8 Dec 2012

Hoax call DJs' shattered' by death of British nurse

8:00 pm on 8 December 2012

The death of a nurse who took a hoax call about the Duchess of Cambridge is a tragedy that could not have been reasonably foreseen, the radio station responsible for the hoax says.

Rhys Holleran, chief executive of the company that owns Sydney radio station 2Day FM, says DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian are "completely shattered" by the death of Jacintha Saldanha, 46.

The pair posed as the Queen and Prince Charles in a call on Tuesday to King Edward VII Hospital in London, where the pregnant duchess was recuperating from severe morning sickness, and details of her medical condition were revealed to them.

The BBC's royal correspondent says he understands Mrs Saldanha was the person who took the call and then connected the hoaxers to a nurse who discussed the duchess's condition.

Mrs Saldanha, a duty nurse, answered the phone because it was 5.30am and there was no receptionist on duty.

The BBC understands she had not been suspended or disciplined by the hospital but there have been suggestions she felt "very lonely and confused" as a result of what happened.

Mrs Saldanha - who was staying in hospital accommodation near the hospital - was found unconscious on Friday and pronounced dead at the scene. Police say the death is not being treated as suspicious.

Show off air until further notice

On Tuesday, hospital chief executive John Lofthouse said he had "received advice that what the Australian broadcasters did may well have broken the law", but Mr Holleran says he does not think any laws have been broken.

Speaking at a media conference in Melbourne, he said: "This is a tragic event...and we are deeply saddened by it."

Ms Greig and Mr Christian have said they were "very sorry if we've caused any issues". Mr Holleran says their show is off the air until further notice.

"I think that prank calls as a craft in radio had been going on for decades," he added. "They are done worldwide and no one could reasonably have foreseen what happened."

The Twitter accounts of both presenters have been deleted and all references to the call recording removed from the station's website.

Prince William and the duchess said on Friday they were "deeply saddened" by the death and said their thoughts and prayers were with Mrs Saldanha's family, friends and colleagues.