AN ex-footballer from South Tyneside who tried to con children into sending him naked pictures over the internet has been put behind bars.
Craig Nelson once represented Middlesbrough and scored against Manchester United’s juniors at Old Trafford.
He was a trainee teacher and already the subject of a suspended prison sentence after claiming to be 15-year-old bisexual “Jessie J”, when he set up a new fake internet profile in a bid to view illegal pictures of children.
Just months after being given the chance to keep his freedom, the 32-year-old set up a profile on Tagged.com calling himself 15-year-old “Laura”.
The married father, who is originally from South Shields and whose previous clubs include Northern League outfit Jarrow Roofing, then tried to convince a 12-year-old user to send him indecent photographs of herself.
He was caught when the messages were reported to the police.
The 12-year-old schoolgirl he contacted in Sunderland has never been traced.
When detectives checked his mobile phone they found he had deleted 94 internet searches, which were banned by the terms of the Sexual Offences Prevention Order he was given, along with the suspended prison sentence in July 2012.
The fake Tagged.com profile was found when police searched his computer at his wife’s home last January.
Nelson admitted two breaches of the Sexual Offences Prevention Order and was jailed for two years at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday.
Mr Recorder Camp, said: “Those who refuse to follow court orders need to be discouraged. That order was imposed specifically to protect young girls.
“There needs to be a prison sentence of sufficient length to deter you and others like you.”
Nelson was also ordered to sign the sex offenders register for 10 years.
The court heard Nelson had otherwise done well on the community programme he was given and his hopes of a reconciliation with his wife have now been completely dashed.
Nelson, who once worked as a community safety officer for the fire service, told probation staff he was “extremely sorry” for his actions, which he considered a “lapse” in his rehabilitation.
In 2012, the court heard Nelson, now of West Cornforth, County Durham, used bogus identities, including “Jessie J”, to try to persuade his virtual “friends” across Wearside to send him naked photographs of themselves. In exchange, he sent them explicit pictures of a teenage girl, who he claimed to be.
When one girl agreed to his indecent request, but refused to keep posing for pictures to him, Nelson threatened he would post the photos he had of her on to the internet.
When the frightened youngster informed her mother of her plight the police became involved, and the full scale of Nelson’s deception was exposed.
The court heard that, between 2009 and 2011, Nelson had targeted girls and boys, who all lived on Wearside, in similar ways.