A former Coronation Street director from Harrogate, accused of grooming a police officer posing as a 13-year-old girl assumed he was speaking to an older woman as part of an erotic fantasy online, a court heard.
Timothy Dowd, 66, claimed it was common for users on Lycos Chat to play out "the younger girl and older man role play" which is what he suspected when contacting Chantelle13Cymru.
The father-of-two told a court he believed the 13 in the profile name may mean the user wanted to play the role of a 13-year-old girl.
Giving evidence today (Weds), he denied having a sexual interest in children and claimed not to have received any complaints about his conduct working with youngsters in a career of more than 30 years.
Dowd had been a member on the chatroom for three years and ten months when he contacted the profile which had been set up by an undercover police officer.
He asked for her mobile number before sending a series of explicit messages encouraging her to send him photos of her breasts and have phone sex, a court heard.
Dowd, from Harrogate, North Yorks., lost his job in January last year after being employed by ITV as a freelance TV director for more than 30 years, a jury was told.
A court heard he had directed 200 episodes of Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Heartbeat, as well as Runaway Bay and the Famous Five.
Dowd claimed he went into the chatroom to engage in "erotic conversation" with women following moments of loneliness in his long-term marriage, a court heard.
He said: "You look out for people to have a certain topic in their screen name which can cover all sorts of fantasies.
"I like that they were getting aroused by talking to me about it.
"It's common that some women who enter the site have a fantasy about the younger girl and older man.
"I didn't know what the 13 meant, it could have applied to anything.
"I was under the impression I had contacted someone who had spent considerable time creating their back story.
"I was assuming that he or she would be wanting to indulge in the old man and younger girl role play."
Dowd has pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempting to cause a girl aged 13 to engage in sexual activity.
He also denies one count of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child between January 12 and 15 last year.
Dowd claimed he only contacted six women in total since joining the Lycos Chat site after setting up a profile under OllieReed - named after the famous actor.
Giving evidence, he said: "I happened to be thinking of a lunch with him at the time I was asked to create a screen name.
"I used to go in there to find adult women who were interested in sharing some certain conversations with me.
"There were moments in my marriage where I felt quite lonely. I felt unloved. I used to go on this site to find women to talk to, to fill that void."
He allegedly contacted Chantelle13Cymru eight days after the profile was set up by an undercover officer, only known as Alex.
Giving evidence today (Weds), the police officer said few users had profile names which would suggest sexual desires but did come across "dom seeking sub", a court heard.
She also told a court it was very rare for there to be overtly sexual men on the "generalised" chatroom site.
The undercover officer signed up to the chatroom which it's thought could be accessed by children of any age despite the site's over 16 policy, a jury was told.
Her profile had been visited by 395 males and 35 females when Dowd first contacted her on January 12 last year, a court heard.
She said: "Given that I was purporting to be a 13-year-old I wanted it to be indicative of that age.
"I picked a genetic name and also gave the age of of 13 and a locality which is indicative of an area you say you are from. You need a pre-existing email address.
"Lycos Chat was a website identified by myself as being potentially popular with children."
She claimed to be a 5ft 2ins tall girl with blonde hair and green eyes born in Hereford, a court heard.
The undercover officer told Dowd she had moved to Wales after being taken into care because her mum "was a druggy", a court heard.
Opening the case yesterday, Prosecutor Rupert Doswell said a police officer, only referred to as Alex, who was undercover in an online capacity as part of an investigation into child sex offenders.
She created a false profile and declared herself to be aged 16 on her profile to comply with the site's rules.
A jury of eight men and four women were told were told how Dowd told her that her age "was not a problem" for him.
Dowd encouraged the decoy to send him photos of her breasts, have phone sex with him via WhatsApp and boasted he enjoyed wife swapping with his friend.
The intimate conversations are said to have continued until January 15, at which point Dowd started to suspect, according to prosecutors, that he was the subject of an undercover sting.
The court heard how he once again asked the "girl" about her age, before demanding she send a picture of herself in order to clarify her identity.
Mr Doswell said that, on January 19, officers attended a property in East Keswick, Leeds, where Dowd's phone was seized and he was arrested.
The trial, which is expected to last two days, continues.