- November 7, 2021
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A ‘gutted’ Lauren Phillips has made a tearful apology to the mother of a murdered Melbourne teenager after cracking a sick on-air joke about the brutal slaying.
Daily Mail Australia understands that Phillips called Elizabeth Barber on Tuesday morning – rather than taking to the air-waves as usual, due to the Victorian public holiday.
During the emotional call, Phillips revealed she came close to quitting her job of just six weeks after drawing outrage with a flippant comment about how she listened to a podcast about 15-year-old Rachel Barber’s murder in 1999 to cheer herself up.
Rachel was strangled to death with a telephone cord by her family’s babysitter Caroline Reed Robertson as part of a plot to steal the teenager’s identity.
Angry listeners on Monday night bombarded Phillips with criticism after the presenter said she listened to the podcast to ‘try and fix (her) mood’ and cackled with laughter.
Elizabeth Barber told Daily Mail Australia the radio star had apologised in an emotional call this morning and was ‘genuinely remorseful’.
Lauren Phillips offended the family of slain Melbourne teen Rachel Barber by revealing she used a podcast about her murder to cheer herself up
Phillips told Ms Barber the show’s producers were ‘gutted’ after not realising the murder case she was referring to was real.
Daily Mail Australia understands Phillips was tearful during the call and said she thought about resigning.
‘She was genuinely remorseful. She said the whole team was gutted,’ Ms Barber said.
‘I’ve asked her if she could apologise on air for all of Rachel’s friends.’
Ms Barber said the KIIS FM co-host told her she had only been in the job for six weeks and that she wants her to ‘learn from the experience’ – but stay on air.
The apology can be revealed after Phillips and her co-host Jason ‘Jase’ Hawkins vanished from the airwaves during their normal KIIS FM 101.1 breakfast slot on Tuesday.
However, KIIS executives said there was a simple explanation for the no-show with both her and Jason ‘Jase’ Hawkins taking the day off for the Melbourne Cup public holiday, in line with several shows.
Rachel Barber was a beloved daughter and just starting out in life when she was murdered
The 34-year old explained to listeners last week she had just had an argument with her boyfriend when she decided to listen to the true crime podcast.
The trolls were swift in their condemnation.
‘Meet with the mother of this poor child – see her face to face and apologise,’ one critic said.
‘Really? No apology yet,’ one wrote on Monday underneath a post she shared last month marketing her partnership with a soap company.
The show’s executive producer has claimed bosses gave the discussion the go-ahead believing the podcast’s contents were entirely fictional.
But commenters questioned how Phillips and station bosses could have had no clue the podcast was about a real murder case.
‘If you were listening to a true crime podcast – how on earth could you not know it was a real case? Or any of the details of it? This statement is quite confusing.’
An Instagram post by radio star Lauren Phillips about soap cleanser was hijacked by furious listeners
Phillips copped furious criticism on social media, with listeners calling for her to apologise personally for the offence she caused to the Barber family
The podcast, which was not named but is part of the CASEFILE series, clearly states the episode is about a murdered teenager from Melbourne’s inner-city suburb of Richmond.
Phillips was seen laughing as a section of the podcast was played describing how Reed Robertson cruelly slaughtered Rachel before placing her body in a bag.
Her co-host Jase could be seen smiling uncomfortably as Phillips continued in hysterics.
Lauren Phillips used the horrific murder of a Melbourne child as part of an on-air skit
Rachel Barber, a 15-year-old dance student, was murdered by strangulation in Melbourne in 1999
Caroline Reed Robertson was 19 years old when she murdered Rachel Barber, pictured here after her arrest
‘Am I a psychopath?’ Phillips chuckled to Hawkins, who suggested she needed a welfare check.
In response, Channel 9 newsman Clint Stanaway – who walked the beat as a crime reporter for years before moving onto sport – told the show Phillips was indeed in need of help.
Rachel’s mother told Daily Mail Australia she had been alerted to the vile discussion by her daughter’s then boyfriend, who was left distraught after hearing it.
‘For Rachel’s peers and family nothing less than an explanation and an apology on air will be sufficient so they can learn from their mistakes,’ Ms Barber said.
Lauren Phillips upset the friends and family of murder victim Rachel Barber with an insensitive segment on Melbourne radio
Clint Stanaway (left) was once a Melbourne crime reporter before moving onto the news desk to read the sport. He is pictured with Channel 9’s Alicia Loxley
The murder of Rachel Barber will never be forgotten in Melbourne.
The long suffering mum had called-up the radio station on Monday, but was not able to go to air.
‘They said they were not aware Rachel was a real person or her murder was a local case. And she explained how dreadful they feel about it and have taken it off TikTok and any other live footage,’ Ms Barber said.
