A pensioner who was caught with 2,776 child abuse images has been sent on a sex offenders’ course.

Joseph Mariosa was traced to his home in North Devon by his IP address after police monitored his use of file sharing websites.

He showed officers a hard drive decorated with a butterfly on which they found the images.

Mariosa claimed he had become addicted to the material after coming across child images while searching the internet for a theatre school.

He had 462 images and 30 movies in the worst category, and the youngest children were aged less than one.

Mariosa, aged 72, of Roundswell, Barnstaple, admitted five counts of making or possessing indecent, prohibited or extreme images.

He was jailed for a year, suspended for two years, and ordered to undertake a sex offenders’ course as part of 30 days of rehabilitation activities.

He was put on the sex offenders register and made subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter Crown Court.

The judge told him: “You committed very serious offences over a period of time and it is clear from the probation report that you find it difficult to accept why you started.

“These are not victimless crimes. These are real human beings who are being subjected to the most appalling abuse.

“The probation report says there is work that can be done with you and I take into account your poor health. You have issues that need to be addressed. You did not get into this by searching for a theatre school.”

Hollie Gilbery, prosecuting, said Mariosa’s online activity was detected in October 2018 and his home was raided on March 12 last year.

He admitted to police straight away what he had been doing and showed officers the detachable hard drive with a butterfly on it.

There were 462 still images and 30 movies in category A and 2,069 images and 245 movies in the two lower categories.

He told police he started accessing images by accident while recovering from a hospital treatment six years ago.

Ligiea Girard, defending, said Mariosa had never been in trouble before and has demonstrated a willingness to confront his issues and to change.