A paedophile who was exposed in a sting by an online child protection team has been jailed for 27 months.
Former RAF air traffic controller Andrew Ralph Helman, 52, of Ellen Street, Preston, admitted a string of offences after police were alerted to his activities by a vigilante group, Preston Crown Court heard.
He was arrested in February 2015 on suspicion of grooming after a sting in which the group claimed he had tried to meet a 13-year-old schoolgirl – however they would not assist the police any further and no charges were brought.
But prosecutor Peter Barr said as a result his home was raided and he was found to have used an email address in the name of “Kinkerbell”
He added: “Various computers and hard drives were seized. Those were subsequently found to contain the images which have led to these proceedings.”
Helman admitted possessing 684 indecent photographs of children, three counts of making indecent images and distributing them.
Wearing a waistcoat and suit, he gave no reaction as Judge Heather Lloyd said: “It can’t be said you are of hitherto exemplary character because until you were stopped by police for about nine years you had been seeking out indecent images of children being abused.
“All the images include moving images which is an aggravating feature.
“All were spread over a large number of devices.
“Your offending came to light when you were suspected of having attempted to groom a child online and whilst it appears it was someone from a vigilante group, the case could not proceed because that group would not co-operate.
“You deny you are sexually attracted to children. With respect that is plainly untrue.”
Helman gave a no comment interview and ran no defence until the morning of his trial.