A CONVICTED killer trawling the internet grooming young girls for sex was caught in a police sting, a court heard.

Michael Wilkinson was caught after falling for a “fishing expedition” to weed out online paedophiles when he replied to a website message posted by ‘Sofie’, described as, “a schoolgirl from the North of England”.

Unknown to Wilkinson the account was opened by a law enforcement officer days earlier, and police were able to monitor his increasingly sexualised conversation, despite offering no encouragement in response, in their online “chats”.

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Forty-six-year-old Wilkinson was arrestedlast September, after he was recognised on explicit images of himself which he sent to ‘Sofie’.

Police removed his computer equipment as he reached the stage where he was trying to arrange to meet ‘Sofie’ for a sexual encounter.

Durham Crown Court heard that examination of the computer contents revealed 35 indecent images of children, downloaded only the previous day.

It also emerged he had been in communication with two young girls in the previous few weeks and was in the throes of trying to meet them for sex, suggesting a rendezvous with one in Halifax, West Yorkshire, only days later.

He told the girl he wanted to have intercourse with her while she was wearing her school uniform.

Richard Bennett, prosecuting, told the court that following his arrest Wilkinson was immediately recalled to prison as he is on lifelong licence following his release after spending 20 years behind bars for murder.

The court was told he was one of two men convicted for killing a 23-year-old man, supposedly a “friend”, who was beaten, repeatedly stabbed, punched and kicked, before being bludgeoned to death by repeated use of a boulder.

Wilkinson, who was 20 at the time, received a life sentence after his conviction at Newcastle Crown Court in March 1987.

He was released on licence in late February 2007, but he was arrested and cautioned in 2009 after trying to contact young girls online.

Relating to the latest offences, Wilkinson, now 47, of Manor Grange, Lanchester, County Durham, admitted three counts of attempting to incite or encourage a child to engage in sexual activity, plus one charge of making an indecent photograph of a child.

Andrew Finlay, mitigating, told the court: “He doesn’t feel he will ever get out of prison.

“He could have prevaricated and played the system, but instead he accepted responsibility.

“There does, just, seem to be the start of an acceptance of the difficulties he has.

“There is often a reluctance to accept the urges which build up with such offenders in cases like this.

“Having spent 20 years in custody, there has been no offending for six years. He’s managed to stay offence-free.

“The offence of murder was more than 26 years ago, and he knows he’s unlikely to be released for some time.”

He was jailed for two years and eight months, but Judge Robert Adams said, as he considers Wilkinson poses a danger to the public of future offending, he imposed an extended licence period of six years for the latest offence.

The court was told his lifelong licence remains in force for the murder offence.

Judge Adams told Wilkinson: “It’s of great concern that despite being on a life licence, you were arrested and interviewed in 2009, and no doubt warned about you future behaviour.

“Yet, undeterred by this shot across the bows, you sought out girls and engaged in sexual chat.

“Your actions suggest a sexual pre-occupation and attraction to children, yet the impact of your actions seems lost on you.”

Judge Adams made Wilkinson subject of a sexual offences prevention order and registration as a sex offender, both for life.