It’s wrong to blame DJs for nurse death

Australian radio DJs Michael Christian, left, and Mel Greig appear during an interview with the TV station.
Australian radio DJs Michael Christian, left, and Mel Greig appear during an interview with the TV station.
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Steve Canavan gives his view on the tragic outcome of a now infamous prank call to a London hospital where Kate Middleton was being treated.

We’re past masters in this country at jumping on bandwagons and taking the moral high-ground.

All sorts of enraged media commentators have been busy condemning the Australian DJs at the centre of the Kate Middleton hoax debate, but in my book it is grossly unfair.

The death of Jacintha Saldanha – the nurse who first answered the call – is an absolute tragedy, of that there is no argument.

But to blame two people on the other side of the world isn’t right.

Yes, they are responsible for the prank in which she featured, but people do not take their own lives – as Mrs Saldanha is suspected of doing – on a whim.

Suicide is a complicated, terrible death. A close friend of mine took her own life several years ago. There was no single reason that led her to do what she did. There were many different issues which stacked up and in the end she believed she couldn’t go on.

I found it hard to understand and was even angry with her, especially when I saw the effect her death had on her family. Her parents’ marriage broke up. They remain distraught a decade on. It has ruined their lives.

Taking one’s own life is the absolute last resort.

We don’t know exactly what happened to Mrs Saldanha, but if she did commit suicide then although the hoax may have been the final straw, the last piece of bad news that pushed her over the edge, it certainly may not have been the primary reason.

The DJs have been - to be blunt about it, and as crass as it may sound - tremendously unlucky.

The art of the hoax call has been around since Alexander Graham Bell sat down with a cold beer and toasted his invention. It has never led to a tragedy like this before.

Thousands of ordinary people have been duped over the years, as well as some notable figures.

Tony Blair, when PM, was duped into having a lengthy conversation with a fake William Hague (broadcast on Capital Radio). Someone at Downing Street put that call through.

In 1995, a DJ pretending to be Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien got the Queen to promise to try and influence Quebec’s referendum on proposals to break away from Canada after calling Buckingham Palace and chatting for 15 minutes.

A call by the same DJ to the Pope was rumbled when he asked the pontiff if he had ever thought of fixing a toy propeller to his cap.

Noel Edmonds spent most of the 1970s and 80s playing pranks.

HG Wells’ 1938 drama War of the Worlds, featuring news announcements interrupting a pop music programme, convinced most of New Jersey and the surrounding states there had been an alien invasion, prompting traffic jams, riots and widespread hysteria.

Television loves a wind up too. Candid Camera, which used to specialise in setting up unsuspecting members of the public and filming their reaction, was one of most popular programmes on American TV.

In this country Trigger Happy TV followed a similar hidden camera theme. One of the most famous scenes featured a male member of the public, dressed in long overcoat and with head down, leaving an adults only shop (ie. the kind of place you don’t want to be seen leaving) and finding himself face-to-face with a brass band and a big banner saying ‘congratulations, our 1,000th customer’.

It’s hard to think of a more embarrassing moment for a law-abiding citizen minding his own business. That man knew his humiliation would be played out on TV for millions to see, yet it didn’t result in him taking his own life.

The DJs in Australia did what thousands of others have done over the years.Whether you think a hoax call is funny or not is irrelevant.

The bottom line is that what they did was neither malicious nor intended to hurt anyone.

The death of Jacintha Saldanha, no matter how sad it is, wasn’t their fault and it is wrong to suggest otherwise.



Fashion that should stay on the catwalk

PROOF that fashion has gone completely mad in recent times has arrived. Ladies and gentleman, I give you meggings.

They are leggings for blokes. In other words, tights. And fellas are wearing them.

Now I’m known as something of a trendsetter - Beckham often rings for advice; where do you think he got the sarong idea from? - but this is taking it too far.

Why would any self-respecting male want to wander around in public wearing an item of clothing normally the chosen attire of pregnant women or young girls who have yet to develop any real sense of fashion? And yet they are.

Trendy magazines are predicting this item of clothing will be “the defining men’s fashion movement to sweep New York and London this winter”. That may be so but I wouldn’t try wearing ‘em on a Friday night in Fleetwood.

Speaking of which, I’d like to thank a group of lads in Lytham at the weekend dressed in novelty jumpers.

That very morning I had purchased a new patterned jumper. It was a little bright and garish I grant you. But I had seen some youngsters wearing them and so went for it, knowing teenagers have their fingers firmly on the fashion pulse (for instance, wearing jeans so far down their backsides 90 per cent of their underwear is on view - a look I tried the other week in the office until the editor threatened to sack me on public indecency grounds).

As people tend to do with new items I wore it that night.

So there we were, my mate and I sat in a pub in Lytham minding our own business when in walked 15 lads wearing hideous jumpers, obviously taking part in a bad taste night.

Later, I nipped to the loo, as you do, but had only been at the urinal a moment when a couple of the afore-mentioned group joined me.

One looked at me and shouted ‘are you with us mate? Pete’s not introduced us, what’s your name?’ He genuinely thought I was with their crowd.

Indignant with rage, I pointed out my jumper had cost 15 quid and was the height of fashion - then flounced off diva style.

Goodness only knows what they’ll make of my meggings.