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Hampstead charities boosted by Sachsgate cash

PUBLISHED: 12:36 12 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:32 07 September 2010

Andrew Sachs

Andrew Sachs

THE MARIE Curie Hospice in Hampstead has emerged as the shock benefactor of a prank phone call made to actor Andrew Sachs by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. The affair, dubbed Sachsgate, stunned the nation in October last year when the comedians left an

THE MARIE Curie Hospice in Hampstead has emerged as the shock benefactor of a prank phone call made to actor Andrew Sachs by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.

The affair, dubbed Sachsgate, stunned the nation in October last year when the comedians left an obscene message on the 79-year-old Fawlty Towers actor's answer machine about his granddaughter Georgina Baillie.

Mr Ross, who lives in Hampstead Garden Suburb, was suspended by the BBC over the incident and Mr Brand resigned from his radio show.

On Tuesday at the launch of the refurbished Hampstead Hospice, Mr Sachs revealed his wife Melody had accepted £15,000 from a national newspaper to speak about the affair - and they donated the lot to two Hampstead charities. The other was cash-strapped St Stephen's Church in Hampstead.

"That all hit us very hard as a family this last year," Mr Sachs, pictured right, said. "Although it's done me no harm for professional reasons. The Daily Mail offered my wife £10,000 to talk about it. She told them she would do it for £15,000 and they agreed. So £10,000 went towards the hospice and the rest went towards St Stephen's Church in Hampstead."

Mr Sachs said he has been an ardent supporter of the hospice since a dear friend of his passed away there a couple of years ago.

He said: "I was very close to her and she to me. She came here to die. I have seen nothing but good things at the hospice."

Also at the star-studded reception at the hospice on Tuesday were comedian Jon Culshaw and media mogul (and drummer) Richard Desmond, whose band the RD Crusaders raised £1million for the refurbishment project, called Project Butterfly.

The hospice's wards have been converted into 26 single en suite rooms with patient-controlled lighting, heating, television and internet access.

Mr Desmond said: "This is absolutely fantastic. The work that the Marie Curie people do is among the best in the world. It's great to see the hospice completed and it's nice to see where the money goes."

Mr Culshaw said: "There's an overwhelming sense of calm, of being looked after here - nothing like a grey hospital feel.

"Some of my friends have been here over the years and for the last two or three I have been doing fundraising activities to support the hospice."

Community fundraiser Liz Allen said: "We were delighted to receive the donation from Mr Sachs and his wife. These donations make an enormous difference to Marie Curie Hospice, Hampstead."

Andrea Taylor, wife of St Stephen's director Michael, said: "We know Andrew very well and it was an extraordinarily generous and kind donation."

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Sachsgate affair and Hampstead village, Russell Brand has set tongues wagging by putting his Victorian bachelor pad on the market for £2.5million.

It is unclear if the lothario is planning to leave Hampstead, which he has called home for nearly three years. And locals are divided over the news.

Liberal Democrat councillor Linda Chung said: "I think he certainly made his mistakes, but I think he's a nice character. I think his stage persona is different to his real character. He's done charity events and he did offer to help with the Christmas events in the village last year but unfortunately he had to be somewhere else. I hope he's happy wherever he goes."

Chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society Tony Hillier was nonplussed by the news, however. He said: "Who is he? I'm indifferent - it doesn't matter whether he stays in Hampstead or not.

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