The police may want to establish whether there are sections of the hoax call that were not broadcast.
Note: This article is from the Guardian.
The Australian radio presenters whose prank call to the King Edward VII hospital is being blamed for the suspected suicide of nurse Jacintha Saldanha may be questioned by the Metropolitan police.
Meanwhile, the radio station’s owner has said it is upset at the British press for conducting a “witch-hunt” against the two presenters responsible for the prank call, describing the backlash as “ferocious”.
The Met has spoken to staff at the Australian high commission in London to ensure police in New South Wales assist the investigation ahead of an inquest into the death of the 46-year-old nurse.
Nick Kaldas, the deputy commissioner for New South Wales police, confirmed the request. A spokesman promised the force would do anything it could to help the British investigation. “It hasn’t been indicated to us that an offence has occurred and [the Met] have not actually asked for anything yet,” said Kaldas. “They’ve simply touched base, let us know of their interest and they will get back to us if they actually want something done.”
The police may want to establish whether there are sections of the hoax call that were not broadcast on the 2Day FM show on Tuesday, during which Mel Greig and Michael Christian persuaded Saldanha to put a call through to a nurse who revealed details the Duchess of Cambridge’s health.
Greig and Christian initially boasted that their hoax call was a career-defining moment but, after Saldanha’s death was reported, discovered they were targets of a worldwide backlash. Social media sites were bombarded with abusive and threatening messages addressed to the pair.
The presenters have been put on indefinite leave from the radio station and are said to be receiving “intensive psychological counselling”. Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo, 2Day FM’s parent company, said there were real fears for the pair following the incident, with particular concern for the mental health of Greig, 30, who is said to be “struggling to cope”.
“Everyone who knows Mel fears for her mental state,” the Sunday Times reported him saying. “There are very real fears she could self-harm, and nobody wants that.”
Sandy Kaye, a spokeswoman for Southern Cross Austereo, told the Sydney Morning Herald: “The backlash is just ferocious. Australia seems to be much more balanced. In the UK it’s like they’re on a witch-hunt. It’s intense and what’s incredible to me is it’s so much easier for the British media to have us as the target. They haven’t once looked at the hospital.”
The DJs, who only began hosting their nightly chart show two weeks earlier, have both indicated they are keen to speak to the media. A spokeswoman for Austereo, however, suggested the company wanted to keep the pair out of the public eye. She said the timing of any appearance would depend on the presenters’ state of mind – currently described as “fragile”.
“They have expressed a desire to speak. We haven’t ascertained when they’re ready for that and how we’re going to organise that, but they certainly want to.”
2Day FM has also suffered a wave of revulsion over the consequences of the stunt, with so many advertisers pulling out of their slots on the station that it has axed all commercials for the foreseeable future as “a mark of respect”.
Austereo held an emergency board meeting over the weekend to consider what action it should take, with chairman Max Moore-Wilton saying the company would consider its response to a letter from Lord Glenarthur, chairman of the hospital, in which he condemned prank phone sayingthe call and said he wanted to protest against the “extremely foolish” gag.
Calling Saldanha’s death “tragic beyond words”, Glenarthur said the station’s “premeditated and ill-considered actions” led to the “humiliation” of Saldanha and another nurse.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which regulates radio broadcasting, confirmed it had received complaints from around the world. It was considering investigating whether the presenters breached the commercial radio code of practice.
Holleran insisted there was nothing illegal about the hoax call. “Our main concern at this point in time is what happened is incredibly tragic.” He defended the presenters and said they would not be sacked. “We will make sure their wellbeing is the priority for us. We have internally made sure that their needs are addressed and counselling is certainly part of that offer.”
Prank calls have, added Holleran, “been going for decades and decades. They’re not just part of one radio station or one network, or one country, they’re done worldwide. No one could reasonably have foreseen what ended up being an incredibly tragic and very sad day for us.”
He said Greig and Christian were “completely shattered”, adding: “These people aren’t machines, they’re human beings.”
Saldanha was pronounced dead on Friday morning at staff accommodation close to the hospital. She had answered the presenters’ call and, believing they were members of the royal family, put them through to another nurse who described the Duchess of Cambridge’s condition in detail.
The nurse’s family were being comforted by relatives and friends at their terrace home at Southmead in Bristol. A friend at the address said Saldanha’s partner, Benedict Barboza, 49, and their teenage son and daughter, aged 14 and 16, were “very, very shocked and unhappy at the tragedy”.
In a statement they said: “We as a family are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Jacintha. We would ask that the media respect our privacy at this difficult time.”
A postmortem examination is due to be held this week and an inquest opened and adjourned at Westminster coroner’s court, Scotland Yard said. Saldanha’s death is not being treated as suspicious.
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