Radio presenters Michael Christian and Mel Greig have broken their silence over their role in a royal phone prank that has been linked to the death of a London nurse. Speaking to Seven’s Today Tonight and Nine Network’s A Current Affair in separate interviews, Christian said he was “Gutted, shattered, heartbroken,” over the suspected suicide of Jacintha Saldanha, an Indian-born mother of two children aged 16 and 14. As tears streamed down her face, Greig, 30, said, “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.”
On Dec. 4, Greig and Christian called London’s King Edward VII Hospital where the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge, who was suffering severe morning sickness, was a patient. Impersonating Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles in a pre-recorded hoax, the duo, who were hosting 2DayFM’s Hot 30 show, were put through to the Duchess’s ward by Saldanha, 47, 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.
While the entire prank was aired on Australian radio, only Saldanha’s role was aired in Britain for reasons of privacy. Two days later, Saldanha was found dead of a suspected suicide. “I don’t think that anyone could have predicted what could’ve happened,” said Christian. “It was just a tragic set of circumstances.”
Greig told Today Tonight’s Clare Brady that when she first heard the shocking news of Saldanha’s death, “My first question was ‘Was she a mother?’ … 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.”
The pair, who is undergoing counselling, believed that with their “terrible” British accents they would never be put through to the Duchess of Cambridge’s ward, and that the joke was meant to be on themselves. “We assumed that we’d be hung up on and that’d be that,” said Christian. “There was no malice in the call. There was no digging. There was no trying to upset or get a reaction.”
Greig told ACA’s Tracy Grimshaw that the decision to air the prank was not up to them. You prank someone, you record it, then it goes to the other departments to work out what they want to do with it, she said. “I don't know what they then do with it. We just do what we do, which is make those calls.''
An on-set source of the first ACA interview told WHO that Greig had been "bawling her eyes out" before the interview started and "when she walked into the interview room she was a mess and visibly shaken. They're both gutted, but Mel is taking this particularly badly." After the interview, the two DJs hugged each other. "They're both really supporting each other through this," said the source.
Before the interviews aired, Southern Cross Austereo, the company that owns 2DayFM, announced it had terminated the station’s Hot 30 show and would continue to suspend all advertising on the station. It has also suspended all radio “prank” calls within the company. The company said that the DJS will "not return to the airwaves" until further notice. “First and foremost we would like to express our deep and sincere condolences to the family of Jacintha Saldanha for their loss,” said SCA chief Rhys Holleran. “We are very sorry for what has happened.”