The two Australian DJs involved in the hoax call to the hospital where Kate Middleton was being treated for hyperemesis gravidarum have expressed their deep sadness and regret over the death of the nurse who took the phone call.
Radio hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian went public for the first time since news of the nurse's death, describing themselves as "shattered, gutted and heartbroken" during two seperate TV interviews for Australian TV on Monday. "The first thing I asked was: 'Was she a mother?', said a clearly upset Mel during a chat with TV presenter Clare Brady in Sydney.
Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two died in what appeared to be a suicide. She was found 48 hours after radio station 2Day FM broadcast a prank during which they posed as Prince Charles and the Queen.
Jacintha put the call through to the ward at King Edward VII were Kate was being treated, and another nurse, thinking she was really talking to the monarch and the Prince of Wales, gave out personal medical information concerning the Duchess.
The radio hosts, who have had their programme suspended since the incident, said they never believed they would get past the switchboard and were astonished when they actually put through.
During one of the chats, for programme A Current Affair, Mel is seen with tears running down her face. Speaking of Jacintha's family, she says: "I've thought about it a million times. I want to reach out to them and just give them a big hug and say 'Sorry'. I hope they're OK. I really do."
The blonde Australian said hearing of the hospital worker's death "was the worst phone call I have had in my life", adding: "There's not a minute that goes by that we don't think about her family and what they must be going through. And the thought we may have played a part in that is gut wrenching."
Her colleague Michael said he hoped Jacintha's family get the love, support and care that they need. He said: "It is nothing more than a tragic turn of events that no one could have predicted and, you know, for the part that we played, we’re obviously incredibly sorry."
Meanwhile, the boss of the radio station said that his staff had tried to call King Edward VII Hospital five times before the hoax was played on air. Rhys Holleran, chief executive officer of Austereo, said his team had attempted to contact the hospital to discuss what had been recorded, but was unsuccessful.
Full interview transcript
Reporter Clare Brady: "Considering what we're about to discuss … do you feel emotionally stable to do this interview?"
Clare: "When you heard the dreadful results following the days after the prank, describe for me how you felt."
Mel: "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?'"
Clare: "When you found out she was, of two children, how did you feel?"
Mel: "Very sorry and saddened for the family. I can't imagine what they’d be going through."
Michael: "Gutted. Shattered. Heartbroken."
Clare: "Does it feel real to you?"
Michael: "We're still trying to get our heads around everything. Trying to make sense of the situation."
Mel: "It doesn't seem real because you just couldn't foresee something like that happening from a prank call. You know it was never meant to go that far. It was meant to be a silly little prank that so many people have done before. This wasn't meant to happen."
Clare: "In hindsight, would you do something like that again?"
Michael: "I don't think that anyone could have predicted what could've happened. It was just a tragic set of circumstances that I don't think anyone could have thought that we'd be here."
Clare: "Who came up with the idea of the prank?"
Michael: "It was just in a team meeting before the show."
Mel: "Everything's done as a team."
Clare: "Did you have legal advice or senior producers nursing you through this?"
Michael: "The call to begin with wasn't about speaking to Kate. It wasn't about trying to get a scoop or anything. The call was just – I mean we'd assumed that we'd be hung up on and that'd be that."
Clare: "When you weren't hung up on and, let's be honest, you thought it was a coup at the time, were you quite shocked that you even got that far to talk to the nurse beside Princess Kate?"
Mel: "Absolutely. And the accents were terrible. You know it was designed to be stupid. We were never meant to get that far from the little corgies barking in the background – we obviously wanted it to be a joke."
Michael: "And I suppose, you know the joke was always on us, not anyone else. It wasn't about trying to fool someone. I mean we just assumed that with the voices that we put on, you know, we were going to get told off and that was the gag – in us."
Clare: "Here at the station, at Austereo, do you get any coaching, any training at all as to what you're allowed to put to air? What you've got to tell people on when they're being recorded and they're going to be put on air? Have you been taught that during your tenure here?"
Michael: "This phone call is the same with any phone call, with any prerecorded segment that goes to air, there's processes in place and people that make those decisions. I mean our role is just …"
Clare: (Interrupting)"Have you been taught that – sat down in a legal class?"
Michael: "There are people that make those decisions for us. Our responsibility is just to…"
Clare: (Interrupting) "Did someone listen to that recording and say?"
Mel: (Interrupting) "It went through the processes of every other recorded bit that we do – from interviews to you know anything at all that gets recorded and passed on to the appropriate people, goes through the process, and we're told whether it's yes or no to play."
Clare: "What was it, if you can give me a rough, and it probably feels all blurry to you, but the time spent from when you did that call to putting it to air? Was it two hours, three hours?" Michael: "In between all of that though it wasn't as though we were sitting around waiting for an answer. You know there was …"
Mel: "We go about our work and just keep going."
