A sex offender has been jailed after he joined a notorious Exmouth paedophile in a plan to abuse a 14-year-old boy.

Benjamin Holt joined in group chats online with former theatre manager Gareth Weeks and the boy in which they discussed their perverted sexual fantasies.

Holt asked the boy to commit sexual acts on himself and was in the process of setting up a meeting at which they were to have sex but the intended victim realised that he was in danger and backed out.

Police found the messages after arresting 55-year-old Weeks in Exmouth for having sex with another 14-year-old who he met on the gay dating site Grindr.

He was jailed for 15 years in 2020.

Holt had also downloaded a video of a boy aged about nine having sex with a dog. Police found it on his phone alongside another clip of bestiality involving an adult woman.

He was already a registered sex offender, having previously been jailed for downloading images of boys when he was still in his teens.

His most recent conviction was for a similar offence in 2012.

Holt, aged 37, of Old Market Close, Exeter, admitted inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, making, by downloading, an indecent image of a child, and possession of extreme pornography.

He was jailed for three years and four months with a two year, eight month extended licence and put on the sex offenders’ register for life.

He was also banned from contact with children for 15 by a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

The judge told him: “This was not a fantasy, you meant this thing to happen.

“It was only the boy’s withdrawal from the group chat that thwarted your intention.

“You have a very strong sexual interest in young boys.

“You have spoken very openly in the probation report about your strong desire to meet and to try to abuse young children.”

Miss Emily Pitts, prosecuting, said Holt was identified as a result of a police inquiry into more serious offences of abuse that uncovered his group chats, in which he discussed having different sorts of sex with the boy.

The images were found when his devices were seized by police.

Miss Rachel Smith, defending, said Holt recognises he has a problem and wants help to address it.

She said that these offences arose out of meeting Gareth Weeks and said his influence was ‘catastrophic.

In the earlier case, Weeks, of Bassetts Gardens, Exmouth, admitted two counts of sexual activity with a child, meeting a child following grooming, inciting a child to sexual activity, arranging or facilitating a child sex offence, breach of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, and making, taking and distributing indecent images of children.

He was jailed for 15 years with a six year extended licence and certified as a dangerous offender by Judge Timothy Rose.

He had been a stage manager who worked with major showbiz stars at theatres all over Britain and boasted to friends about having known celebrities including Little Britain’s Matt Lucas and David Walliams.

He was jailed for child sex offences in 1993 and 2012 but was still able to join an amateur theatre in Devon as a volunteer. He was still helping to organise shows until his arrest.