POLICE were called to a budget hotel by a member of the public suspicious about a potentially illicit liaison between a man and an underage girl.

Officers were directed to a ground floor room at the Premier Inn, Sunderland, by staff who reported hearing loud sexual activity, on November 17, 2017.

Durham Crown Court was told the couple staying there only booked in after midnight.

Paul Currer, prosecuting, said when officers knocked at the door, at 4.30am, an undressed Christopher Flintoff, 28, answered, while a young girl was in bed in a similar state of undress.

Glasses of vodka and cola were seen on the bedside tables.

The girl denied any sexual activity had taken place, despite being told that staff had reported hearing what sounded like “loud sex” coming from the room.

Flintoff was arrested on suspicion of sexual activity with a child, while the girl was taken home, but declined to say what had taken place.

Mr Currer said police seized her phone, while Flintoff refused to reveal his PIN code.

He was released “under investigation” and returned to his native West Midlands, but continued to make regular contact with the girl on social media sites.

Mr Currer told the court: that despite the disparity in their ages: “She regarded him as her boyfriend and considered they were in a relationship together.”

The pair exchanged intimate photos, and a further liaison took place at her own home, unknown to her parents.

Her father later reported to police that his daughter was still in regular contact with Flintoff, who was again spoken to, but he made “no comment”, and was once more released.

But the girl finally gave a statement to police last August confirming sex had taken place.

Flintoff, now 29, of Walsall, denied eight counts of sexual activity with a child, but changed his pleas a week before trial.

Jonathan Walker, mitigating, said despite earlier “minimising” his culpability, he is now remorseful, accepting blame.

Jailing him for six years, Judge Jonathan Carroll told Flintoff he exploited the girl and groomed her for his own sexual desires.

He made him subject to a 15-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order and lifetime registration as a sex offender.