A SEX offender from East Lancashire, on the run for five years, stole thousands of pounds from people who befriended him.

Joshua Karney, 30, served a four-month jail sentence after being found guilty of groping a 14-year-old boy while camping in Barnoldswick.

But when Karney was released from prison in 2003, he failed to report to a bail hostel in Blackburn and disappeared.

Police issued public appeals for his return, after he was dubbed a dangerous offender, and a digitally-enhanced picture was created, to show what he would look like five years older.

Karney was eventually tracked down to a pub in Brighton, in January 2008, where he was arrested and returned to Lancashire.

While Karney was at large he was befriended by Stephen Brown and his wife, who allowed him to stay at their home in Burscough, Blackburn magistrates heard this week.

However they returned home from work one day to find property worth £1,853 had gone, and so had Kearney, the court was told.

And in July 2006 Karney met Richard Farrand in Manchester.

He was allowed to stay at Mr Farrand’s address in Denton, Manchester, but only while he was there.

The first day he left Karney on his own he left with £4,451 worth of property which he sold to an antiques dealer he had been introduced to by Mr Farrand.

Karney, now a prisoner at HMP Altcourse in Liverpool, admitted failing to register as a sex offender in April 2003.

He also pleaded guilty to the theft offences, which took place in September 2005 and July 2006, and magistrates committed him for sentence to Preston Crown Court.

Scott Ainge, prosecuting, said Karney had been convicted in November 2002 of indecently assaulting a teenage boy.

Karney was one of 13 ‘on the run’ sex offenders who were being hunted by the national Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in 2007.