Hospital writes to royal prank radio station owners

The letter follows the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, 46, whose body was found at a property close to the hospital on Friday.

Note: This article is from the Guardian.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Hospital writes to royal prank radio station owners about ‘appalling’ stunt” was written by Roxanne Escobales and Alison Rourke in Sydney, for theguardian.com on Saturday 8th December 2012 16.25 UTC

The hospital that was duped by a radio station prank call into revealing details about the condition of the Duchess of Cambridge has written to the Australian station’s owners, accusing its DJs of "humiliating" its staff with a "truly appalling" stunt.

The letter, from the chairman of King Edward VII hospital in London, follows the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, 46, whose body was found at a property close to the hospital on Friday, in a suspected suicide. Saldanha had answered the prank call and transferred it through to the duchess’s nurse.

Lord Glenarthur, the hospital chairman, said Saldanha’s death was "tragic beyond words" and urged the radio station to ensure the incident was never repeated.

Glenarthur told Southern Cross Austereo, which owns the station whose DJs made and aired the call, that the immediate consequence of 2Day FM’s "premeditated and ill-considered actions" led to the "humiliation" of Saldanha and another nurse.

He wrote: "I appreciate that you cannot undo the damage which has been done but I would urge you to take steps to ensure that such an incident could never be repeated."

Saldanha’s family were said to be "very, very shocked" by her death, as the Metropolitan police released a photograph of the nurse.

A family friend updated the press on the family’s condition as relatives and friends comforted Saldanha’s husband and teenage son and daughter at their home in Bristol. A single bouquet wrapped in pink paper was propped up against iron gates at the house.

In a statement to the press, the family expressed deep sadness and asked the media to respect their privacy.

The photograph of Saldanha released by the police, appeared to be a blurry passport-style picture and showed the Indian-born nurse with her hair pulled back.

Details of Glenarthur’s letter came after the chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo, Rhys Holleran, held a press conference to say that Saldanha’s suspected suicide was "tragic", but that he was satisfied the presenters had broken no laws and could not have "reasonably foreseen" the events which unfolded.

"We are very confident that we haven’t done anything illegal," said Holleran. "We are satisfied that the procedures we have in place have been met.

"Our main concern at this point in time is that what has happened is deeply tragic and we are incredibly saddened and we are incredibly affected by that."

It is understood Saldanha had worked at the London hospital for four years and was the staff member who had answered a telephone call at 5.30am on Tuesday from the presenters posing as the Queen and the Prince of Wales. She had put the call through to a duty nurse, who then divulged medical details of the duchess’s condition to the presenters.

During a press conference in Melbourne, Holleran expressed "deep sorrow" at the events of the last 24 hours. He said had spoken to both of the presenters and said their show would remain off-air until further notice, out of respect. Both had been offered counselling.

"Our main concern is for the family [of the nurse]. I don’t think anyone could have reasonably foreseen this was going to be the result," he said.

"I spoke to both presenters early this morning and it’s fair to say they’re completely shattered. These people aren’t machines, they’re human beings. We’re all affected by this."

Australians expressed shock and disbelief at the death of Saldanha. A spokesman for the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, said: "This is a terrible tragedy. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time."

The federal communications minister, Stephen Conroy, described Saldanha’s death as "dreadful and tragic". "My thoughts and sympathies are with Ms Saldanha’s family, friends and work colleagues at this time," he said.

Conroy confirmed that the independent broadcasting regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), had received complaints about the hoax call but said a decision about whether to investigate the prank call for possible breaches of the commercial radio codes of practice would be one for ACMA.

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