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Family of nurse who died after prank go public with grief

Radio hosts Michael Christian and Mel Greig on Today Tonight at the time of the prank incident.
Radio hosts Michael Christian and Mel Greig on Today Tonight at the time of the prank incident.

The "devastated" family of a nurse who apparently committed suicide after she was duped by a hoax call about Prince William's wife Catherine made an emotional public appearance today, following a global outcry over the death.

Indian-born nurse Jacintha Saldanha, 46, was found dead on Friday, days after falling victim to a prank call by Australian radio presenters to the London hospital treating pregnant Kate.

Her tearful husband Benedict Barboza and two teenage children appeared before the media outside Britain's Houses of Parliament and spoke through lawmaker Keith Vaz, whose family is also from India.

"They just want me to say that they are extremely grateful to the public here in the United Kingdom and throughout the world who have sent them messages of condolences and support following the death of Jacintha, a loving mother and a loving wife," Vaz said.

"This is a close family. They are devastated by what has happened. They miss her every moment of every day," said Vaz, standing alongside Barboza and the couple's 14-year-old daughter Lisha.

Read more on this at New Zealand Herald

Hospital denies radio station's claim they were contacted before broadcast aired

Prank DJ: 'My first question was 'Was she a mother?'

ONE of the DJs at the centre of the international Royal prank death row says she is devastated for the husband and children left behind.

"I remember my first question was 'Was she a mother,'' Mel Greig told  Channel 7's Today Tonight.

Greig said she would do anything to help the family, including front a coronial inquest, particularly if it assisted to give them closure.

Greig and co-host Michael Chrisian told Nine's A Current Affair they had been "gutted and heartbroken'' by the death of the nurse.

The pair told both programs that the idea for the call came as the team were sitting down before their show.

"When we thought about making a call it was going to go for 30 seconds we were going to be hung up on, and that was it. As innocent as that,'' Michael Christian said.

"We thought a hundred people before us would've tried it,'' Mel Greig said.

"We thought it was such a silly idea and the accents were terrible and not for a second did we expect to speak to Kate let alone have a conversation with anyone at the hospital.

"We wanted to be hung up on.''

Should radio stations continue to do prank calls?

This poll ended on 22 December 2012.

Yes. Most of the time they are harmless fun - 18%

No. They promote making fun of other people - 48%

Yes. But only after consent is given for it to be broadcast - 21%

It depends on how they are done. - 11%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

The Sydney disc jockeys said they heard about Jacintha Saldanha's death in the early hours of Saturday morning.

"We both found out about the same time,'' a tearful Christian said.

"It was the worst phone call I've ever had in my life,'' Greig said.

When asked what their immediate reaction was, both cried in the television interview.

"Shattered, gutted, heartbroken and obviously you know...our deepest sympathies are with the family and the friends,'' Christian said.

Michael Christian and Mel Greig during the A Current Affair interview.
Michael Christian and Mel Greig during the A Current Affair interview.

"There's not a minute that goes by where we don't think about her family and what they must be going through, and the thought that we may have played a part in that is gutwrenching,'' Greig said.

Christian said the "prank calls are made every day, on every radio station in every country, around the world and they have been for a long time and no-one could've imagined this to happen''

He said it was not a competition to get a Royal scoop but just a silly prank idea.

"It was never meant to go that far... it was a silly little prank,'' Greig said.

Both of them said it was not their call to put it to air but it went through the normal process that all such prank calls went through.

"We just record everything and just pass it to the team. That's what we do,'' Greig said.

The clearly upset DJs said they had given no thought to returning to air, saying their careers did not matter given the woman's death.

Asked about the enormous public backlash, especially on Twitter, Greig said: "There is nothing that could make me feel worse than I feel right now. What we feel for is the family. We are so sorry that this has happened to them.''

Media watchdog receives complaints from around world over stunt

AUSTRALIA'S media watchdog says it has received complaints from "around the world" as the fallout from the 2Day FM prank intensified.

There were reports this morning the Australian Communications and Media Authority had received more than 1000 complaints after one of the nurses duped by the hoax call committed suicide.

Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, was found dead on Friday morning (London time).

Earlier last week Ms Saldanha, who worked at London's King Edward VII Hospital where Kate Middleton was being treated for morning sickness, was fooled into thinking she was speaking to the Queen and Prince Charles, when it was in fact 2Day FM hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian.

An ACMA spokeswoman said some of the many complaints it had received had come from the United Kingdom and United States.

She said ACMA was "engaging" with 2DayFm as it weighed up whether to launch an official investigation.

It came as Southern Cross Austereo CEO Rhys Holleran announced Ms Greig and Mr Christian's program had been cancelled pending a review.

2Day FM has also suspended all advertising until Wednesday.

"They're both (the hosts) understandably incredibly distraught too and we're concerned for both their wellbeing and at this point we've asked to make no comment," Mr Holleran said in a statement posted on the company's website.

