Nowhere in Britain Is More Tranquil Than Sharnbrook. Why Then Is It Here That a Boy,aged 11, Has Got a 15-Year-Old Girl Pregnant; Femail Reveals the Astonishing Collapse in Social and Moral Values Behind the Story That Shocked the Nation

Daily Mail (London), August 30, 1997 | Go to article overview

Nowhere in Britain Is More Tranquil Than Sharnbrook. Why Then Is It Here That a Boy,aged 11, Has Got a 15-Year-Old Girl Pregnant; Femail Reveals the Astonishing Collapse in Social and Moral Values Behind the Story That Shocked the Nation


Byline: SARAH CHALMERS

CLOSE your eyes and try to imagine the ideal place in which to raise children. If you see a close-knit rural village with thatched cottages, neat, well-tended gardens and a tiny population of well-meaning citizens bidding one another good day and organising church fetes and croquet practice, you could be envisaging the quaint Bedfordshire village of Sharnbrook.

Throw in the best upper school in the county, a couple of friendly pubs, a Brownie pack, a well-known local dramatic society and a Unilever research laboratory providing most of the 2,000 inhabitants with regular employment, and you have perfectly described this idyllic community.

In December, there will be another addition to Sharnbrook's population, but unlike most of his or her contemporaries, this child will not be the product of a happy, secure family.

Instead, the unborn baby can already lay claim to the unfortunate boast of having Britain's youngest father thanks to the tragic coupling of 11-year-old Sean Stewart and his 15-year-old next-door neighbour, Emma Webster, which first came to public attention a fortnight ago.

Sean and Emma live just off the High Street, in the middle two of a block of four brick terrace houses, their front gardens connected by a small wooden gate.

Unlike most of the homes in the village, these are council-owned, but that doesn't mean this is a tale of social deprivation, as the four bedrooms and satellite television in each testify.

So what exactly lies behind this gym-slip pregnancy which, even in an age notoriously blase about such matters, has produced widespread shock and indignation?

There is no doubt that the sorry saga of Sean and Emma is made all the more frightening by the fact that it hasn't taken place in some squalid inner city area but in a village that would outwardly seem one of the last bastions of traditional values.

If it could happen in Sharnbrook, the couple's childlike faces seem to say, it could happen anywhere.

The truth is that this is a story of two young people, one not even a teenager, who had parenthood virtually thrust upon them because their own role m o d e l s w e r e s o p a t h e t i c a l l y inadequate.

Sean and Emma were brought up in a moral vacuum in two families so feckless and dysfunctional that they almost beggar belief.

Right from the day Sean's family moved next door to the Websters in November 1996, theirs was a tragedy waiting to happen.

By then, Sean already had a troubled background that had had the contrasting effects of forcing him into the adult world ahead of his time while rendering him a very immature individual.

Sean is the fifth of seven children aged between three and 20, born to 39-year-old Theresa Sinko by three different fathers.

He spent his formative years in an end-of-terrace house on the outskirts of Bedford, where his mother set up home with labourer John Stewart, Sean's father, following the breakdown of her failed marriage to John Sinko, which produced four children.

As well as Sean, Theresa had a little girl called Jamie, now nine, by John Stewart, with whom she had a volatile relationship punctuated by frequent splits and reconciliations.

Stewart, who has a criminal record for assault, is described by a relative of Theresa's as 'a bit of a rogue, with the gift of the gab'.

Around Bedford he has a reputation for obstreperous behaviour when drunk.

He has been banned from several local pubs.

When that relationship finally foundered, Theresa gave birth to another boy, Brandon, now three, by yet another man whose name she didn't enter on the birth certificate.

She is now in a new relationship with someone who is said to 'not take much part in family life'.

For Theresa, the move with her three youngest children to Sharnbrook represented the chance to 'make a fresh start'. …

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