DJs feel nurse 'suicide' backlash

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: 2 Day FM radio presenters Mel Greig, left, and Michael Christian (AP/AAP/ Southern Cross Austereo Sydney) 2 Day FM radio presenters Mel Greig, left, and Michael Christian (AP/AAP/ Southern Cross Austereo Sydney)

Anger is mounting against two Australian radio presenters after a nurse who was duped into helping reveal details about the Duchess of Cambridge's health apparently took her own life.

Jacintha Saldanha was pronounced dead on Friday morning at an address near the King Edward VII's Hospital in central London, where the pregnant Duchess had been treated for a severe form of morning sickness.

The nurse, reportedly a mother of two, was the victim of two DJs from the Sydney-based station 2Day FM, who impersonated the Queen and the Prince of Wales. She answered their call and, believing they were members of the Royal Family, put them through to another nurse who described Kate's condition in detail. In a statement, Ms Saldanha's family said they were "deeply saddened" by the death and asked for privacy.

The two presenters, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, apologised for their actions, as did their radio station. They have now been taken off the air and the station has been inundated with complaints.

But Rhys Holleran, chief executive of 2Day FM's parent company Southern Cross Austereo, stood by the two DJs, and said they were shocked and devastated by the news of Ms Saldanha's death. At a news conference in Melbourne he said: "This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen and we're deeply saddened by it. I spoke to both presenters early this morning and it's fair to say they're completely shattered."

Mr Holleran said the pair had been offered counselling, adding: "These people aren't machines, they're human beings. We're all affected by this." In the wake of the tragedy Southern Cross Austereo said that, by mutual consent, the hosts would not be returning to their show until further notice.

The news of Ms Saldanha's death has led the headlines in the Australian media, with calls for the DJs to be sacked. It was reported the advertisers are already deserting the radio station, including supermarket giant Coles and telecommunications company Telstra. There has been an angry backlash from people in Australia, and almost 14,000 people have left comments on the station's Facebook page.

The two presenters remarked during their show how their efforts were the "easiest prank call ever made", as they put on mock British accents they later described as "terrible". The prank call was pre-recorded and vetted by lawyers before being broadcast to listeners in Sydney.

In their initial apology the two presenters said: "We were very surprised that our call was put through. We thought we'd be hung up on as soon as they heard our terrible accents. We're very sorry if we've caused any issues and we're glad to hear that Kate is doing well."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have sent their condolences to Ms Saldanha's family and said they had been looked after "so wonderfully well at all times by everybody at King Edward VII's Hospital". A St James's Palace spokesman stressed that they had not complained to the hospital about the hoax call, saying: "On the contrary, we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times."

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