AN INTERNET predator from Andover has been sent on a sex offenders’ course after being trapped by a group of online paedophile hunters.

Robert Knox was confronted in the hallway of the flats where he was living by members of the Child Online Safety Team who travelled 300 miles to confront him.

Knox sent sexually explicit messages to what he believed was a 13-year-old girl who he met through a local dating app before their conversation moved onto WhatsApp.

The decoy posing as the girl repeatedly gave her age and pretended to be very naïve about sex but Knox responded by sending an image of his penis and asking for a photo of her breasts.

READ MORE: Andover man who assaulted three police officers told to pay compensation

The entire exchange was saved by the paedophile hunters and handed over to police after they had travelled to Knox’s former home in Exeter to make a citizen’s arrest.

Knox, aged 36, now of Weyhill Road, Andover, admitted attempted sexual communication with a child and was jailed for 10 months, suspended for two years by Judge James Adkin at Exeter Crown Court.

He was ordered to undertake a sex offenders’ treatment course during 35 rehabilitation activity days and put on an alcohol abstinence tag for three months.

The judge imposed a Sexual Harm Prevention Order which enables police to monitor his online activity and put him on the sex offenders register for 10 years.

He told Knox: ”You were caught in an online trap after you began soliciting what you believed to be a 13-year-old girl. You were not deterred by her age and engaged in sexual conversation.

“You requested photos and sent photos of your penis. You were tracked down and arrested. There is some personal mitigation and I have read a psychologist’s report.”

SEE ALSO: Test Valley man avoids prison for breaching court order

Nigel Wraith, prosecuting, said the paedophile hunters posed as a 13-year-old girl in late 2022 and after the chat moved to WhatsApp he turned the discussion to sex.

He said: “The child who was purporting to be 13 indicated a level of naivety about sexual matters. He asked if she had seen a penis and, without any response, he sent a picture of his erect penis.

“He asked her if she wanted to suck it or have sex and said he would be gentle with her. She was also asked to send images of her breasts. She feigned naivety again. He invited her to come to Exeter and to go to a hotel to make love.

“The messages continued until he was arrested and his phone seized. There had been a large number of searches indicative of a sexual interest in schoolgirls.”

Sam Wysocki, defending, said the offending happened at a time when Knox’s relationship with his partner had ended and he was drinking too much.

He said the probation service have recommended one-to-one work and alcohol monitoring.