An academic leading an "isolated life" in County Durham showed a “dysfunctional” interest in a vulnerable 13-year-old girl, a court heard.

Sitikantha Mohanty started to follow the girl, befriended her and offered to play hide and seek with her in a park.

He then went on to send her more than 1,000 messages, despite having established her age at an early stage.

Durham Crown Court heard that the business administration post-graduate student at the city’s university invited the girl for tea to his house and began asking her to send images of herself to him, having flattered her, calling her, “beautiful and charming”.

Read more: Academic facing prison after admitting grooming girl, 13

Lewis Kerr, prosecuting, said later examination of the defendant’s messages showed that he instigated the possibility of them meeting and he told her how attractive she was and said what a “well-balanced figure” she had.

Mohanty told the girl he would be dreaming of her and, even though he was more than three-times her age, he said he could be her, “adult boyfriend”.

The Northern Echo: Sitikantha Mohanty jailed at crown court iin Durham where he had studied for a Masters degree

The girl was said to have barely responded to his messaging other than to turn down his requests, telling him he was, “scary and creepy.”

In a further message he told her he had no clothes on and she should go to his home, “to see him in that way.”

The court heard a concerned neighbour who had seen Mohanty following the girl, reported it to police while the girl’s older sibling told their mother about the messages, which included an invite to the 13-year-old to join the defendant at a restaurant.

When interviewed the defendant denied having committed any offence, but he accepted having sent photos of himself to the girl, asking for one in return.

But he claimed he had no sexual intentions whatsoever.

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Mr Kerr said full examination of the messages revealed he had deleted many, himself, from the victim’s phone.

Fifty-year-old Mohanty, formerly of South Street, Spennymoor, admitted a charge of arranging to meet a child following grooming days before he was due to stand trial, having previously denied the offence.

A victim statement from the girl’s mother outlined the effect his offending had on her daughter, stating it had “ruined her life” and she had lost all trust in men.

The court heard that the girl has suffered flashbacks and was frightened to go to sleep in case the defendant was there, while she was now on anti-depressants having suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.

Tony Davis, for the defendant, said he was a man of now 50 who was previously without convictions.

“He’s been residing in the UK on a post-student visa.

“He’s educated to a very high standard, both in India and, of course, over three to four years in this country, at a prestigious university on an arduous post-graduate degree.

“He has, since he’s been in the UK, lived an isolated existence.

“His wife has now travelled to the UK, having previously remained in India in a caring role for her elderly parents and his own parents have recently deceased, which was a particularly difficult period for him.”

Mr Davis said it was a not a case of the defendant “targeting” the victim initially, but he accepted it became very “dysfunctional” on the defendant’s behalf.

“He’s been at a loss to explain it to us (his defence lawyers) throughout the court process.

“There was an inability to accept and comprehend what he had done was highly dysfunctional.

“His wife is equally as shocked as anybody else as to what he has done but is at pains to point out that her husband is largely a gregarious individual who would speak to anyone.”

Mr Davis said the fact that the defendant became “isolated” in the community and began communicating with children, “is a terrible mistake”, on his part.

“She tried to encourage him to stop and inform their parents.

“He did not, and that was a grave error on his behalf.”

But Mr Davis said that the defendant now apologises to the girl’s parents for the distress he has caused their daughter.

As a result of the offending, the defendant, who now works as an IT specialist for a Government agency, moved away from the area and is considered, “a low risk” of re-offending.

Judge Jo Kidd described his offending, however, as, “gradual, sophisticated grooming of a particularly vulnerable girl.”

She told Mohanty: “You were clearly persistent in what you were doing.

“You deleted messages from her phone to try to protect yourself from your behaviour being discovered.”

Judge Kid said the defendant’s offending has had, “a severe impact” on the victim, to the extent where she now needs counselling.

Imposing a 20-month prison sentence, Judge Kidd said she could not suspended it, in the circumstances.

Read next:

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She made the defendant subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and registration as a sex offender, both for ten years.

A restraining order relating to the victim will also run for ten years.

The judge added that it would be for the Home Office to decide what happens when the defendant is released from prison and whether or not he will be subject to deportation.