10:00am Thursday 31st October 2013
Exclusive By Keiligh Baker
A TEACHER groomed an underage pupil for a “sordid” lesbian relationship and sexually abused her over several years.
Rachel Speed, 41, met the girl while she was teaching science at Fairwater High School and the pair bonded over personal problems.
Jurors in Cardiff Crown Court heard Speed kissed the girl for the first time in the school’s store cupboard.
The victim said Speed got her to dress up in outfits, including PVC hotpants and a corset and a police officer’s uniform.
The victim said Speed also had sex with her using a Mars bar.
Speed, of Griffin Drive, Hengoed, was yesterday found guilty of two counts of indecent assault and two counts of engaging in sexual activity while in a position of trust.
Speed always denied the charges.
Speed, who has worked at the school for almost 15 years, signed a contract with the girl's mother agreeing not to have a sexual relationship with her daughter, but it carried on anyway.
The girl would stay at Speed’s house from a young age and the secret relationship carried on until she was in university and the victim said Speed gave her an engagement ring and a car as the relationship developed.
Speed would pick the girl up from a bus stop near her house after school so no-one would find out and drive her to the teacher's home in Abersychan.
The girl would stay over at the teacher's house several times a week and said the two shared a bed, showered together and performed sex acts on each other.
The girl’s mother became suspicious after opening a letter which arrived in the post for her daughter and discovered it was from Speed.
Although it did not have any sexual content, she felt it was inappropriate and contacted the school.
She said the headmaster was “horrified” and assured her he would talk to Speed about it.
Former deputy head of Fairwater, Lynne Fear, warned Speed not to be alone with the girl, but the relationship continued.
Following a conversation with her daughter’s friend, her mother discovered she had been lying about where she was staying and confronted her, at which point she admitted staying at the teacher’s house.
The woman and her husband went to Speed’s house to collect her daughter’s belongings, including nightclothes and a teddy bear.
When the girl’s mother first met Speed, she told her: “You're not going to like it but I love your daughter."
Her mother said: "I felt sick and angry. My daughter was a child. What I found difficult was she had already been warned about being inappropriate by the school. How could she then have the same child sleep over her house?"
When they told their daughter they were going to go to the authorities about the relationship, the victim became 'hysterical' and told them she would kill herself if they did.
Her mother said: "My daughter was suffering with borderline depression at that time and I could not take the risk of her hurting herself."
They relented but privately decided to write up the contract, which said in exchange for not going to the school or police, Speed had to agree to end their relationship until she was 21or finished full-time education.
Speed told the court she signed the contract because although she didn’t think she was doing anything wrong, she felt ‘intimidated’ by the girl’s parents.
Despite this, the relationship continued and the victim's mother spotted Speed giving her daughter a lift home from school not long afterwards.
The victim said the pair secretly carried on with their relationship for several years while she was at university.
Prosecutor Christopher Rees said: “You did not want them to know because they would know your sordid little secret. You were clearly obsessed with her, even when she went to university.”
Speed said the girl only came to her house ‘around 30 times’ from the age of 14 or 15.
She also claimed the girl only stayed at her house once when she was a Sixth Form student, and she stayed in the spare bedroom after Speed picked her up from a party because the girl was ‘inconsolable’.
Speed said they were girlfriends for around two-and-a-half years, while the victim was at university and maintained the kiss in the store cupboard never happened, and the pair did not start a sexual relationship until the girl was at university. Speed also denied having sex using the Mars bar.
She told police she let her victim visit her house because the girl was unhappy and having problems at home.
She said: “She blames me for everything that has happened to her in her life. She said I ruined her life.”
Mr Rees said: “Yes, because you abused her trust while she was 14.”
The victim told the court she dumped the teacher by text message when she was 20 after she met someone else. She reported it several years later when she realised the relationship was 'wrong', and was said she was worried other people could be at risk.
Judge David Wynn Morgan told Speed: “Be under no illusions, the only issue is the length of the sentence, rather than its nature.”
Speed will be sentenced on November 22.
During the trial, jurors heard a number of glowing references from past and present colleagues.
A statement from Fairwater High’s headteacher Helen Coulson said: “Rachel is an excellent science teacher. She has an outstanding relationship with her pupils.”
Speed was described variously by colleagues from Fairwater school as a “hard working and dedicated colleague” and “an excellent science teacher.”
The victim said Speed initiated contact, texting her about a TV show, and the pair would keep in contact using online messaging and the pupil wrote Speed letters.
A council spokesman said: ‘The council apologises for the failure to protect this pupil during their time at Fairwater High School. The council has been working closely with the school, police and social services since the allegations against Rachel Speed were brought to our attention and since her suspension in January. Although safeguarding practices have been strengthened significantly in the time since these offences occurred, the process in this case is on going and evidence from the trial will be looked at closely to gauge what other actions we now need to take.’
Detective Constable Kay Gladwin who led the investigation said: “This was a clear abuse of trust and I would like to pay tribute the strength and bravery of the victim in coming forward and talking to the police in what was a lengthy investigation.
“I am pleased the jury saw fit to deliver a guilty verdict on the evidence that was presented and I hope this sends a strong message to the public that we take sexual offences of any nature seriously and will pursue any offenders through the courts.”
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