Death of Jacintha Saldanha

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Death of Jacintha Saldanha
Date 7 December 2012 (2012-12-07)
Location Charterhouse Annexe, King Edward VII's Hospital Sister Agnes, London
Cause Apparent suicide by hanging
Injuries Marks also found on wrist
Burial 17 December 2012,
Shirva, Karnataka, India
Inquest Preliminary held 13 December 2012, full was to begin September 2013 (delayed)
Coroner Fiona Wilcox

Jacintha Saldanha was a nurse who worked at King Edward VII's Hospital Sister Agnes in London, United Kingdom. She was found dead by apparent suicide, three days after receiving a hoax call. The prank call was part of the Hot30 Countdown radio programme, broadcast on the Austereo-owned station 2Day FM in Sydney, Australia. In it, the hosts impersonated the Queen and the Prince of Wales enquiring about the health of the Duchess of Cambridge, who was, at the time, a patient staying at the hospital. Saldhana fell for the hoax and transferred the call to the nurse looking after the Duchess. A hospital spokesperson said that she was the "victim of a cruel journalistic trick".[1] Saldanha was from Mangalore, Karnataka, India,[2][3] and had been working in Britain for about 10 years.[3]

Background[edit]

The hosts of the Hot30 Countdown radio programme, Mel Greig and Mike Christian, obtained information about the Duchess of Cambridge's health by impersonating the Queen and the Prince of Wales in a phone call to King Edward VII's Hospital Sister Agnes, where the Duchess was being treated for hyperemesis gravidarum, known as "morning sickness", but actually a rare complication of early pregnancy.[4] The call, made at about 5.30 am London time (GMT) on 4 December 2012, was answered by a nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, as there was no switchboard receptionist on duty. Saldanha transferred the call to the nurse treating the Duchess, who gave details of her health. Christian, who had only started on the show a day earlier, proposed calling the hospital in the hope of getting the Duchess on the air. The stunt was cleared by 2Day FM lawyers prior to airing. When hospital chief executive John Lofthouse learned it was a prank call, he condemned it as an act of "journalistic trickery" that no nurse should have to deal with.[5] Christian and Greig used "absurd, plummy accents" in the call.[6]

Saldanha had reportedly attempted suicide twice before. She had taken an overdose of pills on 30 December 2011 during a family trip to India. After that attempt she was rushed to a private hospital in Mangalore and treated for "self harm". On 8 January 2012 she is believed to have attempted suicide again and was treated at Father Muller Medical College Hospital for head injuries suffered in a "fall". After several days in intensive care Saldanha was admitted to the hospital's psychiatric ward and treated for depression. She was discharged after three days and given a nine-month course of anti-depressants. Her family was warned there was a risk that she might attempt suicide again.[7]

Death[edit]

Just before 9.30 am (GMT) on 7 December 2012, 46-year-old[8] Saldanha was found dead in her nurse's quarters at the hospital in an apparent suicide.[9] She was discovered by a colleague and security personnel in a hanged state.[2] The Westminster coroner was told that she was found hanged and that there were injuries to her wrist.[1] Police said the death was being treated as "unexplained"[10] and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said they were "deeply saddened" by the news.[11] 2Day FM continued to promote the prank for some time after Saldanha's death.[5] Holleran said the presenters were both "deeply shocked" and would not return to their radio show until further notice.[12] Saldanha left behind her husband Benedict Barboza, a biological son aged 16, and an adopted daughter aged 14.[3][13]

Suicide notes[edit]

On 13 December, The Guardian reported that three suicide notes had been left by Saldanha, two of which were found at the scene and one in her belongings. It said one of them dealt with the prank call, another contained requests for her funeral at her in-laws' place in India[14] and the third was critical of the staff of the hospital.[15] On 16 December The Sunday Times reported that Saldanha was disappointed with the hospital managers before the hoax call. She had a long-standing personal disagreement with a colleague and had complained to the managers about this, and was unhappy that they had only changed their shifts instead of acting more toughly.[16][17] On 17 December, it was reported that Saldanha had blamed the radio DJs for her death in her third note.[18]

In the note blaming the DJs for her death, she asked for them to be made to pay her mortgage.[19]

Response[edit]

Advertisers boycotted the station or threatened to do so and Austereo suspended all advertising on 2Day FM until 10 December.[20]

