The 2DayFM DJs whose London radio prank victim committed suicide on Dec. 6 feel like “a bus driver who’s hit a pedestrian,” a 2DayFM source tells WHO. “Michael and Mel are extremely fragile right now and receiving extensive counselling.”
Mel Greig and Michael Christian, who'd only been in the job for a week, were behind a Dec. 4 prank phone call to the London hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge, who was suffering acute morning sickness in the early stages of pregnancy, was a patient.
Impersonating Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles in a pre-recorded hoax, the pair called King Edward VII Hospital and was put through to the Duchess’s ward by Jacintha Saldanha, 46, a nurse who was operating the switchboard. A nurse on the ward then revealed details of the Duchess’s condition to whom she thought was the Queen of England. The prank made world news and attracted widespread condemnation in England.
On Dec. 6, Saldanha, a mother of two children aged 16 and 14, was found dead of a suspected suicide.
Christian and Greig are “both shattered,” says the source. “They are receiving extensive psychological counselling.” They are also being “kept away” from the media reports of the story, which has garnered intense worldwide interest: “Both are currently being watched by colleagues who are most concerned for their well being.” Their twitter and facebook accounts were also taken down after they were bombarded by hate mail from around the world.
The CEO of 2DayFM, Rhys Holleran, is also "devastated", says the source: “He is beside himself with concern for his staff members and for the family of this poor woman. In his words, he is plain gutted.”
The source tells WHO that 2DayFM learnt of Saldanha’s death through a phone call from UK’s Daily Mail at 12.15am (Sydney time) on Dec. 8. In the hours following, the station was still airing promotional excerpts from the prank. “Because it was the middle of the night and the station is on automatic, it took a good couple of hours to mobilise those needed to physically pull the promos off the air,” says the source. “We were as horrified as anyone to discover that these had been running for this period.”
Meanwhile, questions are now being raised over the legality of the prank. In NSW, it is illegal to publish a private conversation that has been obtained using a listening device (though similar pranks have not been prosecuted in Australia in recent years). Still, the source says 2Day FM “firmly believe we have done nothing illegal” and will willingly work with the Australian Communications and Media Authority who announced today they are looking to investigate 2Day FM's prank call.
The station plans to reach out to Saldanha’s family at a more "appropriate" time. Says the source: “More information needs to come out to clarify what actually happened.” The DJs also plan to make individual statements "but not in this fragile state at present."