A schoolgirl who caused a scandal when she ran off at 16 to set up home with her 49-year-old teacher yesterday told of her ‘fulfillment’ after the couple married last year.
Jess Anderson was a fresh-faced teenager when she severed contact with her parents and embarked on a romance with Religious Education teacher Clive Richards – who was three times her age.
Yesterday the couple, now 19 and 52, confirmed they tied the knot at a register office last September – and said they couldn’t be happier.
Speaking from their three bedroom semi detached Victorian cottage in Torquay, Devon, which they share with their five-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier Hilda, they spoke of their happiness and contentment four months after the modest ceremony.
Jess admits it has been difficult but insists: ”We’ve done nothing wrong.
”I feel happy and complete. I feel fulfilled. I don’t see why people can’t fall in love regardless of age. I don’t feel like there was ever a gap. It just feels natural.
”We take every day as it comes. In terms of Clive – if he ends up in a wheelchair, does it change the way I feel about him?
”It isn’t going to change our relationship. Some people might think, ‘Why should a young girl be doing that?’ But it’s what I’ve chosen to do.”
Clive added: ”I don’t feel like there was a beginning. It has always just been.
”We-ve been called an age gap couple, but that’s other people’s prejudice.
”I’m greying, I’m 52, I’m married three times, I’m the father of two. I might get to 80 and suddenly drop down dead. Life in this house with my boys and Jess – it’s harmony.”
At 16, Jess was the deputy head girl and a grade A student at Mounts Bay School in Penzance, Cornwall when, she claims, she initiated a romance with religious education teacher Clive.
She says she badgered one of Clive’s sons, who was a classmate at the time, to hand over his email address after ‘falling for him’.
The couple insist their relationship was never physical until she left school and in January 17 2008 the couple moved in together, after Clive quit the school citing depression.
News of the relationship scandalised the tiny seaside town of Goldsithney, where they lived and caused a wedge with Jess’ parents that has still not been reconciled.
Neighbours pilloried the pair, particularly as Clive was still married to his third wife Julie at the time, with whom he has two sons, now aged 17 and ten.
There was an investigation by child protection officers and the police, after Jess’ furious mum Frances, 41, alerted the authorities, who concluded that Clive had not broken any laws and the two of them were free to set up home together.
Jess went on to excel in her GCSEs, achieving A*s and As, before going on to gain top marks in four A-levels and the school’s ‘student of the year’ trophy, even scoring 100 per cent in her philosophy A-level.
Clive proposed on Christmas Day 2009, after wrapping the ring – a diamond solitaire ring set in 18-carat white gold and platinum – in a box and placing it under the Christmas tree.
The couple had a private blessing with 30 friends and family at Oldway Mansion in Paignton was followed by a reception at a friend’s house in Torbay.
Clive wore a formal three-piece charcoal-grey suit, teamed with a blue shirt and blue Hermes tie. He also donned a gold pocket watch and ultra-traditional Church’s shoes.
Jess wore an elegant designer cocktail dress, bought on the internet and the couple rode to the ceremony on his scooter.
”We walked together down the aisle. I cried,” added Clive.
”It was one of the happiest, if not the happiest, moment of my life. It just felt right – it flowed.”
Jess adds: ”We originally wanted to get married on a beach, but you have to spend a lot of money. We didn~t want to do the ~archetypal thing with a lot of people watching you and spend thousands of pounds.~
”I didn’t want to have any direction. It felt very hippy.”
Notably absent were Jess’ parents – her mother, stepfather and father, with whom she hasn’t spoken since 2008.
Jess did not invite her mother to the wedding. ”I haven’t had any contact with them since September 1, 2008” and Frances, 41, only discovered her daughter was married through a posting on Facebook.
But far from having regrets, Jess insists she has made the right choice, adding: ”I’ll feel the same about him when he’s 80 or 90 and in a wheelchair. Nothing can break our bond.”