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Tuesday, 23 May, 2000, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
Hoax trauma of Ab Fab star's family
Julia Sawalha
Julia Sawalha's parents were told she had been hurt
Two hotel workers who found a mobile phone belonging to actress Julia Sawalha rang her father and said she had been "seriously injured" in a car crash, a court heard.

The Absolutely Fabulous star's parents were "shocked and traumatised" by the prank played by the pair, who posed as police.

Cardiff Magistrates' Court was told that Ms Sawalha - famous for her role as Saffy - realised that her phone had disappeared after a night out in Cardiff.

Prosecutor Martyn Thomas told the court the 31-year-old actress had been staying at the Jury's Hotel in Cardiff city centre where the defendants Jamie Rees, 25, of Ely, Cardiff, and Gethyn Abraham, 21, of Caerphilly, worked in October last year.



I keep playing the scenario over in my head and can't understand why we did it.

Defendant Gethyn Abraham

Mr Thomas told the magistrates that Rees had found the phone in the grounds of the hotel the morning after Ms Sawalha had realised it had gone missing.

Rees told Abraham about it and they proceeded to phone Ms Sawalha's parents - whose number was stored on the telephone - and pretended to be policemen.

They told them that their daughter had been "seriously injured in an accident in the Cardiff area".

'Panicked'

Mr Thomas added that Ms Sawalha's parents were very distressed because they knew that she was in Cardiff and her father Nadim, who is also an actor, suffered from diabetes.

They phoned her mobile back immediately but the pair answered and continued the pretence of being policemen.


Defendant Jamie Rees
Jamie Rees leaving court

Eventually they panicked after phone calls from the couple and disposed of the phone in a nearby bin.

In court, Abraham pleaded guilty to making a false statement under the Malicious Communications Act.

He was given a 12-month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay costs of 30.

Rees, pleaded guilty to making a false statement under the Malicious Communications Act and guilty to a charge of theft of a mobile phone.

'Moment of madness'

He was given an 18-month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay costs of 30.

After the case Rees said their actions had been done in a "moment of madness".

He said: "I am really sorry about what happened. I think we have got off quite lightly. We should have been punished more."

Abraham said: "I keep playing the scenario over in my head and can't understand why we did it."

Both lost their jobs at the hotel immediately after the incident came to light.

Ms Sawalha and her family were not in court to hear the proceedings.

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08 May 00 | Entertainment
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