Wednesday 22 February 2017

Video: Aussie DJ tells of anguish over hoax call: 'My first question was 'Was she a mother?'

Published 10/12/2012 | 05:00

Jacintha Saldanha

ONE of the Australian radio presenter who made the prank call to the hospital treating Kate Middleton, has spoken tearfully of the moment she heard that Jacintha Saldanha had died.

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DJ Mel Greig told Australian TV networks: "Unfortunately I remember that moment very well because I haven't stopped thinking about it since it happened.

"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.

"I hope they are OK, I really do."

Her colleague, Michael Christian, added: "I just hope that they get the love, the support, the care that they need."

The two DJs were able to trick two nurses at London's King Edward VII's Hospital.

Mother of two Ms Saldanha, 46, who took the initial call before putting the pair through to a colleague, was found dead on Friday in what appears to be a suspected suicide.

Greig and Christian, DJs on the station 2Day FM, were quizzed about the incident today on the Australian TV programmes A Current Affair and Today Tonight.

They pulled out of a third interview they were meant to do for The Project, on the Ten network, because they were unwell, according to a spokesman for the TV channel.

In a statement, the radio station's owner, Southern Cross Austereo Media, said it had suspended advertising on 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.

The statement said: "Several attempts were made by the production team to discuss the segment with the hospital, but with no success. The segment was referred to an internal review process which included internal legal review and authorisation was granted to broadcast.

"The company does not consider that the broadcast of the segment has breached any relevant law, regulation or code. The company will fully co-operate with any investigations."

A spokeswoman for the King Edward VII Hospital said: "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."

Speaking on Today Tonight on Channel Seven, Greig said: "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."

Christian said: "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."

He insisted that they had assumed they would be hung up on.

"The call to begin with wasn't about speaking to Kate," he said.

"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."

Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), the station's parent company, issued a statement saying it reiterated its "deep regret" for what had taken place.

"The company has conducted a review of the process undertaken in the airing of the segment which has found that company protocols were adhered to," he said.

"The company will fully co-operate with any investigations.

"SCA is committed to upholding rigorous processes and broadcasting standards. The business is conducting a comprehensive review of company policies and processes."

SCA chief executive officer Rhys Holleran said: "First and foremost we would like to express our deep and sincere condolences to the family of Jacintha Saldanha for their loss.

"We are very sorry for what has happened.

"As a leading commercial radio broadcaster, we must ensure that our internal processes and protocols are robust.

"We don't claim to be perfect and we always strive to do better. We have initiated a detailed and rigorous review of our policies and procedures to inform any improvements we can make.

"We are also providing support to our people who are deeply saddened by this tragic and unforeseen event."

Christian, comforting a tearful Greig during the interview on Today Tonight, said he was "gutted, shattered, heartbroken" by the nurse's death.

Asked who had come up with the idea of the prank, Christian replied that it was "just in a team meeting" before the show.

Greig added: "Everything's done as a team."

Asked if they were aware that they were trying to get a medical condition, Greig said: "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 20-second segment to air of us doing stupid voices."

She added: "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."

Ms Saldanha's brother, Naveen, said 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.

"She would have felt much shame about the incident," he said.

Irish Independent

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