Mel Greig and Michael Christian, the Australian radio hosts at the centre of Kate Middleton hospital hoax, say they are “gutted and heartbroken” over the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha.
Jacintha Saldanha was found dead on Friday, three days after taking the hoax call.
Mel Greig and Michael Christian wept as they said “not a minute goes by where we don’t think about her family”.
They had pretended to be members of the Queen and Prince Charles asking about Kate Middleton, who was being treated in hospital for acute morning sickness.
In an interview for Channel Nine’s A Current Affair programme Michael Christian told presenter Tracy Grimshaw: “When we thought about making a call it was going to go for 30 seconds we were going to be hung up on, and that was it. As innocent as that.”
Mel Greig said: “We thought a hundred people before us would’ve tried it. We thought it was such a silly idea and the accents were terrible and not for a second did we expect to speak to Kate let alone have a conversation with anyone at the hospital. We wanted to be hung up on.”
The pair said they heard about Jacintha Saldanha’s death in the early hours of Saturday morning.
“It was the worst phone call I’ve ever had in my life,” said Mel Greig.
Asked what his immediate reaction had been, Michael Christian wept and said: “Shattered, gutted, heartbroken and obviously you know. Our deepest sympathies are with the family and the friends.”
Mel Greig said: “There’s not a minute that goes by where we don’t think about her family and what they must be going through, and the thought that we may have played a part in that is gut-wrenching.”
Michael Christian added: “Prank calls are made every day, on every radio station in every country, around the world and they have been for a long time and no-one could’ve imagined this to happen.”
They were also interviewed for Channel 7’s Today Tonight programme and Mel Greig said of the moment she heard of Jacintha Saldanha’s death: “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?>>”
Michael Christian said there was “no malice” in the prank call and “no harm intended” to the nurses, to the duchess or to Prince William.
Mel Greig said they had expected to be hung up on and she said: “The accents were terrible. You know it was designed to be stupid. We were never meant to get that far from the little corgis barking in the background – we obviously wanted it to be a joke.
“If we played any involvement in her death then we’re very sorry for that. And time will only tell.”
Mel Greig said she would give evidence at the inquest if she was required and she played down questions about her and Michael Christian’s career.
Asked about whether she felt there was a “witch hunt” against them, she 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.”
Kate Middleton was taken to King Edward VII Hospital in central London last Monday, suffering from an extreme form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum.
Jacintha Saldanha had answered the presenters’ call and, believing they were members of the Royal Family, put them through to another nurse, who described the Duchess of Cambridge’s condition in detail.
She was pronounced dead on Friday morning at staff accommodation close to the hospital. An inquest into Jacintha Saldanha’s apparent suicide is due to be opened in the next few days.
Earlier the presenters’ employer, Sydney radio station 2DayFM, said at least five attempts were made to obtain the permission of the two nurses involved before airing the call.
The radio station said it was going to review its broadcasting practices.
In an interview with a Melbourne radio station 3AW, Rhys Holleran – whose company Southern Cross Austereo owns 2DayFM – said his staff had tried several times to make contact with Jacintha Saldanha and another nurse at the King Edward VII’s Hospital to get their permission to use the prank conversation before it was transmitted.
Rhys Holleran said the death of Jacintha Saldanha was “tragic” and “regrettable”, but that it “could not have been foreseen”.
Some legal experts in Australia have said if the radio station did not tell the nurses they were being recorded, or received their permission to broadcast the conversation, they may be in breach of a number of laws.
Jacintha Saldanha’s husband, Ben Barboza, wrote on his Facebook page: “I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jacintha in tragic circumstances.”
The family was being comforted by relatives and friends at their home in Bristol, where they were visited by Labour MP Keith Vaz on Sunday.
He said the family are “grief stricken and shocked” at Jacintha Saldanha’s death and were grateful to the hospital for establishing a memorial fund in her name.