Emmerdale‘s abusive teacher Maya Stepney (Louisa Clein) is finally arrested for grooming teenager Jacob Gallagher (Joe-Warren Plant) on Tuesday 21st May as the controversial child abuse plot reaches a dramatic climax.
David Metcalfe (Matthew Wolfenden) installs spy software on his son’s laptop so he can monitor the schoolboy’s communication with Miss Stepney, who manipulated vulnerable Jacob from the of 15 during her engagement to David, and made him believe they were in love and could be together once he was old enough.
Stopping Jacob escaping the country with the twisted blonde, David and the lad’s mum Leyla Harding (Roxy Shahidi) are keeping tabs on the boy and when Jakey secretly contacts Maya telling her he has her passport and a wad of cash he is unaware his parents are monitoring him.
David intercepts their plan to meet at the cricket pavilion and when Maya comes out of hiding for the rendezvous she’s stunned to find her ex-fiance waiting for her…
“She tries to escape but David demands he explain everything to him,” says Wolfenden. “Why did a grown woman target the son of the man she was engaged to, who was just 15? David can’t get his head around it.
“Maya genuinely believes it was love but David tells her it’s a sick fantasy, he’s a schoolboy and she’s his teacher. She still thinks she and Jacob can be together and offers to leave Jacob and the village for good if David lets her go, but David has called the police – she is arrested, witnessed by Jacob who sees her being handcuffed and taken away.”
How does Jacob react when Maya is caught by the cops?
Jacob remains under Maya’s spell and is heartbroken at what he sees as his dad’s betrayal, widening the rift between father and son. “Jacob thinks David has ruined his life and stopped him and Maya being together. The arrest is not the end of the story, it’s actually the start of the next chapter. I don’t know if Jacob will ever forgive David for this.”
The slow burning plot has been a talking point over the last 12 months, but Metcalfe defends the storyline for the very reasons some viewers criticised it. “It’s not been a comfortable watch, but if it hadn’t been it would’ve come across as titilating or sexy, showing an older woman with a teenage boy, and that was not the point. It was always supposed to be uncomfortable and horrible.
“This is the reality of what happens when kids are groomed. David not noticing has been very realistic, and from the guidance we’ve had from Bernardo’s on portraying how grooming works in a lot of cases parents or teachers don’t notice. The story has been portrayed exactly how we wanted and I’m proud of to be part of it.
“What’s interesting is that David blames himself, as parents often do in this scenario. He thinks ‘Why couldn’t I stop it? Have they damaged my child for life?’ David realises consistently bringing women in and out of Jacob’s life for the past eight years and falling in love with them easily and moving them in too quickly has steered his ideas on women and relationships – and David takes the blame for that. Jacob believes he was in love with Maya, but the grooming process has made him think in this way…”
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