A pensioner who was found with hundreds of child images after being trapped by a police sting operation has been put on the sex offenders register.

Frederick Backhurst told an undercover officer he was interested in girls as young as eight in an internet chat room, and sent two images of scantily clad children to prove his point.

Police raided his home in Bideford after tracing him through his IP address and found dozens more photos of partially clothed adolescent girls.

The retired design engineer started using internet chat rooms while living on his own and got drawn into exchanging sexual fantasies, Exeter Crown Court was told.

Backhurst, aged 76, of Osborne Close, Bideford, admitted possession, making and distribution of indecent photographs of children and was ordered to do 40 hours of rehabilitation activities and pay £620 costs by Judge Timothy Rose.

He was put on the sex offenders register for five years and made subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for the same period. The order enables the police to monitor his internet activity.

He told him: “It is a matter of considerable regret and sadness that you should come before a court at your age, after living a blameless life for 70 odd years.”

Miss Caroline Bolt, prosecuting, said an undercover officer exchanged messages in an internet chat room with a man who claimed to be 62.

Backhurst sent the officer two images of girls who were partially clothed.

Police raided his home in September last year and recovered 178 images from his iPad, of which 60 were accessible. All were at the lowest category, showing partially clothed girls. Most were aged 12 to 14.

Chat logs showed he had used a variety of chat rooms, including one known to have paedophile content and he admitted sending a small number of images to other users.

Mr Richard Crabb, defending, said Backhurst had never been in trouble before and had lived a productive life working as a design engineer before retiring at the age of 62.

He was married for 15 years and has two grown-up children but has been living on his own for 26 years, leading him to start using chat rooms.

Mr Crabb said: “He gave a good description in which he said it was like going into another world and it clearly desensitised him.”

He told the police he was disgusted with his behaviour and would never consider doing anything similar in the future.