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Sachs made on-air prank call in the 1980s

As the victim of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand's offensive answerphone messages, Andrew Sachs received almost as much sympathy as his persecutors did vitriol. But the Fawlty Towers star is not as innocent as first thought, it has emerged.

For he once made a prank on-air phone call himself, which spiralled so far out of control that the police had to be called.

In the 1980s, when his son, John, worked at the Swansea Sound radio station, Mr Sachs' help was enlisted for an April Fool's joke at the expense of an unsuspecting member of the public. Between them they convinced a listener she was speaking to a long-lost uncle in Sydney, Australia. In fact it was Mr Sachs in the next-door studio.

Eventually he told the victim: "While you're on, darling, I had to leave the country a bit quick, you see, because we had a little trouble with the police. Because I had to leave quick, I had to leave some jewellery behind. What I did with it was, erm, you know the park in the centre of town. There's a big tree there just by the lake... and I put it in there."

"Nice joke," Mr Sachs later revealed. "But then we had a call from the police. The whole town had gone down to the park and torn [it] up." Mr Sachs admitted to the prank in an old interview on Gay Byrne's Irish talk show The Late Late Show, part of a "greatest hits" DVD.