Ex-2DayFM DJ Mel Greig says broadcasters need to amend policies as coroner rules nurse’s death suicide

Former 2DayFM DJ Mel Grieg. Picture: Sunday Night

Former 2DayFM DJ Mel Grieg. Picture: Sunday Night

A coroner has ruled nurse Jacintha Saldanha committed suicide after receiving a hoax call from two Today Network DJs pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles in 2012, but stopped short of laying fault with either her hospital or the radio network.

However, in an unusual statement  made to the court in London after the inquest had concluded one of the DJs, Mel Greig, apologised to the family and said media companies should look at their procedures to prevent a similar event in the future.

After the verdict British MP Keith Vaz, who has been representing the family, hinted they could yet take legal action against Today’s parent company Southern Cross Austereo over the death.

At the inquest the coroner said Saldanha’s suicide “was not reasonably forseeable” and said the hospital had taken reasonable steps to help her, but said she clearly felt guilt for putting through the prank call from Greig and Michael ‘MC’ Christian to the ward where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for morning sickness, where another colleague divulged information about her treatment in December 2012.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports Greig saying in court: “I wish I’d tried harder to stop the prank call from airing. There is a lot to learn from this tragic event. I believe that hospitals and media organisations should look into their procedures and policies to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again.

“To fellow announcers and DJs I urge you to speak up if you don’t feel comfortable and to consider the feelings of others when trying to make a joke. The joke should always be on us the DJs.”

The Australian reports Vaz as saying: “It is an irony that phone calls of 115 seconds which caused such mirth in Australia have deprived (husband) Ben of a wife and Lisha and Junal of a beloved mother. This hoax changed their loves forever.’’

After the verdict Southern Cross Austereo released a statement in which it said its staff were “saddened and deeply sorry” over the incident, adding it had donated $500,000 to a fund set up for Saldanha’s children.

It added: “The production of radio programs, like television programs, is a collaborative process. Radio announcers are an important part of the process but they are not the final decision makers.

“There is no fair or reasonable basis on which blame can be apportioned to any individual, including the presenters of the program. Southern Cross Austereo has always accepted full responsibility for the making of the call and its broadcast.

“As acknowledged by the Coroner, Southern Cross Austereo has fully co-operated with the Coronial Inquest. We also note that the Coroner has said, ‘There is no causation as a matter of law between the hoax call and any subsequent voluntary action by Ms Saldanha.’

“In summation, the Coroner said the incident was not reasonably foreseeable.”

The broadcaster now faces another court date with the Australian Communications and Media Authority which is trying to publish a damning report into the incident.

For support and information on suicide contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

Alex Hayes


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