A Lancashire paedophile drove almost 300 miles to have sex with a 14-year-old girl, only to find out that she was a police officer deliberately luring him to his arrest, a court heard.
George Wilkinson, 58, who is married with children, travelled from his home in Fleetwood to Exeter in Devon after grooming a girl he knew as "Amy" for almost nine months.
During that time he also performed an indecent act as "she" watched via a webcam.
But after the 282-mile drive he was arrested in a sting operation by police officers at Exeter's St David's Station when he arrived to meet the girl and take her for sex at a nearby Premier Inn hotel, Exeter Crown Court heard yesterday.
The court heard that "Amy" had all along been a Devon and Cornwall Police detective who joined a children's chat site deliberately to catch paedophiles.
Wilkinson, a former oil rig worker, was jailed for 26 months for attempting to meet a girl aged under 16 after sexually grooming her and attempting to force a girl aged under 16 to watch a sexual act.
Howard Phillips, prosecuting, said that Wilkinson, of Calder Avenue, Fleetwood, used his son's email address to register on the World's Biggest Chat website.
He made contact with what he believed was Amy, a 14-year-old schoolgirl from Plymouth, Devon.
The barrister said "the conversations quickly became sexual" until in January this year he performed a sex act while filming himself on his webcam.
He continued to groom her for months afterwards and then made a move to take things a step further.
"He made arrangements to meet her in the Premier Inn close to the Exeter station," Mr Phillips said.
"It was quite clear what he had in mind. He made these arrangements and on the day in question (July 1) he decided to travel down and meet her."
After he was arrested, alcohol and other items were found in his possession that would ease his abuse of the schoolgirl, had she been real.
Kelly Scrivener, defending Wilkinson, said her client knew what he had done was wrong and he had admitted it from the moment he was arrested.
He was, she said, "married and hardworking" until his arrest, which had seen him lose his job and his wife, who is divorcing him.
His family, she said, had been "astonished" when police told them of his arrest.
"He knows there is behaviour that needs to be tackled," she said.
"He is the type of man who wants to know why he took a fantasy far too far so that it passed the boundary into criminal behaviour."
Judge Philip Wassall, sentencing Wilkinson, said the police officers' actions had prevented a real young girl becoming a possible victim of his behaviour.
"This is a serious case of grooming because it went on for so long," Judge Wassall said.
"The fact that you went so far as to book a hotel room to take this girl to and took alcohol with which to loosen her inhibitions indicates to me the extent of the activities to which you were planning to subject her."
Wilkinson was jailed for 20 months for attempting to meet a girl aged under 16 after sexually grooming her and six months for attempting to force a girl aged under 16 to watch a sexual act.
He was also placed on the sex offenders register for 10 years, banned from working with children, and barred from surfing the internet unless monitored by the police for 12 years.
Wilkinson admitted both charges when he appeared at Exeter Magistrates Court on July 4 this year.