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Nurse in Royal prank call suicides

Posted by: Karen Kissane for | 8 December, 2012 - 9:16 AM
The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William announce they're expecting.<br>(Photo: Tim Chong/Reuters)

The nurse who took the crank call of two Australian radio announcers asking questions about the Duchess of Cambridge’s health has been found dead and is suspected to have killed herself.

Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, was found unconscious near the King Edward VII Hospital where Kate spent three nights earlier this week being treated for pregnancy-related vomiting.

Two crews of ambulance officers tried to revive her but she died at the scene and police said her death was unexplained but not suspicious.

Britain's Prince William stands next to his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge

"Deeply saddened" ... Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. Photo: AP

The Sydney Today Network presenters who made the prank-call, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, have been taken off the air and told not to comment.

A statement from Today Network;s parent company, Southern Cross Austereo, said it was ‘‘deeply saddened by the tragic news’’.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge issued a statement saying they were "deeply saddened" to learn of her death and their thoughts and prayers were with her family. They said they had received excellent care at the hospital.

A palace spokesperson told the BBC they had made no complaint to the hospital over the prank call.

The hospital issued a statement confirming that Ms Saldanha had recently been the victim of a hoax call: "The hospital had been supporting her through this difficult time."

Ms Saldanha, married with two children, had worked there for four years and was an excellent nurse.

Hospital chairman Lord Glenarthur said, "This is a tragic event. Jacintha was a first-class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients during her time with us. She will be greatly missed."

Ms Saldanha was found at 9.35 Friday morning London time. She was reportedly working on reception when two presenters from the Today Network called in pretending to be the Queen and Prince Philip. She is thought to be the person who took the call and put it through to the duchess's ward, where a second nurse disclosed private details of Kate’s condition.

The Telegraph newspaper in London reported that Michael Christian, the announcer who pretended to be Prince Charles, apologised earlier in the week but carried on tweeting about it, including a tweet that said, "MORE on the #royalprank after 7.30 tonight."

During the call, DJ Mel Greig pretended to be the Queen and Christian was in the background aping Prince Charles. Greig had rung reception and asked to speak to "my grand-daughter Kate". Ms Saldanha, thinking she was speaking to the Queen, said, "Oh yes, just hold on ma'am" before putting the call through to a duty nurse.

In reports about her suspected suicide, British newspapers and BBC television ran large smiling photos of the Australian hoaxers. They said the DJs and the station had continued to advertise the stunt world-wide.

The Daily Mail wrote, "today Christian was continuing to boast about the prank 'making international headlines' on Twitter".

The King Edward, which is the Royal family’s hospital of choice and the birthplace of princes William and Harry, was deeply embarrassed by the call and at the time accused the DJs of "journalistic trickery". Earlier this week it said it was considering legal action.

The hospital said Ms Saldanha had not been disciplined or suspended over her handling of the call.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said on Friday, "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."

Distressed nurses were photographed holding on to each other when entering the hospital today.

A statement from  Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) said: ‘‘Chief executive officer Rhys Holleran has spoken with the presenters; they are both deeply shocked and at this time we have agreed that they not comment about the circumstances.

"SCA and 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.’’

Ms Saldanha's family issued a statement saying they were mourning the loss "of our beloved Jacintha" and asking that the media respect the family's privacy.

 Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.

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Blog comments Your Say

  • Austereo's spokeswoman, Sandy Kaye, said Christian and Greig had been suspended indefinitely and were receiving counselling

    ''The backlash is just ferocious,'' she said. ''Australia seems to be much more balanced. In the UK it's like they're on a witch hunt.
    So...No apology from Southern Cross Austerio? ..From a radio station that thinks its ok to make hoax calls to hospitals...this from a radio station that was still running a promo with the nurses voice 7 hours after her death was reported in the media...disgraceful.

    Polly Monday 10 December, 2012 - 2:24 AM
  • It wasn't foreseeable? Not foreseeable that if you impersonate a relative when calling a hospital that you MAY get access to highly private medical information? Not foreseeable that a young pregnant woman taken to hospital exhibiting sickness well before her due date MAY have been suffering from serious complications (the details of which MAY have been broadcast on radio). Not foreseeable that a hospital employee involved in inadvertently divulging such information MAY be at risk of losing their job and MAY suffer immense public humiliation? Not foreseeable that a person suffering such immense public humiliation may make an irrational (and ultimately fatal) decision? Foreseeable? You think?

    AMS Sunday 9 December, 2012 - 5:22 PM
  • Ms Saldhana obviously had huge personal problems, to cause her to take her own life.
    Listening to the 3aw Saturday afternoon team spinning the DJ prank, caused me to turn off 3aw radio station.

    gill Sunday 9 December, 2012 - 7:36 AM
  • Let's get the facts out before speculation!

    Ivan@kinnane Sunday 9 December, 2012 - 6:03 AM
  • I this the two presenters should be sacked. They seemed to think it was funny but I think it is a serious offence. I hope the advertisers also stop advertising on the Radio Station. Not only has this Nurse lost her life but also her children have lost a mother.

    B Smith Saturday 8 December, 2012 - 11:55 PM
  • I won't even try to wonder how the two dickheaded so called Australian announcers feel now about their utterly stupid damned prank which has caused the death of the main recipient of their nonsense. They should be sacked and I trust the family of the deceased woman will sue them. Just useless damned criminal bastards indeed.

    Justin J James Saturday 8 December, 2012 - 9:48 PM

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