Ex-husband of shamed teaching assistant speaks out after sex trial

Ben Turnbull outside his home in Sherburn Hill
Ben Turnbull outside his home in Sherburn Hill

THE ex-husband of shamed teaching assistant Helen Turnbull has said that he bears no ill feeling towards the schoolboy she embarked on an affair with.

Speaking today at his home in Sherburn Hill, Ben Turnbull said the boy sent an apologetic text message after the trial concluded on Thursday.

Teaching assistant Helen Turnbull arriving at Teesside Crown Court.

Teaching assistant Helen Turnbull arriving at Teesside Crown Court.

“He sent my mum a text saying he was sorry that his family caused so much upset and devastation to my family,” Ben, 38, said.

“I don’t blame him. It’s all her fault.”

Helen Turnbull, 35, was known at the school where she was a literary assistant, under her maiden name, Miss Robson.

The mum-of-two from Haswell lost custody of her two children to Ben, a coatings inspector, after she admitted one count of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust. She had kissed a pupil in secret meetings in her Mini convertible and sent the boy lewd messages.

But a jury cleared her of three further counts relating to allegations she had sex with him, performed a sex act on him and that she had oral sex.

Judge Peter Armstrong gave her a four-month jail sentence suspended for two years, ordered her to carry out 200 hours unpaid work and imposed a restraining order to keep her away from the boy. She will also be on sex offenders’ register for seven years

But Ben, who is dad to Turnbull’s son and daughter, claims his ex-wife showed a long-standing interest in teenage boys.

He said she spent all her spare money on clothes, took two hours to get ready before going to work in the mornings and used to brag about the effect her appearance had on the pupils she worked with.

“You’d never think anything of it on the face of it,” Ben said. “She’s a teacher and they are kids.”

After the full details of the allegations came to light there was a custody battle and Ben now looks after the children.

Ben said that while he was disappointed with the not guilty verdicts, he was pleased that Turnbull had not gone to prison.

“I wasn’t happy,” he added. “However, I think it’s worked out better for my daughter that her mum is not in jail. I would rather that she is happy than me getting my little bit of revenge.”

Turnbull had sobbed in the dock at Teesside Crown Court when the jury delivered its verdicts on Thursday.

During the trial, she had admitted sending a boy lewd messages and a picture of herself in her underwear.

They swapped thousands of messages on the internet and Facebook and Turnbull was to admit later that she liked his attention at a time when her personal life was crumbling.

Judge Armstrong said she became “emotionally and physically” involved with the boy when she was unhappy in her marriage to Ben.

She groomed the boy to an extent, the judge said, by building up his trust in her.

He told her: “He was attractive to you, you were attractive to him and unfortunately, a relationship developed which should never have developed. You knew that.

“This was not just a spontaneous coming together, kissing. There was a build-up to it which we have all seen in the considerable messaging traffic which went on between you.”

The judge said the pupil fully consented to the relationship and, had he not been at her school, no offence would have been committed.

The restraining order he gave Turnbull prevents her from contacting the boy, going within 100 metres of the road where he lives and within 100 metres of her former school.

During the eight-day trial she admitted she liked the attention she got from the boy, and sending flirtatious messages, but said she never intended to have sex with him.

She wept as she told the jury: “The very thought of it... I have been with the same person since I was 20 years old. I haven’t had sex with anyone else.”

Turnbull conceded she had asked the teenager which colour knickers she should wear before a meeting - “pink or yellow”.

And she agreed she had said he would be a “legend” if he had sex with her on her desk, told him kissing him was a “guilty pleasure” and added “clearly, teaching does have its perks”.

But she said the sexting was “all talk” and sex did not happen between them.

Asked if she was in love with him, the teaching assistant replied: “No I was not, I cared about him. When I look back now, I don’t know what I was thinking.”