A MAN who befriended a schoolboy on an Internet chat room for teenagers has gone on trial accused of rape, taking explicit photographs and indecently assaulting the youngster.

Petrol pump attendant Michael Britton, 51, claimed he was a 19-year-old when the pair first made contact.

Mr Britton is alleged to have groomed the boy for sex by buying him a £2,500 motor scooter for his 16th birthday.

Ann Richardson, prosecuting, told Teesside Crown Court that the boy, who may have been driven by greed, went to several meetings with him at a hotel in Darlington.

Britton, who travelled 250 miles from his home in West Sussex, was arrested at the hotel when the boy's mother learned the truth.

He told police he was bisexual and claimed the boy made contact with him on the Internet.

Britton said he loaned the boy money for the scooter and travelled to Darlington with the balance, but claimed he had a crash on the way and there was no sexual activity.

At later meetings, he said he thought the boy was 16 and the teenager was the one who initiated sex at the Harewood Lodge Hotel in Grange Road.

Mr Britton of Bewbrush, Crawley, denies rape, two indecent assaults, and two offences of taking indecent photographs of a child last May and June.

The trial continues.