A veteran British TV reporter has claimed on the air that he used a pillow to smother a lover who was dying of AIDS, adding a startling contribution to the country's debate on mercy killing.
The Nottinghamshire Police force said it would investigate Ray Gosling's claim, made in a television documentary and repeated in media interviews Tuesday.
"I killed someone once. ... He was a young chap. He'd been my lover and he got AIDS," Gosling, 70, told a BBC television program. "Maybe this is the time to share a secret that I have kept for quite a long time."
Gosling's comments are certain to fuel a debate already under way in Britain about whether the country should update its 1961 assisted suicide law and how to humanely treat terminally ill patients who want to end their lives.
Gosling is not nationally famous in Britain, but he was a veteran of news programs in northern and central England and has made a series of acclaimed documentaries about old age.
Under British law, assisting a suicide is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, but courts have become reluctant to convict people who help loved ones end their lives.
Last year, a woman with multiple sclerosis sued to force government prosecutors to explain under what circumstances they would press charges against those who help others kill themselves.
In September, the government unveiled new guidelines that could decriminalize many forms of assisted suicide, saying most people who help severely disabled or terminally ill close friends or family kill themselves aren't likely to face charges. But it is unclear whether such guidelines would apply to this case.
According to Gosling, he and the unidentified man had made a pact on what to do should the pain of the AIDS victim become intolerable and nothing more could be done. He said he smothered the man in his hospital bed to spare his suffering.
"He was in terrible, terrible pain. 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," he said.
Gosling did not say where or when the incident took place. He said he believed he had made the right decision and had no regrets.
"When you love someone, it is difficult to see them suffer," he said in the newsmagazine program "Inside Out," which was broadcast Monday.
He later said in an interview, also on the BBC: "He would have been so grateful for what I did."
The BBC said it would cooperate fully with a police investigation.
Britain has recently seen several high-profile cases of mothers killing their seriously ill children.
Last month, news that a mother who helped her seriously ill daughter to die was cleared of charges made front page headlines in Britain's national newspapers.
Kay Gilderdale, 55, was prosecuted for attempted murder after she gave her daughter Lynn a cocktail of drugs to end her life in December 2008. Gilderdale, who had admitted to assisting her daughter's suicide, was cleared by a jury.
The judge in that case criticized prosecutors for pursuing the charge, saying it wasn't in the public interest.
Gilderdale's case contrasted with that of Frances Inglis, 57, who was found guilty of murder for injecting her brain-damaged son with a lethal dose of heroin. Inglis had admitted to causing her son's death but insisted that she was acting out of compassion.