A former music teacher at an Edgware school has become the first person in the UK to be jailed for sex tourism, after he was caught trying to groom young Sri Lankan boys over the internet.

Shocked former pupils have described how Brian Parnell, 66, was popular when he taught during the 1970s and 80s at Orange Hill Junior School in Hamonde Close.

But at Wood Green Crown Court, Parnell, from Hornsey, was convicted of sex tourism offences after an operation involving Sri Lankan child protection officers and the Metropolitan Police paedophile squad.

In October 2002, Parnell posted a graphic advert on the internet called Gay Teens of Sri Lanka', appealing for a young Sri Lankan boy to contact him. He then left on a tour of southern Asia with an opera company.

Parnell's advert was spotted by the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) of Sri Lanka. One of its officers, posing as a 15-year-old boy, wrote back to Parnell, who replied within hours and sent a picture of himself involved in a sexual act.

The NCPA then confronted Parnell at a concert in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, but could not prosecute him under Sri Lankan law. Parnell is the first person to be convicted of sex tourism in the UK. He was jailed for two years on June 2.

One former pupil, who was at Orange Hill between 1975 and 1978, said: "It's shocking it just really hits home. I just remember being in his office aged 11. I just wonder how many others are out there.

"He was quite a respected teacher, that's the overriding memory of him. He made music fun and got me into it."

Other former pupils have even posted messages praising Parnell on the Friends Reunited web site.

A mother, whose children both went to the school, said: "Both my kids were shocked. I wonder if more people will come forward when they read about him."

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said there was no evidence Parnell had ever been involved in paedophile activity in the UK, but said they would like to hear from anyone with information about him.

Parnell was sentenced to two years for attempting to incite a male under the age of 16 to commit a serious sexual act, and one year, to run concurrently, for attempting to incite a male under the age of 16 to an act of gross indecency. He had denied both charges.

Orange Hill School merged with Moat Mount School to form Mill Hill County High School in 1984. A Mill Hill County High School spokeswoman said the school checked all new teachers with the Criminal Records Bureau.