"Having said that, Southern Cross Austereo remains committed to any investigation and we will help authorities who may want to investigate this matter further."

Mr Holleran again expressed sorrow for Ms Saldanha's death, adding it was a "tragic event and one that we could never have reasonably foreseen".

Earlier he told Melbourne radio station 3AW attempts were made to liaise with the hospital before the prank went to air last week.

"We rang them up to discuss what we had recorded. Absolutely (before it went to air). We attempted to contact them on five occasions… because we wanted to speak to them about it," he said.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy also made his first public comments about the tragedy on Monday, describing it as a "very sensitive situation".

He said it would be up to ACMA, as the independent regulator, to decide whether the matter should be investigated.

"Along with all Australians my thoughts and sympathies are with Ms Saldanha's family, friends and work colleagues at this time," Mr Conroy said.

"The ACMA is talking to 2Day FM about the facts and issues surrounding the prank call. While the ACMA is gathering the facts ... it would be unwise for me to comment."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said it was "terrible tragedy for all involved".

But he urged people to "let the dust settle" before demanding stricter media regulations.

"It was a prank that went horribly wrong. I think all we can do is mourn and grieve for everyone involved," he said.

Police in London are investigating the circumstances surrounding Ms Saldanha's death.

DJs 'shattered' over nurse death as station promises action

THE two Sydney radio presenters who made a hoax call that apparently precipitated the suicide of a nurse at the London hospital treating the Duchess of Cambridge were holed up at an unknown location amid mounting public anger.

Southern Cross Austereo, which owns the 2Day FM station, defended Mel Greig and Michael Christian, saying Jacintha Saldanha's death was "a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen", and it was confident no laws had been broken.

However, facing a rising tide of outrage, Austereo - whose parent company, Southern Cross Media Group, is publicly listed - took the pair off air until further notice, axed their show and, after advertisers began withdrawing, suspended all commercials on 2Day FM on the weekend

While many Australians vented their disgust on social media, some commentators expressed fears for Greig's and Christian's mental health.

Others pointed the finger at a popular radio culture where "humiliating ppl is [a] stock in trade", as a columnist, Miranda Devine, tweeted yesterday.

The station has become a byword for ever more outrageous stunts perpetrated in the name of entertainment, including, in 2009, subjecting a 14-year-old girl to a lie detector test during which she revealed she had been raped.

Recently, the Australian Communications and Media Authority reprimanded one of the station's DJs, Kyle Sandilands, for branding a female journalist "a fat slag" and describing a Pakistani girl born with additional limbs as "spider baby".

Initially, the call to King Edward VII's Hospital - which Ms Saldanha put through to a second nurse who gave Greig and Christian details of the duchess's medical state - caused much glee at the station, which replayed it numerous times and posted the recording on its website, calling it "the biggest royal prank ever".

Neither Ms Saldanha, a mother of two who had worked at the hospital for four years, nor the other nurse was disciplined in relation to the incident.

However, the BBC reported that Ms Saldanha had been feeling "lonely and confused" as a result of what happened.

At a press conference in Melbourne yesterday, Southern Cross Austereo's chief executive, Rhys Holleran, said Greig and Christian were "completely shattered" and had been offered counselling.

He added that prank calls had been commonplace in radio around the world "for decades".

The two presenters were excoriated on Twitter and Facebook yesterday, with some people claiming they had "blood on their hands".

The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, described Ms Saldanha's death as a "terrible tragedy". The supermarket chain Coles and the telecoms company Telstra led the exodus of advertisers from 2Day FM.

Some commentators warned against linking the hoax call directly to Ms Saldanha's death, noting that suicide generally has multiple causes.

Reflecting on the ethical issues thrown up by the case, Tim Burrowes, a respected Australian media commentator, wrote on his website yesterday: "Tempting as it is, let's not slaughter Mike Christian and Mel Greig. They will now always have to live with the fact that while they didn't kill this woman, they set a chain of events in motion that had a terrible ending. Surely that's enough to deal with."

Southern Cross Austereo chairman Max Moore-Wilton's reply to the chairman of King Edward VII's Hospital, Lord Glenarthur

"Thank you for your letter of the 8th December.

"We are all saddened by the events of the last few days. They are truly tragic.

"It is too early to know the full details leading to this tragic event and we are anxious to review the results of any investigation that may be made available to us or made public.

"We can assure you that we will be fully cooperative with all investigations.

"As we have said in our own statements on the matter, the outcome was unforeseeable and very regrettable.

"I can assure you we are taking immediate action and reviewing the broadcast and processes involved.

"Our company joins with you, all at King Edward VII's Hospital and Mrs Saldanha's family and friends in mourning their tragic loss."

Topics:  2day fm, editors picks, mel greig, michael christian, nurse death, royal radio prank


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