A man in his mid-20s sent increasingly sexualised messages to a 12-year-old girl, at a time when he was heavily using cocaine, a court heard.

Luke Ovington was said to have formed, “an unnatural attraction” to the girl, who was confused and disturbed by the unwanted attention, believing the messages were from someone only a little older than herself.

But Durham Crown Court was told that they varied from being friendly to “weird”, at one stage begging her to send him intimate images of herself.

Jonathan Walker, prosecuting, said having initially ignored the requests she relented and sent him pictures of herself wearing shorts and another in front of a mirror, disguising her face.

Read more: Durham University academic, since dismissed, tried to meet boy for sex

But Ovington followed by saying he wanted her to be his “girl” and telling her he wanted to have sex with her and go on long drives with her.

Mr Walker said Ovington’s activities came to light after the girl’s phone was confiscated and, while on charge, her mother noticed a number of incoming notifications.

On examination of the phone, the shocked mother became aware of the messages, prompting her to interact with the defendant indicating her daughter’s age.

He was traced and arrested, but when questioned gave no reply in an interview.

The 26-year-old defendant, of Linden Place, Newton Aycliffe, did go on to admit a charge of engaging in sexual communication with a child at his first appearance at the crown court, last month.

On his return for the sentencing hearing today (Friday, July 14), the court read the impact statement of the victim, who said she was afraid to go out of her home at one stage, fearing the mystery messenger may know where she lived.

She said she was shocked to discover how old he was and said she would not have responded at all had she been aware of the age differential.

The court heard she has since been diagnosed with an eating disorder down to the “worry and stress” of the situation.

She added that she is now more careful when using social media.

Read more: 'Socially immature' student in Durham jailed for stalking

Tony Davis, in mitigation, said the defendant, “has his own issues”, for which a medical report said could be managed in the community, by way of a drug rehabilitation requirement.

“The reality is that this has been an incredibly difficult period for him, acknowledging what he has done.”

Asked by Judge James Adkin about the defendant’s admission of heavy and costly cocaine use, Mr Davis told the court: “Things have moved on with the support of his mother.”

Judge Adkin told Ovington his “graphic messages” were, “truly horrible”.

“No 12-year-old girl should have to receive messages like that from a grown man.

“She was scared when she realised it was an adult.

“You, clearly, formed an unnatural attraction to a little child like this.

“Your disinhibition in sending these messages may be down to your cocaine abuse.”

Passing sentence, Judge Adkin told the defendant: “Part of me thinks messaging 12-year-olds asking for sex should lead to immediate imprisonment.

“I have to assess the risk you present, and, would you respond to community rehabilitation?

“My judgement is that you are just manageable in the community.”

He passed a ten-month prison sentence suspended for two years, during the first year of which he must take part in 40 rehabilitation activity days working with the Probation Service.

Read next:

Darlington pervert sent sick image to two 'young girls'

Man, 20, jailed over sexual meeting with girl in County Durham

County Durham man jailed for sharing indecent images of children

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Ovington must also observe a five-month electronically-monitored 7pm to 7am home curfew

Judge Adkin warned him: “If I see you again for messaging children or if you don’t abide by the curfew or any terms of the order, you will go to prison.”

The judge also made Ovington subject of restrictions under a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and notification requirements, as a sex offender, both for ten years.