BBC presenter avoids jail for false AIDS killing claim

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A British court handed a veteran broadcaster a suspended 90-day jail sentence Tuesday for wasting police time after he falsely claimed in a TV documentary that he killed an ex-lover who had AIDS.

BBC presenter Ray Gosling was arrested for murder in February after making the on-screen confession, which stirred up a media storm at a time when Britain was locked in an intense debate over assisted suicide.

But on Friday Gosling, 71, pleaded guilty at Nottingham magistrates court in central England to wasting police time after admitting that he had made up the story.

"As cases of wasteful employment of police time go, this is as bad a case of its type as I have seen," judge John Stobart said as he sentenced Gosling, describing the hoax as a "cruel fabrication."

The case took up 1,800 hours of police time and cost more than 45,000 pounds (54,000 euros, 69,000 dollars), the court heard.

Gosling had faced a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

He admitted as he arrived at the court that he had not even been in the country when his unnamed lover died, but said he had a pact to kill the man which he would have fulfilled if he could.

"I did it because I felt for the people I had talked to who had similar pacts, some fulfilled and some perhaps unfulfilled," he said.

The presenter said in the documentary that he had smothered the man as he lay seriously ill in hospital "in the early period of AIDS" -- likely to be the 1980s.

"In a hospital one hot afternoon, the doctor said, 'There's nothing we can do', and he was in terrible, terrible pain," he told viewers. "I said to the doctor, 'Leave me just for a bit' and he went away.

"I picked up the pillow and smothered him until he was dead."

Helping people with terminal illnesses to commit suicide is a hotly disputed topic in Britain, where it remains illegal but is rarely prosecuted.

The issue has been brought into sharp focus by a string of high-profile cases. These included two cases of mothers who killed their seriously ill children, one of whom was jailed and another who was not.

© 2010 AFP

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