There's nothing 'so whattish' about abducting a 15-year-old
00:07 GMT, 28 September 2012
00:07 GMT, 28 September 2012
Eloped: Missing schoolgirl Megan Stammers, 15, who has run off to France with her teacher Jeremy Forrest
What I am hoping and praying is that by the time you read this, runaway schoolgirl Megan Stammers will have been found and returned safely to her family.
And that her teacher will have been cast into a very dark hole for a very long time, with the clang of a metal gate and a turning key resounding in his ears.
However, at the time of writing, there has been no sign of them for a week — not to mention a great deal of confusion over the extent of efforts to actually find the two of them. No, I cannot bring myself to use the word ‘couple’, which seems to confer some sort of social legitimacy on the situation.
After all, it is not a relationship; it is the abduction of a child by a scheming adult who can manipulate and control her — only Megan, with her friable sheen of teen sophistication, cannot see it that way.
And one week on, it is deeply alarming that the Europe-wide search for Megan and her maths teacher Jeremy Forrest has failed to uncover any confirmed new sightings. What on earth is going on
While expat communities right across France have mobilised into Megan-spotting neighbourhood watch units — and jolly good for them — Interpol are unable to confirm they are even working on the case. There are reports that French police are not actively searching for them, and have not carried out the standard credit card or mobile phone searches that would surely have located them by now.
French law says that no crime has been committed — and perhaps the authorities there feel that actually going out and hunting for them would infringe their human rights
Last sighting: Megan and Forrest pictured arm in arm aboard a ferry from Dover to Calais last Thursday – the last time the pair were seen
Of course, there is no evidence to
suggest that she has been having underage sex. But the attitude of the
authorities has a curdled echo of the newly published report into the
Rochdale sex ring case, where police, social workers and the Crown
Prosecution Service were criticised for their ‘missed opportunities’ in
stopping a ring which abused young girls over a number of years. Missed
opportunities It’s as if they failed to catch a bus, rather than
failed to stop the ruination of many young lives. Did they not care
because some of the girls were so near the age of consent anyway Or did
they just not care
often it seems that when it comes to underage teenage sexuality in our
society, authorities do not want to get involved lest they find
themselves accused of being — the horror! — reactionary or fuddy duddy.
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Although the girls in
Rochdale were systematically and deliberately targeted, the agencies
believed that they were ‘making their own choices’ and didn’t interfere.
The lack of care and concern, the conviction that these schoolgirls
were ticking a lifestyle preference box instead of being violated by
dirty old men for the price of a bag of sweets — it’s enough to make you
Megan has made a
choice, too, but it is not one the law in this country has deemed her
capable of making. Thank goodness for that, I say.
For 15-year-old Megan is the kind of
lovely young girl one hoped would be protected by the staff at her
school, not preyed upon by them. Instead, 30-year-old Mr Forrest appears
to have behaved like a knock-kneed, lovesick, predatory sap; trailing
after the teenager like a dog on heat; getting a Megan-style tattoo on
his arm, writing her love songs, holding hands on the long-haul flight
back from LA after a school trip there in February.
Pause for a moment to spare a thought
for his poor, poor wife. And to wonder why the whole school appeared to
know — but no one did anything to stop the rot. However, not everyone
has sympathy with the situation.
On Sky News this week, broadcaster Anne Diamond claimed that the story of the runaway schoolgirl and her teacher was a bit ‘so whattish’. The age difference between them isn’t that great, she said. However, Anne is entirely missing the point. It is not the age difference that is the problem, it is the age.
Really, no one blinks an eye about Carol Vorderman, 51, and her new pilot boyfriend Graham Duff, 37, or Catherine Zeta Jones, 43, and husband Michael Douglas, 68, or many other relationships which have flourished despite a dissonance in years between the parties involved. After all, they are all adults, used to the buffeting storms of life and blessed with a maturity and experience. They are not, repeat not, teenagers.
Of course, age difference has a piercing resonance for Anne Diamond, whose ex-husband Mike Hollingsworth later married a woman 33 years his junior and famously had an affair with DJ Harriet Scott — 26 years younger than him — while he was still married to Anne. You can see why she thinks 15 years is a drop in the age ocean — and also why she is so wrong.
When you are older, the years between
adults vanish and dissolve. When you are a teenager, the age gap is all
important. You look grown up, but you aren’t. That is why the gap
between presenter Caroline Flack, 32, and pop singer Harry Styles (17 at
the time of their relationship) gave many pause for thought.
█ One more thing about Megan and her teacher. It has been alleged that their closeness was first noted following a school trip to Los Angeles. Los Angeles California In the US of A In my day we were lucky to get a wet Wednesday afternoon at a rain-sodden archaeological dig in Fife.
However, if the adults and authorities, on airwaves and elsewhere, impart so many mixed messages about teenage sexuality, what chance do wooed schoolgirls such as Megan have of making the right decision for themselves
One week on, we still have a minor on the loose in France with someone who appears to be a dangerous, weak-minded obsessive; a man who should have known better than to take a pupil away from school, then flee to another country to escape the shame, ignominy and retribution demanded by his actions. That he did not, that he failed on every count as a mature adult, is truly, deeply worrying.
Cowell needs an X-orcist
Spiritual help: Cowell should deploy it at the X Factor studios in London
I love Simon Cowell’s childish enthusiasm for the new, the alternative, the crazy, the unorthodox. In Tom Bower’s biography of Cowell, he reveals that the pop maestro was always keen to sample any innovative lifestyle or beauty treatments.
Friends had only to mention that some doctor in Knightsbridge was offering cinnamon-scented colonic irrigation, and Simon was off; screeching down there in his armour-plated Bentley to get an appointment before anyone else.
Now he has just had the latest thing in LA; an exorcism at his house to get rid of bad spirits. Right idea, wrong place.
Back here, figures for the UK X Factor continue to slip. If Simon wants to get rid of any bad banshee vibes, might I suggest he sends his exorcists round to the X Factor studios in North London Without delay.
█ Oh, hark at The Great British Bake Off scandal that never was.
Of course Mary Berry, pictured right, doesn’t make her own filo pastry! That’s like expecting Karl Lagerfield to spin his own lace. No one makes filo pastry from scratch; why would they
Despite the whispers of scandal, there is no shame in some shop-bought products, even for the most experienced cook. Now excuse me, I’m off to churn my own butter.
P.S. A word about Brendan’s showstopper effort this week.
Only he could bake something that appeared to have turrets as accessories, along with the sweets, ribbons and sparklers. Did he have planning permission
Sometimes it is too easy to tell which contestants are the judges’ favourite but Brendan, with his quiet pride in his work, does it for me every week.
Little Minxes making a mint
There are no lengths that anyone in the music business won’t go to in order to make a quick buck.
Last year’s X Factor winners Little Mix have barely made a dent in the pop music bumper, yet here they are, zooming down the fast lane, launching a clothes range for Primark as if they were a quartet of mini-Madonnas.
At least Madge waited for decades before inflicting her own clothes range on the public — and even then she made daughter Lourdes take the blame.
Quartet of mini-Madonnas: X Factor winners Little Mix have released their own clothing range targeted at their tweenage fan base
Still, perhaps Little Mix have got to cash in before their target demographic — little girls aged seven to 13 — move on to the next big thing, such as My Little Pony or Twilight.
To this end, they have ‘designed’ a range of clothes including T-shirts, jeggings and accessories for the bargain high street store, with a Little Mix bracelet costing 2, while a sweatshirt is 10.
No, I don’t approve, but at least the clothes are cheerful and wholesome, not some ghastly range of sexualised crop tops and minis.
Still, isn’t it sad to treat their innocent little fans — who voted for their success in the first place — like nothing more than cash calves
█ Catherine Tate is a great comedienne and a fine actress, but you have to wonder about her taste in men. Not that she has bad taste — it is just that it is hard to locate the common denominator between boyfriends past (Jason Orange) to boyfriends present (Adrian Chiles).
Jason and Adrian The Take That dancer to the grumpy television football presenter It is like moving from the soft centre to the nut cluster in the Oddball Big Boy box of chocs. Who’s next Aled Jones
None of my business, but Catherine and Adrian have to be the oddest showbiz pairing since Turner and Hooch. Imagine what Catherine’s ‘Sweary Nan’ character would say ‘What a ******* liberty!’
Don't be fooled by Dave the Latin Dunce
No, it wasn’t ‘terribly brave’ of David Cameron to appear as a guest on the ‘risky’ David Letterman chat show this week.
Anyone who has seen the decline of Letterman’s American show for the past ten years will tell you that it is about as dangerous as an egg white omelette.
Putting on a show: The PM on Letterman
Yes, it would have been courageous of Cameron to have appeared on the late-night shows presented by Jon Stewart or — my absolute favourite — Stephen Colbert instead. Both are spiky, satirical, hilarious — and a terrifying prospect for any guest.
Cameron plumped for the safe and cosy instead, and despite gaffes, succeeded in getting his message about Olympic-tastic Britain across.
He also managed the tricky art of de-poshing himself on coast-to-coast television in one easy swoop.
How did he do it By pretending that he didn’t know what the Latin document Magna Carta meant in English. Yeah, pull the other one, Etonian Dave. It’s got campana on.