Teaching assistant goes on trial charged with having sexual activity with a pupil

ACCUSED: Helen Turnbull
ACCUSED: Helen Turnbull
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A TEACHING assistant groomed a schoolboy with sweets and cuddles then had sex with him in her Mini, a court has heard.

Helen Louise Turnbull sent the schoolboy a photo of herself in her underwear and they swapped suggestive messages via Facebook and her phone, Teesside Crown Court was told.

The mother-of-two has admitted she kissed the pupil but denies having sex with him or performing a sex act on him, or having oral sex with him.

The 35-year-old from Haswell, has pleaded guilty to one count of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust, but denies three other counts, saying their contact went no further than kissing.

Sarah Mallett, prosecuting, told the jury: “It is not suggested that (the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons) did not consent to what happened.

“These offences arose because of the need to protect children while they are at school from exploitative relationships with adult teachers who have trusted access to them, that can allow them to groom people in their care, so they then willingly engage in sexual activity.”

The prosecution alleged Turnbull, known at the school as Miss Robson, paid the boy a lot of attention and gave him sweets and cuddles. “This, the prosecution say, was the first stage of the grooming process,” she said.

After a school prom she returned home drunk and changed her Facebook profile picture to one taken that night of her with the teenager, the court heard.

Soon after her husband Ben accused her of having an affair and their marriage broke down, the jury was told.

The literacy assistant messaged the schoolboy on Facebook and they agreed to get together away from school.

They had a secret meeting and they cuddled, then kissed, Miss Mallett said, and before they parted she warned him not to tell anyone.

They met again more than a week later and this time had sex in her car, the prosecution alleged. They had to stop because another car pulled up nearby.

Miss Mallett said they met and there was sexual activity twice more in the coming month.

“Helen Turnbull also sent pictures including one in her underwear,” the jury heard.

The boy then began to cool on the relationship and felt pressured, Miss Mallett said.

If he did not reply to texts she would send hostile ones, the prosecution alleged.

The boy had been warned by her to delete messages between them, the court heard. “She knew she was married and going through a divorce and was worried she might lose custody of the children,” Miss Mallett said.

“Helen Turnbull needed the relationship to remain secret.”

Miss Mallett claimed Turnbull lied when her headteacher asked about what had been going on, telling him it was “sorted”.

The teenager’s father found out and spotted Turnbull sitting in her car in his street, despite the boy never telling her his address, the court heard.

Miss Mallett said: “(The father) was angry, got out of the car and called her a paedophile. “She said ‘It’s not like that’, but he was, perhaps understandably, too angry to listen.”

After he contacted police, Turnbull was arrested and admitted she had hugged the boy and given him sweets in front of others.

When her marriage got into trouble, she said she had sent him more than one friend request on Facebook.

The attention made her feel better at the time, but she told police she now realised it had been “stupid”.

In a second police interview, she admitted sending messages of “sexual banter” to the boy but they were merely intended “titillate,” she said.

The court heard messages police recovered included them discussing staying in a hotel and how nice it would be for them to share a bed.

The trial continues.