Michael: "Getting other things organised."
Clare: "But you were pretty giddy with what you'd pulled off, weren't you?"
Mel: "We couldn’t believe that it had worked, absolutely. You didn't expect it to. We thought a hundred people before us would've tried the same thing. We just did not see that actually working."
Michael: "But it wasn't to get something that no one else had. It wasn't about getting…"
Clare: "But you are aware you were trying to get a medical condition and a medical condition on a Royal?"
Mel: "But we didn't actually want that. We just wanted to be hung up on. We wanted to be hung up on with our silly voices and wanted a twenty second segment to air of us doing stupid voices."
Clare: "You didn’t think of identifying yourselves at the end of that call?"
Mel: "That's where the process comes in. We just record everything and pass it to the team. That's what we do."
Michael: "And again the call itself is – there's no malice in the call. There was no digging. There was no trying to upset or get a reaction."
Clare: "Do you feel now that you're part of a witch hunt? That someone wants someone to pay here? There's hackers here threatening to shut down the station and hack into the whole system if you guys aren't sacked. Does that make you feel vulnerable?"
Mel: "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." (Crying)
Clare: "How do you move on? Is someone caring for you guys? Are you having counseling too?"
Michael: "We’re getting the support that we need and we've got those around us that are helping us but you know, right now …"
Mel: "I care more about the family. I want to know that they've got the support that they need and that the public are, you know, being respectful of their privacy."
Clare: "Have you tried to contact the family in any way?"
Mel: "I don’t think it's an appropriate time to do that yet. But this is where we want to say that we are thinking of you and if we could call you we would want to reach out to you."
Clare: "Or if you could turn the clock back?"
Mel: "If we played any involvement in her death then we're very sorry for that. And time will only tell."
Clare: "Have you been reading a lot Mel?"
Mel: "I've been advised not to but I'm doing it on the intention of finding out more about Jacintha."
Clare: "What lessons can other DJs, and worldwide, learn from your horrible experience?"
Michael: "These are prank calls. They've been around for as long as radio's existed and they're done by every radio station."
Clare: "But this result is just horrific…"
Michael: "But no one could have predicted this result."
Clare: "What are you guys going to do then? Are you going to pursue your DJ careers?"
Mel: "I don’t want to think about that right now. There's bigger, more pressing issues and that’s making sure that family gets through this tough time. You know our careers aren't important at the moment."
Clare: "That Scotland Yard is now involved, and you may be called to an inquest, and that inquest will probably be in London and you’ll see the family face to face – are you prepared for that?"
Michael: "Right now we're trying to wrap our heads around what's happened."
Mel: "If that’s going to make them feel better then I'll do what I need to do, absolutely. If that's something that they want to do, to get some closure, then I'll do that." Clare: "You have had a lot of support. There's a poll out today of 11,000 people and two thirds have said they feel you're not to blame for this horrible result. And then you've got the other side of horrible Twitter saying 'many lives ruined', 'shame on you', 'you've got blood on your hands'. How do you balance that – the support and the absolute hostility?"
Michael: "I think that, you know, what's important right now is you know, that the family of Jacintha are getting the support and the love that they deserve. And I mean that's what's important here. You know, it was, it is nothing more than a tragic turn of events that no one could have predicted and, you know, for the part that we played, we're obviously incredibly sorry and you know …"
Clare: "I feel in you Mel that you're all but frozen, is that correct?"
Mel: 'I'm just so devastated for them. I'm really feeling for them."
Clare: "It’s a shocking turn of events."
Mel: "I just couldn't … If we had any idea that something like this could be even possible to happen, you know, we couldn't see this happening. It was meant to be a prank call."
Clare: "Do you feel sick now that you were saying 'this is the highlight of my career' and you were excited about getting the call through, to get to this moment?"
Mel: "We couldn’t foresee what was going to happen in the future."
Clare: "When you did call them and you were talking – first to Jacintha and then the second nurse – did you think in the days after 'oh those poor nurses, wonder how they're feeling?' Because I know I did, but I'm an overly cautious person – I think everything through and through and through. Did you think for them at all, or were you just in that giddy sense?"
Michael: "The call itself was not malicious and no harm was intended on Jacintha, or the other nurse, or Kate, or Prince William, or anyone. It wasn't – from start to finish – there was no harm intended. And obviously, you know, we're incredibly sorry for the harm that we may have helped contribute (to)."
Clare: "You've been very brave for talking and I just hope that people are caring for you guys too, because it’s going to take (a lot). I feel for two DJs who like to put a few smiles on faces and it'll be a while before we hear the two of you laugh."
Michael: "Thank you."