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'North Devon teacher groomed me for sex when I was 14' claims Northam woman

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: February 07, 2013

By Philippa Jenkins

  • Poppy Parsons pictured this week

  • Poppy Parsons as a schoolgirl

POLICE have reopened an investigation into claims that a teacher had a sexual relationship with an underage pupil at a North Devon school.

Poppy Parsons, from Northam, says she was "groomed" by a teacher while a 14-year-old pupil at Great Torrington School in the mid-1990s.

She says their relationship led to them having sex on a number of occasions, including in a storage cupboard at the school.

Now 31, Poppy is supporting the fresh police investigation.

Detective sergeant Rob Back, confirmed the investigation had recently been officially reopened.

He said: "Periodically we will review cold cases.

"I was asked to review this case by one of the detective inspectors.

"I have now identified further witnesses which could bring further light to the case and may mean I can then pass the case onto the Crown Prosecution Service.

"I can't promise the outcome but I have identified lines of inquiry."

He said he expected to re-interview the teacher in due course.

Poppy did not report the relationship to police until 2011, some 14 years after she left school. The teacher had since moved to another school in Devon but it's understood he was later dismissed from the school where he was working.

Poppy, a cognitive behavioural therapist, said the relationship started when the teacher began to treat her as a favourite.

She said: "I enjoyed the attention. I was a typical teenage girl, had problems at home and enjoyed the extra attention he gave me. I didn't see what was happening.

"It took eight to ten months to build up to the meetings with him.

"He made me believe I was special. Boys in the class commented I was the favourite.

"He said I was more mature than the others and I thought I must be more grown up, otherwise why would he like me?

"It then started to spiral out of control. It went from me being flattered by the attention to where I didn't know how to stop the meetings."

Describing their first meeting she said: "He said it was his birthday and he wanted a birthday kiss. I felt I couldn't really say no.

"After that his requests for meetings became more frequent and he became quite demanding about it.

"It was only about a week later that the meetings became sexual."

Poppy said she felt ashamed and unable to confide in people: "I didn't think anyone would believe me. I ended up telling about three friends.

"All our meetings were at school until he asked me to meet at a weekend at Torrington Pool.

"He then said we were going away for the night. I didn't know what to do about it, I felt really anxious.

"We went to Bude and stayed with some of his friends. He introduced me as a college student.

"I couldn't believe his friends believed it. I didn't think he would lie about me. I remember feeling quite panicky.

"He just told me to have a drink, I ended up getting quite drunk. When I woke up I couldn't remember where I was.

"I knew we'd had sex. I just wanted to get out of there. I felt embarrassed."

Poppy added: "It just became more confusing after that. He was always concerned about who I was talking to about it. He said they wouldn't understand our relationship.

"Other girls had crushes on him and there were rumours he was seeing other girls.

"Even after I broke my ankle playing netball he continued to want sex with me in the storage cupboard which was really painful. Looking back I can't believe no one knew or realised."

Poppy said the relationship continued through her final year at school until she left.

She said: "At the end of school it started to fizzle out and there were rumours he was seeing other girls. It sent me a bit crazy."

Poppy decided to contact the police after her mother died in 2010.

She said: "I couldn't deal with the thought of mum finding out so I think that is why it came out when she died."

Devon County Council confirmed that Poppy's solicitors have contacted them but were unable to comment further.

The Department for Education said it could not comment on any on-going police investigation.

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