A PRISON officer who groomed a schoolgirl on the internet and took her to his home for a weekend of sex was yesterday jailed for four years.

Matthew Rowse, 41, contacted the youngster on a teenagers’ website and twice drove from South Yorkshire to the North-East to meet her.

On the first occasion, the 15- year-old girl’s parents were suspicious of her plans to go out and refused to let her leave their home in Stockton.

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Weeks later, Rowse travelled again from Doncaster to meet her and took her straight back to his home – without them speaking a word in his car.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the girl spent the next 36 hours living in his bedroom while her frantic parents and police searched for her.

The youngster’s mother reported her missing, and a nationwide search ended when a signal from her mobile phone was traced to Rowse’s home.

Police officers found the pair in bed with the girl wearing no more than her bra, prosecutor Louise Reevell told Judge George Moorhouse.

Rowse, a father-of-three, admitted meeting a child after sexual grooming and four charges of sexual activity with a child last November.

The court heard that there had been hundreds of text messages – lots of them explicit – as well as contact on a number of social networking sites.

When he was arrested, Rowse told police he was a prison officer at a young offenders’ institution and refused to answer their questions.

Peter Makepeace, mitigating, said that Rowse had lost his job, his home and his family as a result of his arrest and remand in custody before Christmas, adding: “There has been substantial punishment outwith the criminal process.”

Mr Makepeace also said that Rowse would be held in segregation.

“He is determined to use the time he will spend in custody addressing the difficulties that he knows brought him before the court.

“He will comply with any assistance, or programmes or treatment available to him to ensure that there is no further offending.

“He is going to have to spend the rest of his sentence in protection.

“That’s a very, very difficult time to serve and he is feeling it acutely.”

Rowse, who was an officer support grade at HMP Hatfield, a youth prison in Doncaster, will be banned from working with children for life.

He will also be put on the sex offenders’ register for life and be banned from having unsupervised or internet contact with girls under 16.