Hoax nurse's death sparks outrage

2012-12-09 13:18
Prince William and his wife Kate, waving as they leave Hospis Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Thursday (September 13 2012) as part of a tour to mark Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. Picture: Mark Baker/AP

Prince William and his wife Kate, waving as they leave Hospis Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Thursday (September 13 2012) as part of a tour to mark Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. Picture: Mark Baker/AP

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London - The London hospital that treated Prince William's wife Catherine has condemned the Australian radio station whose hoax call apparently led to a nurse's suicide, calling the stunt "appalling".

Britain has reacted with horror to 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 answering a call to 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 then divulged details of Kate's recovery from severe morning sickness.

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

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

Extremely foolish

There was no receptionist on duty at 05:30 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 chairperson Lord Simon Glenarthur wrote to Max Moore-Wilton, chairperson 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.

Tragic beyond words

"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 husband Benedict Barboza and the couple's son and daughter, aged 14 and 16.

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

In a message posted on his Facebook page, Barboza reportedly wrote: "I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jacintha in tragic circumstances, She will be laid to rest in Shirva, India."

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."

British police following up

Several British newspapers reported that Greig and Christian face questioning from British police.

"Officers have been in touch with Australian authorities, but we're not prepared to discuss it any further than that," a Scotland Yard spokesman told AFP.

Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo, said the pair would be taken off-air 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," Holleran said, adding that the presenters who made the hoax call were "shattered" by the news and were undergoing counselling.

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

Hysterical

The British press condemned the hoax on Sunday, while Australian media said it was not the time for "hysterical finger-pointing".

"Radio hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian did not kill British nurse Jacintha Saldanha," said Sydney's Daily Telegraph, hitting out at the "predictable British media frenzy".

Meanwhile Jenny McCartney, a columnist for Britain's Sunday Telegraph, blamed the foreign media for the worst invasions of William and Kate's privacy in recent months, including the publication of topless photos of Kate in a French magazine.

"This most recent incident, one must hope, might come as an international wake-up call to back off," she wrote.

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.

Read more on:    prince william  |  kate middleton  |  uk
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