An ageing sex offender is back behind bars after his disturbing conduct unsettled school children as well as female workers in a village’s retail establishments.

Colin Luke was made subject, indefinitely, of what was then termed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, after being jailed for four-and-a-half years for abducting and sexually assaulting a young girl in a park in Bowburn, near Durham, in 2014.

But he was back in custody just weeks after his release from prison following complaints about his behaviour toward children and women in Langley Park, in September and October last year.

Jonathan Harley, prosecuting, told Durham Crown Court that Luke had earlier been recalled to prison due to his behaviour and so only earned his freedom, subject of daily monitoring, on September 13.

The Northern Echo: Sex offender Colin Luke, jailed again at Durham Crown Court

Mr Harley said the terms of the order, now known as a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO), prohibited the defendant from having unsupervised contact with anyone aged under 16.

But, at 7.30am on October 17 last year Luke approached and spoke to a young teenage schoolgirl who was walking to a bus stop in Langley Park in her school uniform.

Mr Harley said Luke stopped and bent over to tie a shoelace before saying to the girl: “Hi pet. It’s cold, isn’t it?”

On her return later in the day after getting off the school bus at the stop, Luke was waiting and again said: “Hi”.

He began following her, watching her as he did so.

Mr Harley said the girl was so frightened on her return home that she locked the door and closed the curtains, before telling her brother of her concerns.

The following morning Luke was again present when she walked to the bus stop.

She was later to tell police that she found it strange that an old man should be talking to her, but she was also worried why he might be hanging around kids at a bus stop.

When arrested and interviewed Luke disclosed that over the previous few weeks, he had also approached a schoolboy at the bus stop and asked him for a pen to write poems.

He also admitted having spoken to a child at a shop in Langley Park and claimed he sometimes forgot that he was forbidden from speaking to children.

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Luke also admitted having harassed staff at a hair salon, in Langley Park, at one stage shouting in German at a young trainee.

He returned to the premises later and began talking about personal matters, claiming he had lost his house keys.

Luke also showed a member of staff a photograph of a 15-year-old girl and said he was hungry.

Having been asked to leave he returned later asking for a drink of water.

Mr Harley said the defendant was, again, asked to leave.

A staff member said they were left feeling uneasy and double-checked that the doors were locked.

The court was told Luke would also go into a grocery store in the village two or three times a day, often buying nothing, telling staff members they were “gorgeous”, as well as making other inappropriate comments.

He also banged on windows and made a nuisance of himself, leaving some customers “anxious” about going to the premises, with one warning her grandchildren not to go out on their own.

In his later interview, he admitted the offence and acknowledged his previous offending.

The 69-year-old defendant, of Wilson Street, Bishop Auckland, admitted three breaches of the SHPO plus two counts of harassment.

Mr Harley said some of the children approached by Luke had not been traced, but he said the breaches were, “determined and persistent”.

Duncan McReddie, in mitigation, said Luke was a single man who was “socially isolated” and in his mind, the offences were simply acts of showing friendship.

“He’s at pains to assert that in approaching the school girl he was denying anything sinister in his actions.”

Mr McReddie said one schoolgirl approached by Luke was with a parent at the time.

“He tried to establish contacts in the community and obviously others see his actions differently from how he sees them, but he accepts they were in breach of the order.

“While there was some distress to the school girl there is no record of ongoing harm.”

Judge Jo Kidd said there were, “significant and uncomfortable parallels in the way Luke approached these particular children.”

The judge said the breaches reflected a risk of “serious harm” posed by the defendant.

Mr McRedddie said: “It has to be said there are issues around his (the defendant’s) ability to be fully cognoscente of the nature of his actions.”

But Judge Kidd said the offences took place only weeks after his release from prison while subject to daily monitoring by his offender manager.

She told Luke, given the nature of his previous offending: “Despite that level of scrutiny and supervision you began to visit areas where children were congregating at a bus stop in the morning and afternoon, approaching children to interact with them.

“Your interest in children was obviously sexual, predatory and involved grooming and pre-meditation.”

Relating to all three breaches of the SHPO, she told Luke he could have had, “no doubt about the nature of the prohibitions placed upon your conduct.”

Judge Kidd also noted that the defendant’s progress while in prison, previously, had been hampered by his behaviour towards females working in that environment, leading to him being removed from a programme to address his sexual interest in children.

Imposing a 28-month prison sentence she added that there was, “every bit of evidence that you continue to pose a high risk to children.”

Judge Kidd also ordered that Luke should be prohibited from entering Langley Park for the next five years.

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Speaking after the case, Detective Constable Aimee Crawford, who led the police investigation, said: “Colin Luke is a highly dangerous individual who is rightly back in prison for his blatant disregard for the conditions imposed on him.

“We take the management of sex offenders extremely seriously and invest significant resources into doing everything we can to keep the public safe.

“Sexual Harm Prevention Orders are just one of the tools we can use to help keep people safe. These allow us to monitor offenders’ activity in the community and, where they fail to comply, we will return them to jail.”