News

Aussie radio hosts off air after Royal prank nurse death

Sydney radio hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian
Sydney radio hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian

TWO Sydney radio station hosts have taken themselves off the air after a nurse involved in their Royal radio prank was found dead after an apparent suicide.

2Day FM jocks Mel Greig and Michael Christian had phoned the hospital, posing as the Queen and Prince Charles inquiring as to the condition of Kate Middleton.

"The hosts have decided that they will not return to their radio show until further notice out of respect for what can only be described as a tragedy", a statement on their stations' website says.

Jacintha Saldanha, 46, a nurse at the King Edward VII's Hospital in central London, answered the call at 5.30am on Tuesday.

Ms Saldanha put them through to a colleague who provided details of the Duchess's condition.

Mrs Saldanha was found unconscious at a nurses' residence close to the private hospital in Marylebone, central London, at about 9.35am this morning and despite the efforts of paramedics could not be revived.

Scotland Yard said the death was not being treated as suspicious, and a source said officers were investigating whether she had taken her own life.

Mental health experts cautioned against any assumptions about factors contributing to her death.

The nurse, a mother-of-two who started working at the hospital in 2008, is the first member of staff heard to answer on a recording of the hoax call from presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian.

Ms Greig, seeking to impersonate the Queen, asked to be put through to "my grand-daughter", prompting Mrs Saldanha to reply: "Oh yes, just hold on ma'am."

The hospital, which is rated as one of London's best private medical establishments and has a reputation for closely guarding the privacy of its patients, spoke of its shock and "very deep sadness" at the death of Ms Saldanha, whose partner and two sons live in Bristol.

Her family said last night: "We as a family are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Jacintha."

In a statement, the hospital said: "She was an excellent nurse and well-respected and popular with all of her colleagues.

"We can confirm Jacintha was the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital had been supporting her throughout this difficult time."

Lord Glenarthur, the hospital's chairman, added: "This is a tragic event. Jacintha was a first class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients during her time with us."

The radio prank, which was pre-recorded and vetted by lawyers from the radio station before it was broadcast, was picked up by media worldwide and acutely embarrassing for the hospital, which has a long history as the hospital of choice for the royal family.

In a statement earlier this week, the hospital's chief executive John Lofthouse condemned the prank, adding: "We take patient confidentiality extremely seriously and we are now reviewing our telephone protocols."

Mr Lofthouse added: "I think this whole thing is pretty deplorable; our nurses are caring, professional people trained to look after patients, not to cope with journalistic trickery of this sort."

The hospital offers its VIP patients private lines that are connected directly to their rooms but the Australian DJs were able to reach the Duchess's personal nurse via the switchboard in an apparent breach of procedure.

It is understood that Mrs Saldanha, who was registered to practice in Britain in July 2003, had not been disciplined or suspended by the hospital.

She answered the hospital's phone line in her role as duty nurse because there was no receptionist manning the switchboard at the time of the call.

St James's Palace said that neither Prince William and his wife nor any royal staff had complained to the hospital about the prank, adding that they had offered their "full and heartfelt support" to staff and to the nurses involved.

The couple, who had to announce that they are expecting their first child sooner than planned after Kate was hospitalised with acute morning sickness on Monday, said that they were "deeply saddened" by Mrs Saldanha's death.

A spokesman at St James's Palace said: "Their Royal Highnesses were looked after so wonderfully well at all times by everybody at King Edward VII Hospital, and their thoughts and prayers are with Jacintha Saldanha's family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time."

While little information about Mrs Saldanha's mental health was available, nurses' leaders last night suggested that there could be a link between her death and the prank.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "It is deeply saddening that a simple human error due to a cruel hoax could lead to the death of a dedicated and caring member of the nursing profession."

In a statement, the ambulance service said: "We were called at 9.25am this morning to an address on Weymouth Street. We sent two ambulance crews and a duty officer. Sadly the patient, a woman, was dead at the scene."

