A jury has cleared a teacher accused of having sex with her teenage pupil.
Deborah Lowe, 54, wiped away tears as she was told she could leave the dock and was free to go by the judge, following a seven-day trial at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester.
The jury, who were out for two hours and seven minutes deliberating, found Lowe not guilty of five counts of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust.
She had stood, hands clasped in front of her, swaying slightly and breathing deeply as the jury foreman returned the verdicts.
The divorcee said at the time she had become interested in meditation and yoga, visited Bali, sold her flat in suburban Cheshire and given up her job as head of pastoral care at a high school to go travelling in India to “explore her faith”.
But she maintained the relationship with the boy, 35 years her junior, only became sexual after he had left school and he was aged 17.
The prosecution had alleged that sex began when the boy was 16 – and although old enough to legally consent, Lowe broke the law by having sex with him when being a person in a position of trust – his teacher.
Earlier, the court heard that in a jokey WhatsApp message to a friend Lowe told her she was not having sex with the boy and described herself as a “mother” figure.
But she added: “…If not in the too distant future he wants to discuss the merits of an older woman I will be there for him” followed by emojis of a bottle of baby oil and a pair of handcuffs.
The teenager had told the jury after “flirting” at school they swapped phone numbers and first engaged in phone sex before sexual encounters in her home, car and caravan.
A former air hostess who has worked in education for 14 years, Lowe told the jury sex first took place after he contacted her around December 2016 – three months after he left school, and she took him to her flat in the Stockport area of Greater Manchester.
They kissed and had sex and later on also had sex at his home while his mother, who Lowe knew, was out of the house.
The relationship continued into 2017 with more secret liaisons in the caravan where she lived.
The boy told jurors it was “every lad’s fantasy” to have sex with a teacher but admitted later feeling “creeped out” because of the age gap.
Police were called in last summer after his mother found the card Lowe sent to him.
Lowe, who has a daughter, aged 28 and a son, 20, said later she felt, “mortified and embarrassed” over her “foolish infatuation” and denied being “sexually obsessed” with the youngster.
Neil Usher, defending Lowe, described the complainant as an “attention-seeking fantasist” who had claimed sex began when he was aged 15 so he could sell his story to tabloid newspapers.
A single allegation of having sex with a child, when the complainant was aged 15, was withdrawn by the prosecution during the trial and the judge instructed the jury to return a not guilty verdict on that charge, after the boy gave evidence which suggested he was 16, not 15, when he first had sexual contact with Ms Lowe.
The defendant, of Elm Beds Caravan Park, Poynton, Cheshire, had denied five counts of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust said to have taken place between September 14 2015 and June 30 2016.
Cleared, she left court hurriedly, and her solicitor told waiting reporters she did not wish to speak to the press, but read a statement on her behalf.
It said: “The last nine months have been extremely difficult for me and my family.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their love and care.
“I’m grateful for the support from former colleagues, friends and past pupils who sent messages of support.
“Although incredibly stressful and upsetting at times I’m extremely pleased I have had the opportunity to clear my name and I’m delighted the jury acquitted me of all counts.
“I’m very grateful to my legal team, Jared McNally and Neil Usher, who from the start identified the flaws in the case against me and robustly challenged the prosecution case.
“I now wish to put this case behind me as best I can and spend some time with my family and friends.”