A man with a pathological fear of leaving his home was sent hundreds of child abuse images by strangers who he met of Skype.

Brian Pawson suffers from agoraphobia and was sent more than 300 images and a handful of movies by people who he knew through the internet.

He also trawled the web for material using search terms relating to pre-teens.

The 69-year-old was caught because police in North Yorkshire identified one of his Skype contacts and traced him to his flat in Barnstaple.

They seized a Dell and two Acer laptops and experts recovered 329 images and eight movies, including 47 images which fell into the worst category and showed children suffering serious abuse by adults.

The material covered children of both genders aged between one and 13, Exeter Crown Court was told.

Pawson, of Valley Close, Barnstaple, admitted three counts of making indecent images of children and was jailed for 20 months, suspended for two years, by Judge David Evans.

He was ordered to undertake 30 hours of sex offenders treatment, put on the sex offenders register for ten years, and made subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for the same period. It allows the police to monitor his internet activity.

The judge told him: "There is clear evidence you had been sharing your interest in child images with like minded people online. When you were interviewed, you implausibly denied having any sexual interest in children."

Felicity Payne, prosecuting, said Pawson's home was searched in June 2018 as a result of intelligence from the North Yorkshire force that he had been exchanging images on Skype.

The images on his computers dated from as early as 2011 and he had carried on downloading them until three days before the police raid.

Miss Payne said: "There was evidence of very inappropriate search terms with the words pre-teen and boys coming up a number of times. Another search was for 'dad sneaks into child's bed'."

She said Pawson admitted in interview he exchanged images on Skype but denied having a sexual interest in children, saying he was acting out of curiosity because he had suffered abuse as a child.

Thomas Faulkner, defending, said Pawson suffers from severe agoraphobia, stress and anxiety, and is only able to leave his home with the help of mental health carers.

He downloaded the images at a time when he was lonely and socially isolated and is now disgusted and ashamed of his behaviour.

He said: "In 2011 he bought a computer to get onto the internet to socialise, but he started speaking to the wrong people and receiving these abusive images. He knows it was wrong and says that nobody feels more disgusted than he does."