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Why did Mel Greig go to the royal prank inquest in London?

Mel Greig is sitting in a coroner’s court in London, sobbing. She doesn’t need to be there. She could be at home with fiance, Stephen, and her dog, Mia, getting on with her life.

Instead, the 32-year-old Australian radio host is at an inquest into the death of Jacintha Saldhana.

A death she probably still wonders if she, ultimately, caused.

Jacintha Saldhana was the 46-year-old nurse who answered the phone in 2012 when Greig and her co-host Michael Christian made a prank call to the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was suffering from acute morning sickness. Greig impersonated the Queen, Christian pretended to be Prince Charles, and Saldhana fell for what was intended to be a funny prank call.

When Saldhana took her own life, her suicide note read “Please accept my apologies. I am truly sorry. Thank you for all your support. I hold the Australians Mel Greig and Michael Christian responsible for this act. Please make them pay my mortgage. I am sorry”. 

Mel Grieg is not required to be in London for the inquest. In fact, Coronor Fiona Wilcox refused her requests to give evidence.

But I think it’s pretty obvious why she would fly across the world to be at this inquest: She’s there because she cannot move on.

She’s there because a stranger on the other side of the world was found dead next to a note with her name on it.

She’s there because after two years of anguish and shame and depression, she hasn’t found a way to stop hurting.

Mel Greig outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London (Getty Images)

Obviously, the bulk of our empathy as a community is owed to Jacintha’s family.

They will never get their beloved mother and wife back, and that is almost unspeakably tragic.

Losing someone to suicide is especially devastating, particularly as they testified today, because they did not see it coming.

Saldahna’s husband, Benedict Barboza, said in court today that she was bubbly and loving, and sounded normal when he last spoke to her.

Saldahna and Barboza’s children, 18-year-old Junal and 15-year-old Lisha, were also present in the Royal Courts of Justice in London today. It was probably distressing to see Mel Greig arrive, given that their deceased mother explicitly blamed this young woman for her suicide.

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So, while I understand Greig’s need to be there today, was it ultimately the most considerate thing for the grieving family? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Saldahna’s family outside court (Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Greig’s radio buddy Michael Christian appears to have moved on.

He’s found a way to get past the anguish – or so it seems, because again I do not know him and cannot say whether he still hurts over this tragic incident.

But certainly, while Greig’s career has stalled and she has vanished a bit from public life, interestingly, Christian is still kicking goals.

Just months after all this happened, Christian won the Next Top Jock award at Southern Cross Austereo, and was given another job.

At the time he said, “Regardless of all that’s happened in the past few months I’m still at the top of my game. So it felt good to see my name at the top of the final leaderboard.”

Michael Christian (Facebook)

So, while Mel Greig is sitting in a coronor’s court in London, sobbing… Michael Christian is getting on with his life and his career.

I’m not in a position to judge either for their reactions — and certainly, when grief and public distress are involved, we really shouldn’t try. But I can’t help thinking of Mel Greig today; stuck and unable to extricate herself from a complex, painful situation.

After all, this is the explanation she’s offered for why she’s at the inquest: “I made a commitment to the Saldanha family that I would answer any questions they have, on or off the stand, I’m here to uphold that promise.”

Mel Greig is at that inquest today because when Saldahna died in 2012, Greig’s life as she knew it changed. She lost her confidence, her career, and her happiness. And she hasn’t found a way to move on. I hope she does.

Maybe she flew across to be at that inquest because she needs closure.

To me, it’s not for the attention, or the press, or her reputation. She’s there because she thinks it’s the right thing to do for the grieving family of a woman she once spoke to on the phone.

This is just a desperately sad situation for everyone.

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