The owners of the Sydney radio station said last night that the two presenters were "deeply shocked" at the nurse's death and had agreed to stop broadcasting until further notice.

If you or someone you know may be at risk of suicide contact Lifeline 13 11 14, beyondblue 1300 22 46 36, or Salvo Care Line 1300 36 36 22.

Topics:  2day fm, kate middleton, nurse death, pregnant, royal radio prank


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Programmers' joke is on us

Dr Airdre Grant

Computers - it's a love/hate relationship.

How to manage sustainability

Deborah Benhayon - Open For Business.

What business has to do to maintain sustainable development.

From purr to a roar, Meow Meow is not kitten

ANYTHING IS PAWSIBLE: Acclaimed cabaret star Meow Meow returns to Lismore.

Anything can happen during her local shows this week

Local Partners

PM boasts of our ruthless borders

Borders made easier by a land girt by sea.

Why we're the top spot for mobile tourists

Caravanners and campers spend an average $152 a night in our region.

Our region is the top spot for caravanners and campers in the state.

Programmers' joke is on us

Dr Airdre Grant

Computers - it's a love/hate relationship.

How to manage sustainability

Deborah Benhayon - Open For Business.

What business has to do to maintain sustainable development.

From purr to a roar, Meow Meow is not kitten

ANYTHING IS PAWSIBLE: Acclaimed cabaret star Meow Meow returns to Lismore.

Anything can happen during her local shows this week

Not just any party, it's the Arty Party!

FOR ALL: The event will feature performers, local artists, storytellers, musicians and dancers.

A family-friendly, child-focused arts festival

More Northern River schools needed to be counted in

John Foreman and Jay Laga'aia at a songwriting workshop earlier this year.

Music - Count Us In will be held in November

All she wants is to be chosen

TAKE ME HOME: Daisy from pet shop to pound to your place.

Daisy has gone from puppy farm pet shop dog to the pound.

Lady Gaga confirms Super Bowl show

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga to perform in coveted spot

Girls actors give emotional tributes to hit show

Actor Allison Williams

Actors farewell smash hit HBO show Girls after six seasons

Janet Jackson's pregnancy is 'best thing'

Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson can't wait to become a mum

Jay Z signs two-year movie and TV deal

Rapper Jay Z

Rapper Jay Z has signed a television and movie deal

Nowhere to Hyde: Matt Nable is Australia's man in demand

Matt Nable stars as Detective Gary Hyde in the TV series Hyde & Seek.

NABLE returns to the small screen amidst busy film work.

Marvel's Luke Cage S1E7: Manifest review

Mike Colter in a scene from the TV series Marvel's Luke Cage. Supplied by Netflix.

*WARNING: spoilers if you haven't seen Marvel's Luke Cage*

Beach-side real estate starts at $85k on Fraser Coast

HERVEY BAY REAL ESTATE: You can buy this townhouse in Scarness for under $300k.

Live your beach-living dream locally.

UPDATE: Former rodeo champ's sale rained out, now back on

Larkhill local Ken Consiglio is having an auction of most of the things on his property.

'People kept showing up and we had to turn them away'

Couple build their own 'tiny house' for $45k

Holly Bowen and Oli Bucher built their "tiny house" themselves, only hiring a plumber and an electrician. Photo/supplied

The house, which is built on a trailer and can be towed.

Sunshine Beach property breaks real estate record

The property overlooks Sunshine Beach, as the backyard lawn meets the sand.

Sunshine Beach mansion sale smashes real estate record

SOLD: Historic hotel finds new owner

Post Office Hotel Grafton

Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner

Pub in new hands and heading in a brand new direction

Peppers Airlie Beach put on the market

ON THE MARKET: Peppers Airlie Beach is being for recievership sale by CBRE Hotels and PRD Nationwide Airlie Beach.

Peppers Airlie Beach is being offered for sale.