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Confusion and concern over efforts to find runaway schoolgirl and teacher
8:35am Thursday 27th September 2012 in News
There is confusion and concern this morning over the extent of efforts to find runaway schoolgirl Megan Stammers and her teacher.
Sussex Police said it was working with Interpol and the French authorities over the disappearance of Megan, 15, and 30-year-old maths teacher Jeremy Forrest.
But Interpol has said that they are unable to confirm that it was working on the case of the missing Eastbourne schoolgirl.
Neither she nor Forrest has a profile on the crime agency's website, www.interpol.int, under its "yellow notices" section which "help locate missing persons, often minors, or to help identify persons who are unable to identify themselves".
Forrest is also not listed on the website under its "red notices", profiles used "to seek the location and arrest of wanted persons with a view to extradition or similar lawful action".
The Daily Telegraph reported that French police were not actively searching and had not carried out standard credit card or mobile phone searches.
It quoted Jean-Philippe Joubert, state prosecutor for Boulogne-sur-Mer, as saying: "These people have been put on a missing persons' list and a European Arrest Warrant has been issued. But there are no dedicated detectives or specific searches going on right now.
"But if the couple are recognised and identified, then they will be arrested."
The Europe-wide search for the pair has failed to uncover any confirmed new sightings, six days after they fled to mainland Europe.
Former Interpol officer Ismail Seck told the BBC: "Usually in cases like this the first week is very critical.
"I understand tomorrow is a week since them (going) missing was reported so we are getting into a critical state now."
Last night Sussex Police had no new update on the status of the investigation as anxious friends, family and strangers implored her online to get in touch with loved ones.
The search continues today as fresh concerns emerged about the child protection policies at the pair's school.
Child abuse campaigner Lucy Duckworth said she wrote to Education Secretary Michael Gove earlier this year highlighting her worries about Bishop Bell but did not receive a reply.
She also claimed that when she asked Bishop Bell if she could see its safeguarding policies, staff were hostile to her demands.
When the policy was put online this year, ex-teacher Ms Duckworth said it contained a number of inadequacies.
Headteacher Terry Boatwright said the school had a "robust" policy in place and the Department for Education said if it was alerted to a specific threat to child safety, it would inform the relevant authority immediately.
A Sussex Police spokeswoman said it was "in discussions" about featuring the case on tonight's BBC Crimewatch programme
The school has been under the spotlight over the way it dealt with warnings about a relationship between Megan and Forrest.
It has been alleged that their closeness prompted concerns following a school trip to Los Angeles in February.
ITV News reported last night that Forrest was due to be suspended by the school the day before he and Megan fled to France.
The programme said that the school had referred its concerns to Sussex Police, whose officers then examined Megan's mobile phone, believing that they might find evidence of an inappropriate relationship, but did not.
The school was then advised to suspend Forrest, ITV News added.
East Sussex County Council confirmed it and school officials were "addressing and investigating concerns" but the authority had not said when those were made.
Anyone with information is asked to call Sussex Police on 101, quoting Operation Oakwood.
A dedicated telephone number and text number which can be used from abroad have been set up. They are 00 44 1273 475432 or text +447786 208090.