Yesterday, in an admirable attempt to provide some actual content over the silly season, Neil Mitchell stand-in Nick McCallum interviewed last-man-hanged Ronald Ryan’s fellow escapee Peter John Walker in the Melbourne 3AW studios (listen here and here.) In a scoop, Walker, who’d declined to be interviewed ever since his release, told McCallum that Ryan was innocent. But turns out McCallum was hung out to dry — half an hour ago McCallum confessed on air that Walker was a fake.

Go to Google News and you’ll see the 3AW scoop (subsequently picked up by News Limited) that made its way into every paper around the country:

          Ronald Ryan not guilty, accomplice says

Walker, who killed tow truck driver Arthur James Henderson while he and Ryan were on the run, denied he or Ryan killed Mr Hodson.

“We did not shoot the bloke. We could not have bloody well shot him,” he said in an interview with Southern Cross Broadcasting, republished in News Limited newspapers.

“I know the (stolen) gun had jammed because I bloody well jammed it.

“If anyone deserved to hang, it was me because I actually did deliberately commit an act (Mr Henderson’s murder).”

Walker said he believed a prison guard had privately confessed to accidentally shooting Mr Hodson during the confusion of the break-out.

But a very sheepish Nick McCallum has been forced to confess on air that he’d been duped. The real Peter Walker rang in to tell them so.

“There is no doubt, sadly, we were duped yesterday and for that I feel sick in the stomach too,” said McCallum. “I take full responsibility for it. I apologise for it.” (listen here ).

McCallum explained that the program was contacted last week by a man who claimed to be Peter John Walker. He says the man was spoken to off-air and eventually agreed to appear on air. McCallum also explained that the Justice Department and the police vouched for the man’s identity.

Not only did the Walker fake fool McCallum and his producer, he also fooled the former policeman (listen here ) who escorted him to the interview yesterday.

Enter the real Walker, who spoke to McCallum on air this morning, recalling the events surrounding the prison escape during the 1960s, and pretty much mirroring what his impersonator had said the day before, including that he believes Ronald Ryan is innocent, that he never saw Ryan fire a shot and that the gun was jammed.

At least the fake got his story straight — which means the headline currently doing the rounds doesn’t really need to change. Unless the subs go with something like, “What he said: Real accomplice backs fake accomplice story.”