Kate Middleton

Radio hosts taken off air after death of royals' nurse Jacintha Saldanha

Australian presenters are 'deeply shocked' by suspected suicide of nurse who took their call

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 December, 2012, 7:32am

Two Australian radio presenters who made a hoax call to the English hospital treating Prince William's pregnant wife, Catherine, were taken off the air yesterday after the nurse who took the call was found dead in a suspected suicide.

Jacintha Saldanha, 46, answered the phone when presenters from Sydney's 2Day FM called pretending to be Queen Elizabeth and William's father, Prince Charles, before passing it on to a colleague who divulged details of Kate's condition.

Saldanha was found dead on Friday, with police saying her death was not being treated as suspicious. Results of a post-mortem exam were due this weekend.

News of the death prompted a furious outpouring against the radio station and the two presenters involved, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, who are said to be "deeply shocked" by the turn of events.

"It's fair to say they are completely shattered," Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo, which owns 2Day FM, said of the pair, who had only been presenting together for a couple of weeks.

Holleran said the station and the hosts had decided their show would not return "until further notice out of respect of what can only be described as a tragedy".

He also said in Melbourne the station did not believe it had broken the law with the prank call, the Australian Associated Press news agency reported.

The radio station's Facebook page has been bombarded with more than 13,650 comments, many attacking the presenters and calling for them to be sacked while at least one major advertiser has withdrawn.

"Not so darn funny now is it? A British nurse is DEAD for the sake of a couple of cheap laughs. Shame on you!" wrote one commentator, Kim Wilson.

For some, it had echoes of Prince William's mother, Diana, who died in a car crash while being pursued by paparazzi.

"One would think ... the death of Princess Diana would have taught the media a lesson about invasion of privacy of the royal family, but I guess not," said one commentator posting as Lora LB.

Lord Glenarthur, the chairman of King Edward VII's Hospital, wrote to the chairman of the radio station, saying the consequence of the prank "was the humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses who were simply doing their job".

"The longer term consequence has been reported around the world and is, frankly, tragic beyond words," he wrote.

The family of the nurse, who reportedly had two children, appealed for privacy. Police said Saldanha was originally from India and had lived in southwest England for nine years.

Prince William and Kate have said they were "deeply saddened" by Saldanha's death.

The hoax came a day after the palace said Kate was pregnant following her admission to hospital with severe morning sickness.

Additional reporting by Associated Press