Nurse’s death sparks anger in Britain at royal prank


In this undated supplied publicity photo 2 Day FM radio presenters Mel Greig, left, and Michael Christian pose. Greig and Christian during their radio program Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, impersonated Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales to dupe hospital staff into giving information on the condition of the former Kate Middleton who was suffering severe morning sickness. AP/AAP Image, Southern Cross Austereo Sydney

LONDON—The London hospital that treated Prince William’s wife Catherine blasted Saturday the Australian radio station whose hoax call led to a nurse’s death, calling the stunt “appalling”.

Britain has reacted with horror at the death of mother-of-two Jacintha Saldanha, 46, who is believed to have taken her own life after she was duped by two Australian radio presenters seeking news on Kate’s pregnancy.

Saldanha was found dead on Friday, days after she answered a call at the hospital from hosts at Sydney’s 2Day FM radio posing as Queen Elizabeth II and William’s father Prince Charles.

She had put them through to a colleague who divulged details of Kate’s recovery from severe morning sickness.

The nurse’s death has triggered a wave of anger at the Australian presenters behind the hoax, Mel Greig and Michael Christian.

Flowers were placed on Saturday outside the accommodation block where Saldanha’s body was discovered.

Media reports called her death a suspected suicide although police, ahead of a post-mortem examination next week, said it remained unexplained.

There was no receptionist on duty at 5:30 am on Tuesday when Greig and Christian called the private King Edward VII’s Hospital where Kate was being treated, and Saldanha had answered the phone.

On Saturday, hospital chairman Lord Simon Glenarthur wrote to Max Moore-Wilton, chairman of broadcasting group Southern Cross Austereo which owns 2Day FM, to protest “in the strongest possible terms” about the hoax.

“It was extremely foolish of your presenters even to consider trying to lie their way through to one of our patients, let alone actually make the call,” he wrote.

“Then to discover that, not only had this happened, but that the call had been pre-recorded and the decision to transmit approved by your station’s management, was truly appalling.

“The immediate consequence of these premeditated and ill-considered actions was the humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses who were simply doing their job tending to their patients.

“The longer-term consequence has been reported around the world and is, frankly, tragic beyond words.”

At the family home in Bristol, southwest England, relatives and friends gathered round to comfort Saldanha’s partner and the couple’s teenage son and daughter, aged 14 and 16.

Reports said the family had moved from India around a decade ago.

A friend at the address said the family was “very, very shocked and unhappy at the tragedy”.

Neighbour Mary Atwell, 56, said: “She was a lovely, lovely person who always spoke to you when you saw her. You could always see that she was very dedicated to her job.

“Both DJs should be sacked they should never have been allowed to do what they did,” she added. “She would be alive today if they hadn’t have made that call.”

Australian presenters ‘shattered’ by news

Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo, said 2Day FM and the hosts had decided that the show would not return until further notice, “out of respect”.

“This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen and we’re deeply saddened by it,” he told reporters in Melbourne, adding that the presenters who made the hoax call were “shattered” by the news.

But he also said he did not believe the station had broken the law.

In the phone call, in which Greig pretended to be the British monarch, Saldanha is heard saying, “Oh yes, just hold on, Ma’am”, before putting her through to another nurse.

Saldanha’s death dominated Britain’s newspaper front pages.

The Sun said it was “heartbreaking and bewildering”, and a “needless tragedy”.

“No doubt she was distraught at unwittingly embarrassing the royals and her employers,” its editorial said.

“We can only guess at the inner torment of Jacintha, who after years of loyal professionalism suddenly found herself in trouble for something that was not her fault.”

A wooden cross with a British flag was left outside the hospital Saturday.

A note with some flowers outside the nurses’ accommodation block said: “Dear Jacintha, our thoughts are with you and your family. From all your fellow nurses, we bless your soul. God bless.”

The widespread shock at Saldanha’s death was in a sharp contrast to the excitement that greeted Monday’s announcement of Kate’s first pregnancy. The baby will be third in line to the British throne.

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  • shreks62

    i live in australia and thismorning listened to a radio show 91.1 on the sunshine coast and the hosts todd and sammy played the prank and praised the pairs efforts in pulling the prank off even laughing and playing a round of applause in support …..

    • Nacy

      What do you expect from these people. Do you know who were their first immigrants?

  • nakawan

    Question is, what the hell was so bad about what the nurse divulged in the first place? We’re not talking national security matters here anyway. That blunder should not have driven the nurse to suicide.

    • jpmd88

      In reply to nakawan, there is no real reason for people to commit suicide now is there? you are implying that the event was not enough for someone like you perhaps not to take your own life.  That may be true, but some people take these things to heart and they feel a tremendous sense of embarrassment at what happened which without the benefit of counseling and support leads to depression. People that are clinically depressed do attempt suicide.
      Your insinuation that it was not national security is pretty ludicrous. Does it mean to say that if she divulged national security information would her suicide be justified in your eyes?

      Imagine yourself in the shoes of this woman.  An Indian immigrant doing her job in the most professional way, keeping her name honorable and all of a sudden a couple of idiots get a laugh at her expense, ridiculing her and embarrassing her employers and the Royals that she has sworn to care for and protect (their privacy) just like she would with any other patient.

      Her only mistake was she was too trusting because if indeed it was the the actual Queen on the line and she decided to hang up or not put the call through, she would have been in deeper trouble.  Can you imagine hanging up on the Queen of England?

      I thought so.

      • nakawan

        dude, you must have a helluva weak character to even consider suicide after an incident like this. i pray you don’t experience that so i can still reply to your posts :) sincerely, suck it

      • nakawan

        i’d like to try calling you up as Pres. Obama and see if i can make you cry. C U N T

  • Steven Harvey

    That’s the problem, people place way too much importance on The Queen. You say imagine hanging up on The Queen like it would be a crime to hang up on her, not hang up on someone, a ‘normal’ person okay but don’t dare hang up on The Queen! Ludicrous. The woman obviously had her own issues as no-one and I mean NO-ONE of sound mind kills themselves over such a puerile joke, that wasn’t even directed at her anyway. There is no blame here, just a sad story and broken family left behind.

  • concernedofw02

    This two presenters from Australia are both ass-holes…..this will happen to both of you definitely…you will experience more tragic than the nurse…beat me, it will…

  • watsupketchup

    How I wish they (the hospital) returned the prank to these empty headed DJ’s. They could have faked the nurse’s death then traumatized the DJ’s significantly before disclosing the prank in retaliation.

    Well anyway, dear DJ’s are you still able to sleep at night? Guilt will be haunting you for the rest of your useless lives.

  • Nacy

    I watched the aftermath interview of these two and I cannot make myself believe the male’s sincerity. He should take acting lessons.

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