The man behind the dead girlfriend hoax involving a US college football star said he did it for love and insisted player Manti Te'o knew nothing about what was going on.
Manti Te'o truly believed he was talking to a woman, 22-year-old Ronaiah Tuiasosopo told TV host Dr Phil McGraw on Wednesday, adding that he, the hoaxer, had fallen "deeply, romantically" in love with Te'o while pretending to be a woman called Lennay Kekua.
Since the hoax was revealed earlier this month, Te'o has said the relationship with Kekua started online and eventually became serious, even though the two only talked on the phone and exchanged electronic messages, never meeting in person.
Te'o said he was told of Kekua's "death" from leukaemia just hours after his grandmother died in September.
The story about how Te'o played well after the deaths of his girlfriend and grandmother led to an outpouring of support from Notre Dame fans. It became the backdrop to his team's undefeated regular season and run to the national championship game, where it eventually lost.
Te'o won seven national awards for his play and was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy for the best collegiate football player. He has denied any involvement in the prank from the beginning, and Notre Dame said an investigation of the player's claims backed up his story.
"The feelings, the pain, the sorrow, that was all real," Te'o said in an interview last week.
McGraw said Californian Tuiasosopo told him the voice of Kekua was his. Tuiasosopo and Te'o have each said that while the Kekua relationship went on for several years, there were times when they weren't in contact.
"There were many times where Manti and Lennay had broken up. But something would bring them back together whether it was something going on in his life, or in Lennay's life, in this case in my life," Tuiasosopo said.
Tuiasosopo said he wanted to end the relationship between Kekua and Te'o before he had to fake Kekua's death.
"I wanted to end it because everything I had gone through, I finally realised that I just had to move on with my life and I had to get me, Ronaiah, I had to start just living and let this go," Tuiasosopo said.
Te'o's publicist, Matthew Hiltzik, declined comment on behalf of his client and his family.