Sydney DJs break silence over prank
Two Australian radio presenters who made a prank call to a British hospital treating Prince William's pregnant wife Kate broke a three-day silence today to speak of their distress at the apparent suicide of the nurse who took their call.
The 2DayFM Sydney-based DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, said the tragedy had left them "shattered, gutted, heartbroken".
Greig and fellow presenter and prank mastermind Christian have been in hiding since nurse Jacintha Saldanha's death and the subsequent social media outrage at their prank.
Greig told Australian television her first thought when told of Ms Saldanha's death was for her family.
"Unfortunately I remember that moment very well, because I haven't stopped thinking about it since it happened," she said, amid tears and her voice quavering with emotion. "I remember my first question was 'was she a mother?'."
"I've wanted to just reach out to them and just give them a big hug and say sorry. I hope they're okay, I really do. I hope they get through this," said a black-clad Greig when asked about mother of two Ms Saldanha's children, left grieving their mother's death with their father Ben Barboza.
Meanwhile the family of nurse Ms Saldanha will “miss her every moment of every day”, a spokesman said today.
Her husband Benedict Barboza and family met with MPs at the House of Commons in London today.
Speaking their behalf after the meetings Keith Vaz MP said the family was “extremely grateful” to the public for their “messages of support and kindness”.
He described Ms Saldanha as a "loving mother and a loving wife".
"This is a close family, they are devastated by what has happened, they miss her every moment of every day," he said.
Ms Saldanha (46) was found dead in staff accommodation near London's King Edward VII hospital on Friday after putting the hoax call through to a colleague who unwittingly disclosed details of Kate's morning sickness to 2DayFM's presenters.
A recording of the call, broadcast repeatedly by the station, rapidly became an internet hit and was reprinted as a transcript in many newspapers.
But news of Ms Saldanha's death sparked the Internet firestorm, with vitriolic comments towards the DJs on Facebook and Twitter.
Christian said his only wish was that Ms Saldanha's grief-stricken family received proper support.
"I hope that they get the love, the support, the care that they need, you know," said Christian, who like Greig struggled to talk about the tragedy.
Both Greig (30) and Christian were relatively new to the station, with Greig joining in March and Christian having been in the job only a few days before the prank call after a career in regional radio.
Greig said she did not think their prank would work. "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," she said.
Christian drew headlines only two weeks before the royal prank call by angering fellow passengers with a harmonica playing stunt aboard pop star Rihanna's private jet.
The 2Day parent company Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) has received more than 1,000 complaints from Australians over the actions of the popular presenters, who have both been taken off air during an broadcasting watchdog investigation.
Shares in SCA fell 5 per cent today after two major Australian companies pulled their advertising with the radio station in protest and other advertising was suspended.
The station said it had tried to contact hospital staff five times over the recordings.
"It is absolutely true to say that we actually did attempt to contact those people on multiple occasions," said SCA chief executive Rhys Holleran. "No one could have reasonably foreseen what has happened. I can only say the prank call is not unusual around the world."
However a spokeswoman for the King Edward VII hospital said they had not received any calls from the radio station.
“Following the hoax call, the radio station did not speak to anyone in the hospital’s senior management or anyone at the company that handles our media inquiries,” she said.
British prime minister David Cameron today described Ms Saldanha’s death as “an absolute tragedy”.
Asked about the incident at a Westminster lunch, Mr Cameron said: “I thought it was completely shocking, the news when I heard that about the suicide of this nurse, who worked incredibly hard and obviously was incredibly dedicated. I feel incredibly sorry for her and her family.
"It is an absolute tragedy that this has happened and I am sure everyone will want to reflect on how it was allowed to happen.”