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Nurse suicide: Britain’s righteousness falters

world Updated: Dec 09, 2012 00:05 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar


The suicide of an Indian-origin nurse who answered a prank call in the hospital where the pregnant Princess Kate was being treated has led an entire nation to round on another. But outraged Britons who have seen off the Australian pranksters from their radio jobs are now having to face uncomfortable questions of their own.

The body of Jacintha Saldanha, who shifted to Britain from Mangalore some 10 years ago, was found on Friday. She is believed to have killed herself after suffering the humiliation of having to listen to her voice on television and radio asking the pretend Queen to hold on while she passed on the call to Kate’s nurse.

The CEO of the Australian radio station responsible for the prank call described the suicide as “tragic”, but said he is satisfied the presenters have broken no laws.

Although Saldanha, 46, is a qualified nurse, she was handling the reception desk, not her usual job, at the King Edward VII hospital when the call came.

2DayFM radio prankster Mel Greig pretended to be Queen Elizabeth II, “Could I please speak to Kate please, my granddaughter?”, getting the relationship wrong (Kate is the Queen’s granddaughter-in-law). In the background, Greig’s co-host Michael Christian pretended to be Prince Charles.

“Oh yes, just hold on ma’am,” Jacintha is heard saying, before asking a colleague, “what about this phone?” The call is then passed on to another nurse who gives details of how Kate was progressing with her pregnancy.

Although the Australian radio station said that the hoaxers had been temporarily suspended from their jobs, there are questions being asked over exactly how Jacintha was treated in the days after the incident. It is not known, for instance, if Jacintha and other staff at the hospital, which is used by the royal family, had been familiarised with the basic security drill for Kate.

The BBC reported that while Jacintha had not been suspended or disciplined, she had felt “very lonely and confused”.

Equally, newspapers that reported the Palace was furious with the breach of security may have led Jacintha to take her own life. The palace said that “at no point did the palace complain to the hospital about the incident.”

Messages of support have been flooding from all over the world.