A paedophile teacher found with 14,500 sick images of children told police he was looking at them for research purposes – so he could get them taken down from the Internet.

But science master Melvyn Carter, who taught at East Sussex County Council-run Heathfield Community College at the time of his arrest in August 2011, eventually admitted this was a lie.

He confessed he had been looking at such images for “several years”

while continuing to work as a teacher.

Carter has now been jailed for 15 months.

The 69-year-old left the school, in Cade Street, Heathfield, in November 2011, five months after he was initially arrested.

Pupils at the school yesterday spoke of their shock.

One former student,who asked not to be named, called Carter “sick”.

Another student added: “I can’t believe it.”

Heathfield head teacher Alan Powell said: “Melvyn Carter previously worked at the college as a cover supervisor and, before that, as a teacher.

“As soon as we were made aware of these allegations we took immediate action.

“He was dismissed from his post in November 2011 following an internal personnel investigation and we referred the case to the Independent Safeguarding Authority.

“None of the offences he was charged with in any way relate to the school or to any pupils from the school. Nor had any previous concerns of this nature been raised about him.”

A Sussex Police spokeswoman said: “Carter was a teacher at Heathfield Community School when he was arrested in August 2011 but he resigned shortly afterwards.

“There was no evidence of any link between the school and his offending, which was carried out on his home computer.”

At Lewes Crown Court Carter, of Malvern Way, Hastings, was also served with a ten-year sexual offence prevention order severely restricting his access to children and computers and will have to register as a sex offender on his release from prison.