Australian DJs break silence over UK royal prank call
The Australian DJs behind a prank call to the hospital where the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was being treated have spoken of their regret after one of the nurses they duped was later found dead in a suspected suicide.
In emotional interviews on Australian TV networks, presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian insisted that their prank call to the King Edward VII's Hospital in central London had "never meant" to get that far and they had expected staff to hang up on them.
The pair posed as the Queen and the Prince of Wales when they rang the hospital where Kate was being treated for acute morning sickness. Nurse Jacintha Saldanha took the initial call and, believing the call to be genuine, put them through to another colleague who was duped into describing Kate's condition in detail.
A tearful Greig, who was at times comforted by Christian, told Today Tonight on Australia's Channel Seven: "There's nothing that can make me feel worse than what I feel right now. And for what I feel for the family. We're so sorry that this has happened to them." Christian said he was "gutted, shattered, heartbroken" by the nurse's death.
Mother of two Ms Saldanha, 46, was found dead on Friday in what appeared to be a suspected suicide. Greig said: "I remember my first question was 'Was she a mother?'. I have thought about this a million times in my head, that I just wanted to reach out to them and just give them a big hug and say sorry."
In a second interview on the Nine Network, the DJs said they had never expected their fake call would be put through to the Duchess's ward. They said they expected it to last 30 seconds, get told off and have the phone hung up in their ear.
Christian told Nine's A Current Affair programme: "It was something that was just fun and light-hearted and a tragic turn of events no-one could have predicted or expected. We are shattered, heartbroken and our deepest sympathy goes to the family, friends and all those people affected. Mel and myself are incredibly sorry for the situation and what's happened."
In a statement, the radio station's owner, Southern Cross Austero Media, said it had suspended advertising on the station 2Day FM until further notice, ended Greig and Christian's Hot 30 show and suspended prank calls across the company. The statement said attempts had been made to contact the hospital before the hoax was broadcast, adding that it believed no laws had been broken.
Police in London have contacted their Australian counterparts about speaking with the two radio presenters. Scotland Yard is understood to have asked police in Sydney for assistance, with a view to interviewing the two DJs ahead of an inquest into Ms Saldanha's death. A post-mortem examination is due to be held this week and an inquest opened and adjourned at Westminster Coroner's Court, Scotland Yard said. The death is not being treated as suspicious.
Meanwhile, Ms Saldanha's brother, Naveen, told the Daily Mail that his sister, a devout Roman Catholic, was a "proper and righteous" person who would have been "devastated" by her unwitting role in the breach of medical confidentiality. He said: "She would have felt much shame about the incident."