Anger at Australian radio station over royal hoax
This undated hand out photo provided by the Metropolitan Police shows Jacintha Saldanha. British police say that a nurse who was found dead days after she took a hoax call about the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was originally from India. Scotland Yard said Saturday that 46-year-old Jacintha Saldanha, who was found dead on Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 had lived in Bristol in southwestern England for nine years. Saldanha worked at the London hospital where Prince William's wife, Kate, was being treated for acute morning sickness. The nurse was duped by a prank call performed by two Australian DJs, who pretended to be Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles to ask about Kate's condition. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Police
LONDON (AP) — It started out as a joke, but ended in tragedy.
The sudden death of a nurse who unwittingly accepted a prank call to a London hospital about Prince William's pregnant wife Kate has shocked Britain and Australia, and sparked an angry backlash Saturday from some who argue the DJs who carried out the hoax should be held responsible.
At first, the call by two irreverent Australian DJs posing as royals was picked up by news outlets around the world as an amusing anecdote about the royal pregnancy. Some complained about the invasion of privacy, the hospital was embarrassed, and the radio presenters sheepishly apologized.
But the prank took a dark twist Friday with the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, three days after she took the hoax call. Police have not yet determined Saldanha's cause of death, but people from London to Sydney have been making the assumption that she died because of stress from the call.
King Edward VII's Hospital, where the former Kate Middleton was being treated for acute morning sickness this week, wrote a strongly-worded letter to the 2DayFM radio station's parent company Southern Cross Austereo, condemning the "truly appalling" hoax and urging it to take steps to ensure such an incident would never happen again.
Members of the media opposite the entrance to the King Edward VII hospital in central London, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. King Edward VII hospital says a nurse involved in a prank telephone call to elicit information about the Duchess of Cambridge has died. The hospital said Friday that Jacintha Saldanha had been a victim of the call made by two Australian radio disc jockeys. They did not immediately say what role she played in the call. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
"The immediate consequence of these premeditated and ill-considered actions was the humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses who were simply doing their job tending to their patients," the letter read. "The longer term consequence has been reported around the world and is, frankly, tragic beyond words."
The hospital did not comment when asked whether it believed the prank call had directly caused Saldanha's death, only saying that the protest letter spoke for itself.
DJs Mel Grieg and Michael Christian, who apologized for the prank on Tuesday, took down their Twitter accounts after they were bombarded by thousands of abusive comments. Rhys Holleran, CEO of Southern Cross Austereo, said the pair have been offered counseling and were taken off the air indefinitely.
No one could have foreseen the tragic consequences of the prank, he stressed.
"I spoke to both presenters early this morning and it's fair to say they're completely shattered," Holleran told reporters on Saturday.