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A royal pregnancy, a hoax call and a nurse's death

Public anger mounts against Australian radio station as nurse's family express their shock

  • Agencies
  • Published: 21:21 December 9, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: AFP
  • A bunch of flowers is left outside the nurses accommodation block by colleagues near the King Edward VII hospital in central London on Sunday.

London: The London hospital that treated Prince William’s wife Catherine has strongly condemned the Australian radio station whose hoax call led to a nurse’s death, while public anger mounted and station itself held an emergency meeting to review its policies on Sunday.

The body of Jacintha Saldanha, 46, was found Friday in staff accommodation of London’s King Edward VII hospital, which was treating the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge for morning sickness.

Here’s a snapshot of the incidents that unraveled yesterday over the death of Saldanha:

FAMILY SHOCKED

The family of Saldanha, who was of Indian origin, said they were shocked to hear the “horrible news”.

Her family, living in Shirva town, 400km from the southern Indian city of Bengaluru, said they could not believe Jacintha was capable of taking her own life.

“We were shocked to hear from her husband [Benedict Barboza] that Jacintha was no more. He did not tell us that she committed suicide,” Jacintha’s sister-in-law, Irene D’Souza, said.

“It is hard to believe Jacintha could commit suicide, as she was not such a woman to do it.”

D’Souza said Jacintha was planning to come to India to celebrate Christmas with the family who were all planning a big party. “But today we are going to the church to pray for her soul and for her children who are going through a bad time.”

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.”

Jacintha’s cousin Mary said: “She had plans to start a nursing centre in India and encouraged several young girls to study medicine. Her positive energy made all the difference.”

Over 300 people attended the memorial service for Jacintha held in Shriva on Sunday. Saldanha lived with her husband and two children in the western English city of Bristol, where she had moved from India around 12 years ago.

POLICE START INQUIRY

Scotland Yard on Sunday contacted their Australian counterparts regarding the case.

It is understood they asked police in Sydney for assistance with a view to interviewing the two DJs who made the prank call ahead of an inquest into Saldanha’s death.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “Officers have been in contact with Australian authorities”.

Nick Kaldas, deputy commissioner for New South Wales Police, confirmed the request, telling Sky News: “It hasn’t been indicated to us that an offence has occurred and they have not actually asked for anything yet.

"They’ve simply touched base, let us know of their interest and they will get back to us if they actually want something done. Nothing has been requested of us yet."

A post-mortem examination is due to be held this week and an inquest opened and adjourned at Westminster Coroner’s Court, Scotland Yard said. The death is not being treated as suspicious, but is still being termed as “unexplained”.

HOSPITAL FURIOUS

Britain has reacted with horror to the death of Saldanha. Lord Simon Glenarthur, Chairman of the King Edward VII Hospital in London, 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 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 Barboza and the couple’s son and daughter, aged 14 and 16.

RADIO REVIEWS POLICY

The board of Southern Cross Austereo held an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the letter from Lord Glenarthur.

Max Moore-Wilton, the chairman of 2DayFM owner Southern Cross Austereo, said in a letter to the hospital’s chairman that the company will cooperate with any investigation.

“It is too early to know the full details leading to this tragic event and we are anxious to review the results of any investigation that may be made available to us or made public,” he wrote.

“I can assure you we are taking immediate action and reviewing the broadcast and processes involved. As we have said in our own statements on the matter, the outcome was unforeseeable and very regrettable."

The Australian Communications and Media Authority, which regulates radio broadcasting, says it received complaints from around the world and is considering whether it should launch an investigation.

DJS IN HIDING

Radio DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian, who made the prank call, went into hiding on Sunday amid fears for their mental health. Both were receiving “intensive psychological counselling” to deal with the tragedy of Jacintha Saldanha’s apparent suicide, Australian media reported.

Both DJs apologised for the prank before Saldanha’s death. Their show has been suspended indefinitely and their Twitter accounts have been taken down after they were bombarded by thousands of abusive comments.

In profile: the radio station

The Sydney radio station that made a hoax call to the hospital treating Duchess of Cambridge three days before the nurse who took the call apparently killed herself, has frequently attracted controversy.

In August 2009, Kyle Sandilands, a DJ on 2Day FM, sparked a public backlash following a lie-detector stunt in which a 14-year-old girl revealed she had been raped. Sandilands was dropped as a judge on Australian Idol and criticised by the then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, for his role.

The DJ also provoked fury in November last year after he launched a verbal attack on a female journalist, Alison Stephenson, who had reported on the low ratings of a TV show O’Neil and Sandilands presented.

— Agencies 

Comments (7)

  1. Added 13:07 December 10, 2012

    There are few Radio prank shows which are running in dubai, we have listen many times when people are fooled, but never the organiser thought what can be the results. even they should shut down the prank shows.

    Sajid, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 11:53 December 10, 2012

    I still cannot believe the presenters and the CEO at the radio station have not resigned in shame over the incident. Anyone with honour, a moral backbone, respect for Jacintha and her family and a sense of right/wrong would resign in deep, deep shame.

    simon, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 11:30 December 10, 2012

    Whatever name you call, fooling a person and laughing is not part of a civilized society. All the RJs and listeners should change this attitude. Radio stations are very interested in this because this is very easy to make and no creativity is needed. A good joke needs creativity and not be easy to make.

    Shabeer, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 10:49 December 10, 2012

    A very sad and shocking news. Nowadays all djs and radio sations are busy in making pranks like this. just they want to get publicity. The RJs should be punished. Sister Jacinta was from my native Udupi. may Almighty bless her with peace and heaven and bless her family to recover from this hard moment.

    Ansar Bengre, Fujairah / Udupi, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 09:48 December 10, 2012

    This is a lesson for all the VJs who make prank calls to people in the morning without realizing the consequences. I heard even in UAE the radio stations are making such calls and think it is funny. Hope these RJ's learn from this before they face the consequences.

    Hanu, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 09:48 December 10, 2012

    May the soul rest in peace. I think lesson should be learnt from this. often I hear local radio here about prank calls for fun. Hope DJ's need to be very serious hereafter.

    Haneef Puttur, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 09:26 December 10, 2012

    First paparazzi, now Radio DJ, who next? Please leave all celebrities and Royals alone!

    Shoba, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

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