She described Phillips’ behaviour as ‘reprehensible’.
‘I said Lauren should apologise on air out of respect, so that maybe another occurrence of a similar situation does not arise again,’ Ms Barber said.
A spokeswoman for KIIS 101.1 told Daily Mail Australia on Monday night it had been in contact with the Barber family and ‘have apologised profusely’.
‘Neither Lauren or Jase were aware that the audio they were discussing related to a real murder,’ the spokeswoman said.
‘It was never KIIS 101.1’s intention to be disrespectful or cause any distress and as soon as we were made aware that the audio wasn’t a fictional story, we deleted any audio references on our social media platforms.
‘We take full responsibility for the podcast audio going to air and our background checks on the source of the audio should have been a lot more thorough.
‘We would never have put it to air had we known it was linked to a true crime and it was our responsibility for this to happen.
‘We apologise again to the family for the additional trauma we have caused.’
Caroline Reed Robertson (middle) walked from jail 16 years after strangling a 15-year-old girl to death in a plot to steal her identity
Daily Mail Australia has confirmed the station did pull the offensive video of the discussion from social media, which was aptly titled ‘Am I a psychopath’.
Rachel’s boyfriend at the time she was murdered, Manni Carella, took to social media to express his disgust at Phillips.
‘I am actually really shocked and FKN ANGRY by what I heard this morning on the radio (which I must add driving on the freeway, almost lost control of my car by the shock) by Jase and Lauren on 101.1 KIIS FM!!!,’ he wrote.
‘THIS IS NOT OKAY!!!!!!! HOW ON EARTH WOULD YOU THINK THIS IS FUNNY????????? THINK BEFORE YOU DO STUPID JOKES LIKE THIS!!!!!!!!’
Rachel’s disappearance was big news in Melbourne as detectives hoped to find her alive
Manni Carella is pictured behind Rachel in one of her last photographs before she was murdered
Rachel Barber was a talented dancer when her life was snuffed out by a crazed wanna-be
Ms Barber told Daily Mail Australia the cruel discussion could not have come at a worse time, with the disappearance of Cleo Smith making national news.
‘I have found the last two weeks difficult with Cleo Smith missing. It is so sad and brings back memories. I hope their ending is a better story,’ she said.
It is understood the radio station was bombarded with complaints, but the social media posts were only pulled down on Monday after being contacted directly by Ms Barber.
‘This was so reprehensible not to have done their research. Tardy and inconsiderate. Rachel’s friends who have contacted me and her sisters were disgusted by the appearance of hilarity on her face,’ she said.
‘Accountability is important. Compassion is too. The executive producer apologised on the phone this morning but that is not the same. Rachel’s peers and family need to hear an apology online.’
In 2000, Reed Robertson, then 19, was jailed for 20 years after pleading guilty to the murder of Rachel, with a non-parole period of 14 and a half years.
She would be released from jail in 2015 with the forgiveness of Ms Barber’s parents.
Rachel Barber had been a talented dancer and was adored by all who knew her
The murder of Rachel Barber will forever present a stain on Melbourne
It was a case so twisted that it inspired a star-studded 2009 Australian film, ‘I Am You’ (also known as ‘In Her Skin’), starring Guy Pearce, Miranda Otto, Sam Neill and Rebecca Gibney.
Robertson was the victim’s former babysitter, a trusted family friend and neighbour, who lured the teen to her death by manipulating her trust.
No one realised that she was plotting to kill her beautiful neighbour and assume her identity for a new start.
Robertson’s diary entries were used by police as evidence in the trial.
‘How to change in nine weeks’ was written by Robertson on the front of her journal; the pages inside detail her sick plans.
Caroline Reed Robertson, aged 19, is pictured speaking with police after her arrest for the premeditated murder of Rachel Barber. Robertson confessed to the crime before Barber’s body was found
They revealed the disturbed woman’s terrifying obsession with the beautiful dancer as she plotted to kill and ‘disfigure’ the teen.
The journal and emotional letters to her father also exposed the intense self-loathing Robertson felt, which fed her to assume the identity of Rachel, a pretty, talented, well-liked dance student.
The Supreme Court heard that Reed Robertson had convinced herself that after killing Rachel she could in some way assume her identity.
As Rachel’s devastated family desperately searched for their daughter, Reed Robertson wrapped the body in two rugs and took a taxi to her father’s Kilmore farm, telling the driver she was moving a statue.
Rachel’s body was buried in a shallow hole, bizarrely positioned next to the grave of the murderer’s pet.
Not long after, Reed Robertson was arrested by police. She confessed to the murder and 12 days later Rachel’s body was found – the cable used to kill her still tightened around her neck.
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
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