'Fantasist' Ray Gosling is spared jail after lying about killing lover

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Humiliated and branded a fantasist, the BBC presenter Ray Gosling was spared jail yesterday after admitting he had lied about killing his terminally ill lover. The 71-year-old was given a 90-day suspended sentence having pleaded guilty to wasting police time in an investigation that took up 1,800 man hours and cost in excess of £45,000.

"The only real mitigation in this case is your somewhat begrudging plea of guilty and apologies you expressed to those who have been upset by revisiting unhappy memories – and, even more so, those learning of the true circumstances of the death of a loved one," said District Judge John Stobart. "Your plea and apologies cannot take away the deep distress you caused to people in creating and maintaining this cruel fabrication."

The veteran broadcaster and gay rights campaigner made the startling confession on a BBC East Midlands Inside Out programme in February, insisting he had smothered his lover Tony Judson with a pillow in hospital because he was dying of Aids and in "terrible, terrible pain". Despite having been out of the country at the time, he persisted with the lie in news interviews the next day and when arrested.

Gosling originally entered a plea of not guilty when he appeared at Nottingham Magistrates' Court but, after a short adjournment, the pensioner admitted the charge, saying: "Digby Johnson, my solicitor, tells me technically I am guilty.

"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."

The prosecutor, Simon Clements, told the court: "This false report was particularly serious and malicious and has caused substantial distress to the family of Tony Judson by raking up hugely sensitive matters that happened over 15 years ago."

"The police investigation exposed Ray Gosling for what he truly is," he continued. "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 realise that the man they thought was a worthy and principled journalist is, in fact, a sheer liar and a fantasist."

Gosling maintained his lies over three police interviews but, after spending a night in a cell, he admitted that he had made up the story.

He told police: "I think I might've got carried away by hearing other people's stories of how they were going to or had done their partners in.

"Everything else was true. He was my lover, he had Aids, he was dying. The pillow bit – I might've got carried away. We did have an agreement, whether I'd have done it or not I don't know."

This U-turn led to a lengthy investigation, involving 32 police and support staff, to ascertain whether he was lying to avoid prosecution or had made up the tale in the first place.

Speaking as he arrived at court, Gosling denied he was attention-seeking: "I was not even in the country when he died, but I would have done it. I am sorry for any distress I have caused."

In court, his solicitor, Mr Johnson, said the "fantasy" was something that had "grown" with Gosling over the years and he was "not man enough and not strong enough to say 'stop'. He would just love to salvage something of his career and re-establish his credibility which has been shattered."

The pensioner was ordered to pay £200 towards court costs at a rate of £5 a week and will receive help from the probation service.

Detective Chief Inspector Kate Meynell, who led the investigation, said: "This case should serve as a warning that we will not hesitate to prosecute anyone who makes allegations that are proven to be untrue."