A ‘creepy’ sports coach from Torrington is to be banned from working with children after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage girl in a North Devon gym.

Medal winning veteran athlete Simon Edney, aged 61, pretended to be giving the student training tips when he grabbed both her buttocks.

The girl was a complete stranger who he had approached out of the blue as she worked out on her own at the gym.

His claim that he had pointed at her bottom rather than touched it as he gave her friendly advice was rejected by a jury at Exeter Crown Court after a day of deliberation.

The girl told how he had kissed her hand, hugged her, groped her bottom, and told her she was young, fresh, beautiful, attractive, and had a sexy body.

She said she thought he was creepy even before he started giving her unsolicited advice about toning up the gluteus maximus muscles in her bottom, which are known as glutes.

Edney is well known age-group athlete and former British and European senior duathlon champion. He is also a top senior cyclist and triathlete who regularly competes at events around Devon.

He runs his own business as a personal trainer and life coach and claimed to be known as Mr Happy by his friends and fellow athletes because of his positive approach to life.

Edney, of Wells Park Road, Great Torrington, denied sexual assault but was found guilty.

Judge Timothy Rose adjourned sentence until next month and ordered a probation pre-sentence report.

He put Edney on the sex offenders register and told him his conviction will be notified to the Disclosure and Barring Service, which means he will no longer be able to coach anyone under 18.

He told him he will not receive an immediate jail sentence but added: 'You have been convicted of a serious sexual offence. I see you shaking your head and it is obvious you don't agree with the verdict.

'You need to step back and consider the reality of the situation. What you did that morning, even on your own version, has you going up to a complete stranger and kissing her hand and hugging her.

'What on earth did you think you were doing? The jury found you guilty. You did exactly what she said you did. Why would she make it up?'

During the four-day trial, Edney told the jury he was married with two grown up children but is currently separated from his wife and a later partner, who he lived with for two to three years.

He said he went to the leisure centre early on the morning of January 9 last year and had already spent at least an hour with his swimming group in the pool before moving onto the gym.

He said:'I am a people person. I like to see people happy. I am known for my friendliness. People know me as Mr Happy.'

He said he had talked to the girl but denied calling her attractive, beautiful, young and fresh, or saying she had a sexy body.

He said he spoke to both men and women at the gym and his aim is to make them smile and help them with training.

He said: 'I did not take hold of her bottom. I would not dream of doing so. I may have pointed at her glutes. I did not touch her deliberately and there was nothing sexual about it.'