The public lynching of Fadi Fawaz took an even nastier turn with the leaking of the emotional 999 call he made after discovering George Michael’s body.
On February 10, The Sun published an excerpt of the confidential audio recording of the 999 call that Fadi made on Christmas day. Fadi’s pain and panic-filled voice can be heard as he told the 999 operator that: “He’s in bed dead.”
The leaking of the 999 call was not only a gross violation of privacy but it is also illegal. The newspapers should not have published it, even though it was offered by the “source.” The general public does not benefit from being privy to these private moments. Publishing the material was a blatant disrespect to both George and Fadi. The family of George Michael said in a statement that they were “truly appalled” with the leak of the 999 audio recording:
George’s family and friends are extremely upset and truly appalled that such a personal, painful and clearly confidential recording has been leaked. On their behalf, we will be ensuring that a full investigation takes place to establish how this material was made available and we will expect the culprit(s) to be dealt with appropriately.
We firmly believe that anyone contacting the emergency authorities in situations such as this should be entitled to expect that recordings will not be released to the media and it is deeply distressing to the family that this transcript, and audio recording, has been made public.
The Sun has not explained how they got hold of the 999 tape. If their source was from the emergency services, was the tape given freely to the tabloid in their desire for some moral justification about George’s death? Or was money exchanged to get the audio tape? Was the person who leaked the tape paid? The South Central Ambulance Service said in a statement that it was investigating the leak of the confidential 999 call:
“South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) has been informed about the release of the tape of a 999 call. We take matters of confidentiality very seriously and have launched an immediate investigation. As Thames Valley Police are preparing a file for the coroner we are also liaising with Thames Valley Police and are therefore not able to comment further at this time.”
However, to this date, the results of the investigation has not been made public. There has also been no information on how The Sun gained access to the leaked 999 tape.
Fadi was even more vilified with the release of the 999 call. Some criticized him for sounding so calm, with no emotion or panic in his voice.
Some people found it strange — and criticized him for it — that Fadi did not appear to know the postcode or George’s date of birth. In an emergency, it is easy to “forget” even the most well-known information.
Fadi was also attacked for trying to wake him up for an hour and not calling 999 sooner.
But did he really try for an hour or did it just felt like an hour? According to David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine in the article “Why Time Seems to Slow Down in Emergencies“:
When a person is scared, a brain area called the amygdala becomes more active, laying down an extra set of memories that go along with those normally taken care of by other parts of the brain.
In this way, frightening events are associated with richer and denser memories,” Eagleman explained. “And the more memory you have of an event, the longer you believe it took.”
These actions are not strange for someone who may be traumatized. They forget that psychological reaction in finding a loved one dead vary between individuals. In a state of shock people react in very different ways, and judging others for their reaction is just wrong. Shock and disbelief can do strange things to people. Some people go into shock when confronted with incredibly stressful situations such as death, initially appearing as if they have no reaction to the news. Others seem to be on autopilot, while others just blank out and cannot remember anything, including their own address and birth dates.
The tabloids further fanned the outrage against Fadi by removing any suggestions that may hint on Fadi’s grief and panic. The Daily Mail published a transcript of the 999 call that was edited to remove certain parts. The tabloid failed to disclose that their transcription of the call has been redacted to remove the section when Fadi was struggling to provide the postcode and admitted that he was “shaking.” The tabloid should have acknowledged and clarified that the transcript has been edited with sections of the call removed. The Sun mentioned the redacted part in their piece: