Review by Sophie Scott

3 May 2015, 19:00

The Runaway Schoolgirl: This is the True Story of My Daughter’s Abduction by Her Teacher Jeremy Forrest

The case of teacher Jeremy Forrest and his relationship with one of his pupils was front-page news in 2012. But in case you don’t remember, here’s what happened.

Forrest, a married maths teacher at a school in Eastbourne, ran away to France with his then 15-year-old pupil, renamed as “Gemma” for this book. They were discovered in Bordeaux just over a week later; a week filled with front pages concerned about her welfare, pleas from her mother, and character assassinations of Forrest.

Forrest was jailed for five-and-a-half years for abduction and sexual activity with a minor. How convenient then, just as he is likely to be released this summer (and the public have probably forgotten much of the case), that “Gemma’s” mother has written an alleged tell-all about “this monster”.

A tell-all is not what it is. When you learn, at the end, that it was written after she was made redundant it feels like more of a grab-all for attention and cash.

What’s not clear is why we need her side of this story. What has she to offer that can be of any benefit to a parent who may find themselves in this situation?

I scoured the book for some semblance of advice and could not find a shred of evidence that it is not solely for her own glory.

She says that she “won’t rest until [she] can do something positive about it”. Does she really think this book is a positive step when her own daughter has distanced herself from it?

She describes Gemma as a private person – then opens up a window on her life.

That poor girl. She needs support, not another re-hash of the trauma of the past few years. What kind of a parent writes a book that belittles her daughter’s friends, complains that she has moved away, and dredges up a mostly forgotten story? There are even pages with pictures of Gemma. But they’re blurred, for privacy. So why include them?

Throughout the book, Davina Williams (a pseudonym) attempts to make you feel sorry for her. Apparently people said she was a “chav”. Yet if you are worried about the public’s opinion, why open yourself up to more criticism?

Ms Williams seems to forget that she was not the victim. Her daughter was. In her place I’d worry more about my daughter’s emotional health and her future than
about myself.

This compilation of anger about what everyone did to everyone else does not benefit anyone, least of all her daughter.

And don’t get me started on style. Any 12-year-old could have written a more cohesive, grammatically correct and insightful book. On average, each chapter is five pages long (and the text is HUGE), with far too many cliffhangers such as “the nightmare was only just beginning…”

This book is littered with basic mistakes, such as having police officers referred to by their first name, then their abbreviated rank (DCI Jason Tingley), and then their full title (Detective Chief Inspector).

I wonder if anyone read it before it was published or if it was just shoved out to capitalise on timing and to make as much money as possible.

So, Davina Williams, your “book” gets only half a star. And that’s simply because I didn’t throw it into the bin.


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One comment

  1. Ella

    It was the girl’s mother who seemed to be considered the “victim” even at the trial for some bizarre reason. Very unhealthy. If anyone was the victim, it would be the girl herself and no one else, and honestly I’m not sure how much of a victim she was either. I’d wager the only harm caused to her was a result of all the press and everyone in the country gossiping about her (not so) private life.

    Clearly Forrest breached his trusted position as a teacher but I can’t help feeling the whole thing would’ve been better dealt with by sacking him and giving him a suspended sentence or something. It’s not like he’s a danger to the public so sending him to jail doesn’t benefit anyone, least of all the girl who is now saddled with the guilt from what was done to him in her name. I suppose they wanted to make an example of him but that’s a clear case of putting the law ahead of the girl’s best interests.

    Sadly her own mother doesn’t seem bothered about her daughter’s best interests either. It’s telling how much she talks about herself in this book and how little she talks about her daughter. Some people don’t deserve to have children. Poor girl.