THE shell-shocked Aussie DJs at the centre of the royal nurse suicide storm yesterday broke their silence — and said they were “incredibly sorry”.
Hoax callers Mel Greig and Michael Christian both wept during a highly emotional interview on Australian TV.
Greig, 30, told of her horror when she first heard mother-of-two Jacintha Saldanha had killed herself at the hospital where she took their prank call.
She said: “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.
“Not a minute goes by that we don’t think about the family and what they are going through. The thought we may have played a part is gut-wrenching. I hope they’re OK, I really do.”
Jacintha — known as Jess — was found dead at London’s King Edward VII hospital last Friday. The 46-year-old had been duped last Tuesday into putting through the hoax call to the ward where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for acute morning sickness. The DJs from Sydney radio station 2Day FM pretended to be the Queen and Prince Charles inquiring after her health.
Christian, who is in his 20s, said yesterday he was “gutted, shattered, heartbroken” the subsequent broadcast ended in tragedy.
He added: “It was something that was just fun and light-hearted and a tragic turn of events no one could have predicted or expected.
“Our deepest sympathy goes to the family, friends and all those people affected. Mel and myself are incredibly sorry for the situation and what’s happened.”
Last night Jess’s widower Benedict Barboza and the Indian-born couple’s two teenage children arrived in London from their home in Bristol ahead of the post-mortem today.
They were greeted at the Commons by Labour MP Keith Vaz — who has criticised the hospital for failing to show them enough support. Mr Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs committee, said: “This is a close family.
“They are devastated by what has happened. They miss her every moment of every day.”
Benedict, 49, clutched a photo of his wife as he bravely faced the cameras after the meeting in Westminster with son Junal, 16, and daughter Lisha, 14.
They also paid an emotional visit to the nurses’ quarters where Jess died.
Benedict, an NHS accountant, paid a moving tribute to his wife on an Indian website.
Signing himself Benna, he wrote: “Struggling to come to terms with my wife Jacintha’s tragic loss. No more strength to bear this loss.”
His next-door neighbour in Bristol, Darren Gardner, said Benedict was unlikely to accept the DJs’ apology. He said: “I saw Benedict in his suit this morning and he still looked really angry.” Of the prank, Mr Gardner said: “They went too far. Why shouldn’t they or the radio station face charges?”
It emerged last night that the DJs’ producers Emily Mills and Ben Harlum were also being investigated for their role in the prank. The pair had “yapped like corgis” in the background then boasted about it on their Twitter accounts — which were deleted after Jess was found dead.
“Edgy” executive producer Derek Bargwanna is also understood to have sanctioned the broadcast without the consent of its victims — in breach of radio rules. An insider said: “Some people here say Derek needs to be taking responsibility and take the heat off Mel and Michael.”
The station claims it tried to contact the hospital at least five times before airing the hoax. Rhys Holleran, CEO of Southern Cross Austereo, which owns 2Day FM, said: “We rang to discuss what we recorded — absolutely.
“We attempted to contact them on no less than five occasions.”
However, the 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.”
PM David Cameron described Jess’s death as “an absolute tragedy” and “completely shocking”.
Pregnant Kate, 30, spent three nights in hospital with morning sickness last week before she was discharged. Experts say she may not fully recover for weeks.
– A JACINTHA Saldanha Memorial Fund has been set up by the King Edward VII hospital. Chairman Lord Glenarthur said: “She was an outstanding nurse.”
By DOM JOLY, TV comedian and prankster
DID the terrible news of the suicide of Jacintha Saldanha herald the end of the prank call?
Certainly the backlash has been extraordinary. It’s swung effortlessly from saturation coverage of the original, rather rubbish but effective phone stunt, into a lynch mob demanding the dismembering of the two Aussie DJs.
The attraction of the prank call is obvious — you can reach anyone, anywhere instantly. Where I think things went really astray in Mrs Saldanha’s case was in the crazy amount of coverage of the original call.
The part where she just happened to pick up the phone at 5 in the morning was played on heavy rotation everywhere.
It must have been like a thousand little pin-pricks to somebody who didn’t understand the relative unimportance of the call — and felt that she had somehow failed in her job.
This will not be the end of prank calls. But they will be more legislated now — as my sort of comedy on TV already is.
If that prevents another tragedy like this happening, then that really is no bad thing.