In the Media

French police bungled tip-off, says Briton who spotted Megan

PUBLISHED October 1, 2012

Mr Forrest, 30, and Miss Stammers, 15, ran away to France on Sept 20 after boarding a ferry to Calais and taking a train from Paris to Bordeaux.

They spent their first night in the Hotel Choiseul, a two-star hotel in the city centre but on Monday it became clear that they spent the next six nights - from Saturday to last Friday - in an even cheaper one in the same road, the Huguerie Hotel with rooms at €32 (£23).

Staff said they kept two bags packed at all times "as if they were ready to run" from their hideaway at a moment's notice.

A British expatriate, Ian Loveridge, yesterday said he tipped off British police last Tuesday to say he had spotted Megan in the street at around 4pm after seeing an appeal for her return on TV.

The builder, 48, who lives a three-hour drive away in Farlat, said: "I saw a young girl standing at the top of the street and recognised it was Megan straight away mainly because she looked so out of place."

After driving round the block, he saw her turn and walk back towards the hotel. "Forrest was standing next to the entrance and she gave him a big hug," he said.

"They then disappeared into the hotel. They both looked very comfortable in each other's company and clearly wanted to be with each other.

"I was picking up my partner nearby at the time and struggled to get through to the police on the phone but later spoke to someone at Hampshire police, which is where I used to live, to pass on the information."

French police only called in on the hotel two days later, leaving empty handed after the owner failed to recognise Megan from a photo.

"I'm surprised it took the police two days to go to the hotel and check out my information," said Mr Loveridge.

"They may well have caught the train to Spain or Italy and who knows if or when they would have been found."

Police finally intercepted the pair after Mr Forrest asked for work in a British pub and handed out a fake CV on Thursday.

The British manageress contacted UK police, who alerted French colleagues. Plain-clothes officers intercepted the pair as they walked "hand in hand" in a nearby busy shopping street.

Gerald Agier, owner of the Huguerie Hotel, said Mr Forrest had arrived alone, checking in under the false name of 'Dean'.

"He didn't speak too much. He said he was looking to rent an apartment in the city. He paid in advance with cash until Thursday and I gave him the key."

Maria Vega, the hotel cleaner, said: "Everything was always packed into two big bags. It looked as if they were preparing to leave quickly."

Mr Forrest will appear in a Bordeaux court today where a judge is expected to approve his extradition to the UK. A source familiar to the case says he could be back "within 24 hours".