how all those who support the bloke are blokes themselves. Lolita? A man exploiting a child.
The French basically take a lenient view of sexual exploitation, They have for e.g. sheltered Roman Polanski who drugged and raped a child & etc.
98% of Europe has 15 as it's age of consent. The UK and Russia are both 16. Lets not mention Spain! This if anything is a true crime of passion (in UK). Just for once love hits our headlines and what do the UK press do? Turn it into a pile of pooh. I guess we should know better. I for one, am prepared to give them a pardon and I suspect the rest of Europe and a large portion of the UK population will feel similar. Mr Forrest was stupid and he has broken some rules and laws but lets be a compassionate society and look to our hearts on this one. Sadly the grumpy old law men and cold hearted will see it differently. The press missed a trick here and it could have been Romeo and Juliette. Sadly...it is the usual witch hunt. As another comment states, it's a shame more resources hadn't been channeled at the Rochdale tragedy!
Im a British woman and I feel that the British press have done everything they could to make him seem like a dangerous pedophile - from quoting song lyrics from his blog about music out of context (the much quoted 'hit me like heroin' and 'I wanna wake up naked next to you, kissing the curve in your clavicle' are lyrics by the band he was reviewing in the blog post in question) to repeating his dad's fears he would 'flip' in headlines, as if they suggested he would hurt Megan, when that was clearly not his father's meaning. He's a silly, immature, confused and irresponsible man, but he does not deserve to go to prison, IMHO. I had friends with much older boyfriends when I was in my teens, and although I disapprove of it and have a low opinion of the men in question, I don't think he deserves severe punishment.
In france we are not sexual pervert, ok? So this stupid monkey have nothing to do here. Don't confuse french media and fench people. Here in France you cannot love a girl under 18, exept if you have the parent's permission for a girl over 15. And we have got enought to this image of sex maniac. This teacher must go to jail with Dominique Strauss Khan.
A slight matter of wrong timing for the couple. As a 15, nearly 16 year old she knew what she was doing. Okay the teacher should have known better and it looks as if she was not an unwilling partner. If the social services and police had put as much resources into investigating what was going on in Rochdale as they put into "rescuing" Megan it would have been money well spent and could have had better results for those poor children.
Nice article, well-considered and kindly meant. I would, if I might,disagree however with one point: "Nonetheless, it was only on Friday when Stammers was found – far from a ditch and with all her limbs intact – that British tabloid readers could finally heave a sigh of relief" My understanding of the British tabloids and of the majority of those that consume them leads me to believe that your "ditch" scenario would have been preferable to them. Sorry, but that's the way the media in this country, and its readership feed - on pain, scandal and awfulness.
If he loved her as he claimed, then why didn't he: (a) Wait till she was 16 Then, tell her what he was doing (unless she "inevitably" fell "out of love," but; failing that; (b) Resigned his position, stating that it was no longer correct to be in a position of authority over somebody, given his romantic feelings for her... And, I suppose; (c) Bugger of to Brighton (although I don't approve). But; approve or not, it would have all been legal, and the fact he didn't do these things shows a level of immaturity and ignorance on his part. Not to mention an insincerity in abusing the position of his authority. I'm glad he's being prosecuted.
. When you look at the pictures of the couple starting out on their adventure - passing through customs - do you see: - 1) 2 confident people striding into their future together? 2) 2 diffident people shuffling nervously forward? 3) 1 confident person and one diffident person? Now tell me please, was Megan leader or lead? . .
It is untrue to pretend that French law authorize an adult to have sexual relationship with a 15 years old child. Criminal law punished everyone who have authority on the child ( a teacher has such authority) and have sexual relationship with a 15 or 16 years old. For a under 15 years old, the punishment is the same as the rape.
Well said, completely agree with the French view. This guy is not a peadophile. They were in love
Yes the French dont see this as an issue as she is not breaking French law. The situation will be similar for UK if an American had run away to England with a 17 year old. In the US the age of consent is 18 years. Having sex with a 17 year old is classed as statutory rape in the US. Sad that British papers didnt turn to more important things to report. This wasnt a little girl snatched from behind a bush and dragged into a car. She is breaking the law but it didnt warrant this public attention. Back to watching Soaps now.
... Inside her there's longing This girl's an open page Book marking - she's so close now This girl is half his age Don't stand, don't stand so Don't stand so close to me
wait for him to now get ripped to shreds by the law while the jezzabelle goes back to school and cares diddley squatt
Big deal
Thank you for this article. I am embarrassed with the coverage this story has had in the UK and deep in my heart I wanted it to work out for them.
Great piece, really enjoyed reading, thanks for sharing.
This couple is now heartbroken! They should of been left to get on with their lives. i think this story would make a brilliant movie!