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Radio station in royal prank tragedy faces backlash

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International News | Saturday December 8 2012 6:15

Radio station in royal prank tragedy faces backlash

Sydney radio station 2Day FM is facing a serious backlash over a royal phone prank after the death of a British nurse, and could potentially lose its broadcast licence.

Presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian have been taken off air after their hoax call to London's King Edward VII Hospital following the death yesterday of respected nurse and mother Jacintha Saldanha, 46.

Ms Saldanha could not be revived after being found unconscious at an address near the hospital.

Police are not treating her death as suspicious.

The boss of the Australian radio station which pulled off a Royal hoax that's turned tragic, is confident it did not break the law.

Rhys Holleran, head of the station's owner, Southern Cross Austereo has fronted the media, where he dismissed a question of culpability.

"I think that it's a bit early to be drawing conclusions from what is really a deeply tragic matter.

"Our main concern is for the family, I don't think anyone could have reasonably foreseen that this was going to be a result."

Mr Holleran says he is confident procedures were followed and the station did not break any rules or laws with the prank.

A leading Australian broadcaster says the hoax call should never have been made.

Australian broadcaster Paul Murray says the two radio presenters involved - who have been suspended - should have thought it through.

"What strangely was the luckiest moment of their career, will be the thing that they will be forever remembered for.

"Anyone who has been through pregnancy knows how fragile those first few weeks are, and we still don't know whether the Duchess is seven, ten or twelve weeks pregnant.

"They never should have made the call."

Hospital chief executive John Lofthouse, who earlier in the week described the hoax call by the 2Day FM jocks as "foolish", confirmed Ms Saldanha's death on Friday afternoon.

"It is with deep sadness that I can confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, Jacintha Saldanha," Mr Lofthouse told reporters.

"Jacintha has worked at the King Edward VII Hospital for more than four years. She was an excellent nurse and well-respected and popular with all of her colleagues.

"We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital had been supporting her throughout this very difficult time."

WHAT HAPPENED:

Ms Saldanha was on duty at the hospital earlier this week when Greig and Christian telephoned, impersonating the Queen and Prince Charles as they sought details of a patient, Prince William's pregnant wife, Catherine.

The DJs are thought to have been put through by Ms Saldanha to the ward nurse looking after the Duchess of Cambridge.

The pair used toffy voices as they were patched through to the ward nurse, who relayed confidential details of Catherine's condition.

News of Ms Saldanha's death was acknowledged by the royal family.

"The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jacintha Saldanha," said a statement issued by St James's Palace.

"Their Royal Highnesses were looked after so wonderfully well at all times by everybody at King Edward VII Hospital, and their thoughts and prayers are with Jacintha Saldanha's family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time."

Mr Lofthouse described Ms Saldanha, married and with two children, as a "first-class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients".

"Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much-loved and valued colleague. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with her family and her friends," he said.

A royal aide confirmed to Sky News that no complaint was lodged with the hospital following the prank.

The incident prompted the hospital to review its telephone protocol, while it considered legal action against the radio network. Ms Saldanha was not disciplined over the incident.

Greig and Christian have since apologised for the "lighthearted" prank, but have been bombarded with online abuse for their stunt.

The King Edward VII's Hospital statement in full:

"It is with very deep sadness that we confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, Jacintha Saldanha.

"Jacintha has worked at the King Edward VII's Hospital for more than four years.

"She was an excellent nurse and well-respected and popular with all of her colleagues.

"We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital had been supporting her throughout this difficult time."

John Lofthouse, chief executive at King Edward VII's Hospital, said: "Our thoughts and deepest sympathies at this time are with her family and friends.

"Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much loved and valued colleague."

Lord Glenarthur, chairman of King Edward VII's Hospital, said: "This is a tragic event.

"Jacintha was a first class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients during her time with us. She will be greatly missed."

Additional reporting: AAP

Photo: John Lofthouse, the Chief Executive of King Edward VII's hospital and Lord Glenarthur, the hospital's Chairman give their statement (Getty Images)

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