The two Australian DJ’s who were at the centre of the hoax call made to Royal Edward VII hospital last week, were interviewed on Australian television last night and said they were heartbroken over the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha. Mrs Saldanha was found dead on Friday, three days after taking the hoax call. Mel Greig and Michael Christian had pretended to be members of the Royal Family, and even put on fake British accents, when they asked about the wellbeing of the Duchess of Cambridge, who was being treated in hospital for acute morning sickness.
The pair were interviewed by presenter Tracy Grimshaw for Channel Nine’s A Current Affair programme, where Mr Christian told her: “When we thought about making a call it was going to go for 30 seconds we were going to be hung up on, and that was it. As innocent as that.” Ms Grieg added: “We thought a hundred people before us would’ve tried it. We thought it was such a silly idea and the accents were terrible and not for a second did we expect to speak to Kate let alone have a conversation with anyone at the hospital. We wanted to be hung up on.” Asked when they first heard about Ms Saldanha’s death, they confirmed it was in the early hours of Saturday morning. Ms Grieg said: “It was the worst phone call I’ve ever had in my life,” Mr Christian wept when asked what his reaction to the terrible news was and said: “Shattered, gutted, heartbroken and obviously you know. Our deepest sympathies are with the family and the friends.”
Ms Greig said: “There’s not a minute that goes by where we don’t think about her family and what they must be going through, and the thought that we may have played a part in that is gut-wrenching.” Mr Christian said: “Prank calls are made every day, on every radio station in every country, around the world and they have been for a long time and no-one could’ve imagined this to happen.”
It is thought that the radio station – 2DayFM – had tried several times to make contact with Mrs Saldanha and another nurse at the King Edward VII’s Hospital to get their permission to use the prank conversation before it was transmitted. But they decided to go ahead with the transmission after protracted discussions with producers and lawyers. In an interview on Radio Five Live today, a spokesperson said that some risk analysis would have been carried out, but obviously a decision had been made that the story was too popular and outweighed the risk involved.
The DJ’s were also interviewed for Channel 7’s Today Tonight programme where Ms Greig commented of the moment she heard of Mrs Saldanha’s death: “Unfortunately I remember that moment very well because I haven’t stopped thinking about it since it happened and I remember my first question was ‘Was she a mother?’” Mr Christian said there was “no malice” in the prank call and “no harm intended” to the nurses, to the Duchess or to Prince William. Ms Greig said they had never expected the call to get that far and that: “The accents were terrible. You know it was designed to be stupid. We were never meant to get that far from the little corgis barking in the background – we obviously wanted it to be a joke. If we played any involvement in her death then we’re very sorry for that. And time will only tell.”
The pair have faced a backlash via the radio station’s Facebook’s page which received over 13,000 messages, many of them negative and which has now been closed down. But some Australian journalists have asked for calm and for the incident not to be turned into a witch hunt, and have condemned the British press, in light of the Leveson Inquiry, which recently highlighted the phone hacking scandal.
There are still legal implications which are being looked into, to see whether the Australian radio station are at fault, as some legal experts in Australia have said if the radio station did not tell the nurses they were being recorded, or received their permission to broadcast the conversation, they may be in breach of a number of laws.