A BBC presenter was spared jail today after admitting he made up claims he killed a former lover who was dying of Aids.
Ray Gosling, 71, was given a 90-day suspended prison sentence at Nottingham Magistrates' Court after pleading guilty to wasting police time.
The veteran broadcaster and gay rights campaigner claimed during a BBC East Midlands Inside Out programme aired in February that he smothered Tony Judson as he lay dying in hospital.
He repeated the claims in interviews after the programme was aired, but later finally admitted he made the story up.
His fabrication, dubbed a "tissue of lies" by prosecutor Simon Clements, wasted around 1,800 hours of police time, costing more than £45,000, the court heard.
It also emerged today that BBC producers knew about Gosling's "confession" months before the programme was broadcast - after he first told them during a "boozy lunch" in October 2009.
Today, the BBC apologised to viewers for broadcasting the claim.
A spokesman said: "In light of the plea given in court today, we regret that we broadcast a claim by Ray Gosling which has effectively been withdrawn by him.
"We apologise to viewers and to those most closely involved for any distress this may have caused."
Gosling was dubbed a "fantasist" today by Mr Clements, who told the court how in the programme on death and dying, aired on February 15, the broadcaster described smothering his lover.
His claims prompted a media storm and Gosling repeated the tale in interviews the following day, sparking a police inquiry.
He was arrested on suspicion of murder and interviewed five times over two days, repeating the claims and giving details about the alleged mercy killing.
But in the fourth interview, Gosling admitted he was not present at the death and had got "carried away" in his confession.
It emerged he told a friend a similar story 10 years previously so, despite identifying his lover to police and maintaining he had not killed him, officers had to continue a probe.
The investigation involved 32 police and support staff and statements from Mr Judson's family - the latter's brother angrily branding Gosling a "fantasist" to police.
After a six-month inquiry, Gosling was charged with wasting police time by repeating the claim in an interview with Bill Turnbull on BBC's breakfast show on February 16.
Mr Clements said the presenter had ample opportunity to pull the "confession" from the programme and was even asked a few days before if he was happy for it to be included.
The prosecutor said: "The police investigation exposed Ray Gosling for what he truly is.
"He did not do this for the worthy and principled reasons he initially claimed.
"He put himself forward on national television as someone empathising with people facing the death of a loved relative: he put himself forward as a man of the people.
"He told the police that many people had come forward and thanked him for what he had done.
"They will now come to realise that the man they thought was a worthy and principled journalist is, in fact, a sheer liar and a fantasist."
District Judge John Stobart today told Gosling: "As cases of wasteful employment of police time go, this is as bad a case of its type as I have seen.
"The only real mitigation in this case is that your somewhat begrudging plea of guilty and apologies you expressed to those who have been touched and upset by revisiting unhappy memories and, even more so, those learning of the true circumstances of the death of a loved one.
"Your plea and apologies cannot take away the deep distress you voluntarily caused to the people in the process of creating and maintaining this cruel fabrication."
He ordered the pensioner to pay £200 towards court costs at £5 a week.
Gosling, who wore jeans and a suit jacket and carried a plastic carrier bag, apologised as he made his guilty plea today.
He said: "I just want to say, very clearly and very strongly, sorry to my lover's family and for the distress I have caused them and sorry that apparently I have wasted police time."
Before the hearing, he told reporters "the tenses were wrong" in the documentary, and he meant he "would have" killed his lover.
He said: "We had a pact. It did happen, he died of Aids, his mother was with him and I am sorry for any distress I have caused.
"On day two (of police interviews) I started to piece together and tell the police the truth."
His solicitor Digby Johnson told the court that Gosling's "fantasy" was something that had "grown" with him over the years.
"We know that it is not true but we also know it was something he did not just decide on that day.
"For some reason, it's something that he has grown with for over a decade.
"He voiced the fantasy that he had been harbouring in his own life for that length of time."
After the case, Mr Clements, head of the CPS Special Crime Division, said other than a retracted confession, there was no evidence to suggest Mr Gosling killed anyone.
Detective Chief Inspector Kate Meynell, from Nottinghamshire Police, said: "Wasting £45,000 on a false claim at a time when the public sector is facing severe budget cuts is something that we can ill afford to do."Reuse content