Adam Barker, 44, fled to Hungary, where he lived an "isolated and lonely" existence, cutting himself off from loved ones, the court was told.
Barker was jailed yesterday for a year for the possession of 1,675 indecent images and videos of children on his computer, 92 of which were categorised at the second worst level, which includes child rape. Most involved young boys. He pleaded guilty to 20 offences.
He was told that he had caused his family "unquantifiable distress" by skipping bail after he was arrested in Operation Ore, Britain's biggest paedophile investigation, in 2003.
At the time of his disappearance, in 2004, he sent a typed note to his parents reading: "Dear Mummy and Daddy. Some time ago the police came to my house looking for images of under-age children on my computer. I was arrested.
"I must apologise for being foolish and thank you for being great parents. Rather than wait and find out what will happen, I will go away. You must understand that I won't be able to contact you for quite some time."
His father died in 2005, aged 76, having never spoken publicly about the disappearance of his youngest son. Police waited outside his memorial service, hoping Barker would attend.
He also missed the funeral of his mother Joy, who died aged 78 last year. On his release from jail, Barker is in line to inherit about £2 million.
He returned to Britain from Budapest in July when he ran out of funds and handed himself in to police, Isleworth Crown Court in west London heard.
Judge Rosa Dean told him: "This wasn't a one-off offending, you accessed [child pornography] over a period of many months."
Simon Ray, defending, told the court that Barker "unequivocally" accepted his wrongdoing and that he needed help.
He had lived alone in Budapest without help from his family and had not allowed himself a private internet connection, Mr Ray said. "It was an isolated and lonely existence," he added.
But Judge Dean said: "No one will know what he was up to."
Mr Ray said that Barker had been unaware of his parents' death, and was "profoundly sorry" for the distress he had caused his family. Barker went to Harrow School and had minor roles in television dramas including Monarch of the Glen.
He was placed on the sex offenders register for 10 years and banned from working with children.