Indian nurse suicide: Australian DJ apologises for 'royal hoax call'

  • Agencies, London
  • Updated: Sep 13, 2014 13:35 IST

An Australian radio DJ has apologised to the family of Indian-born nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who killed herself days after she answered a hoax call to a London hospital treating Prince William's wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, reports said.

Melanie Greig and co-host Michael Christian from radio station 2Day FM, which is owned by Southern Cross Austereo, called the Edward VII hospital pretending to be Queen Elizabeth II and William's father Prince Charles.

Forty six-year-old Saldanha, who put them through to the ward where the duchess of Cambridge was being treated for severe morning sickness, was found dead three days after she answered the call.

A nurse in the ward disclosed details of Kate's condition during treatment for acute morning sickness she was suffering in the early stages of pregnancy with son Prince George, leading to headlines around the world.

An inquest at London's Royal Courts of Justice ruled on Friday that Saldanha's death was a suicide.

According to the Guardian, recording a verdict of suicide, Westminster coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox said she was satisfied Saldanha, a mother of two, had killed herself.

In an unusual move, she allowed Greig, who attended the inquest but was not permitted to give evidence, to make a personal statement at the end of the hearing.

Greig voluntarily flew over from Australia to attend the inquest.

"I am so deeply sorry for your loss. I have wanted to say this to you for so long," a tearful Greig said directly to Saldanha's husband and two children.

The presenter, who no longer works for Sydney's 2Day FM radio station, said she wished she had "tried harder to stop the prank" from being aired.

"This tragedy is always going to stay with me," she added, weeping as she returned to her seat near the family.

"To fellow announcers and DJs, I urge you to speak up if don't feel comfortable and to consider the feelings of others when trying to make a joke," Greig said in her court statement.

"The joke should always be on us, the DJs."

The inquest heard Saldanha blamed herself for transferring the call, which she believed was genuine, on to the nurse caring for the duchess who revealed details of her condition, broadcast on 2Day on December 4, 2012.

Labour MP Keith Vaz said that the family has accepted the verdict and was taking advice over possible future legal action.

The family thanked all those who had supported them over the 21 months since Saldanha's death, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge "who publicly and privately have supported the family and always been of concern for their welfare".

Meanwhile, the Australian radio station has donated A$500,000($450,000) to her family to "help them in the future".

Southern Cross Austereo said it was donating the money to a trust fund for Saldanha's family, and expressed its "deepest sympathy and sincere condolences".

"We do not assume, of course, that this donation or any amount of money could relieve the feelings of loss felt by Ms Saldanha's family but it is our hope that it may help them in the future," the broadcaster said in a statement late on Friday.

Southern Cross Austereo said it had fully co-operated with the inquest and "always accepted full responsibility for the making of the call and its broadcast".

"We also note that the coroner has said, 'There is no causation as a matter of law between the hoax call and any subsequent voluntary action by Ms Saldanha'," the broadcaster added.

"In summation, the coroner said the incident was not reasonably foreseeable."

The inquest was held just days after it was announced that William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are expecting their second child, with the duchess once again suffering acute morning sickness.

(With inputs from Reuters, ANI and PTI)

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