That night, Greig and Christian gave their first interviews since Saldanha's death, telling Nine Network's A Current Affair and Seven Network's Today Tonight that they were still badly shaken over the tragedy.[21] Austereo also cancelled its yearly Christmas party for the employees in Sydney out of respect for Saldanha's family and donated the money it planned to spend on the party to Beyondblue and Lifeline.[22]

On 12 December, Austereo announced that advertising on 2Day FM would resume the next day and it would donate the remainder of station advertising proceeds for 2012—a minimum of $A500,000 (£320,000)—to a memorial fund that will benefit Saldanha's family.[23]

The Metropolitan Police in London contacted the New South Wales Police in Sydney about the incident as part of their investigation into the death.[24] On 13 December, Australian Communications and Media Authority launched an inquiry to assess whether there had been a breach in broadcasting licence conditions on part of the radio station.[25]

On 27 January 2013, Austerio announced on its Facebook page that Hot30 Countdown was cancelled.[26] Less than six months after the prank call, Austereo awarded Greig the title "Top Jock", recognizing him as the best on their network.[27]

Response at her birthplace[edit]

Saldanha's death has been widely discussed in India. Some Karnataka dignitaries, including the former chief minister of the state, have visited Saldanha's aged mother, who lives in Mangalore with her son and other daughter.[8] Dozens of students staged a demonstration in front of the British High Commission in New Delhi and carried banners demanding "Justice for Jacintha".[8] One Minister of Karnataka State, one former Central Minister and other state functionaries participated in the burial function held at Our Lady of Holy Church, Shirva village, on 17 December 2012.[28] More than 1,000 people attended the mass and burial ceremony.[29]

The Chief Minister of Karnataka State expressed concern over the back-to-back deaths of Saldanha and Savita Halappanavar, both of Karnataka origin and working abroad, and wrote letters to the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, urging him to take steps to ensure the safety of Indians working abroad,[30] saying the deaths have "created a fear psychosis among people of the state about welfare of their friends and relatives (working) abroad."[30]

Legal issues[edit]

While the hospital has expressed concern that the prank may have broken the law, the CEO of Southern Cross Austereo, Rhys Holleran, said he did not believe any laws had been broken.[31] Later, Holleran said that station officials tried to contact the nurses whose voices were recorded at least five times prior to greenlighting the stunt for air. However, at least one legal expert told ABC News that the stunt may have broken New South Wales laws forbidding the recording of private conversations without the other party's consent.[32] The hospital chairman, Lord Glenarthur, wrote a letter to Southern Cross Austereo protesting Greig and Christian's actions: "King Edward VII's Hospital cares for sick people, and it was extremely foolish of your presenters even to consider trying to lie their way through to one of our patients, let alone actually make the call."[33] Southern Cross Austereo chairman Max Moore-Wilton wrote back to Lord Glenarthur promising "immediate action" and a full review of the process by which the broadcast was cleared. At an emergency meeting, Austereo announced that advertising would remain suspended on 2Day FM until at least 12 December.[24] It also formally cancelled the Hot 30 programme and suspended prank-call stunts on all Austereo stations, effective immediately.[34]

In late December 2012, New South Wales deputy police commissioner Nick Kaldas said that though there had been initial contact from Scotland Yard in the United Kingdom, there has been no formal request to interview Greig and Christian. Kaldas said that it seemed unlikely any charges will be laid.[35]

In February 2013, British prosecutors confirmed that no charges would be laid against Greig and Christian. They said that there was no evidence to support a charge of manslaughter. While there was "some evidence" to warrant further investigation of offences under Britain's Data Protection Act and Malicious Communications Act, any potential prosecution would not be in the public interest. The Crown Prosecution Service said that decision was taken because it isn't possible to extradite from Australia for those potential offences, and because "however misguided, the telephone call was intended as a harmless prank".[36]

At a Federal Court hearing it became known that Australian media watchdog Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) had prepared a confidential, preliminary report saying that the Radio Royal hoax 'broke law'. 2Day FM acted illegally by airing the phone call without consent.[37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Sandra Laville, Caroline Davies (13 December 2012). "Jacintha Saldanha suicide note criticised hospital staff". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 16 December 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Jacintha Saldanha's family speak of 'unfillable void' after nurse's death". The Guardian (London). 15 December 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c AFP (9 December 2012). "2Day FM radio prank on London nurse Jacintha Saldanha 'appalling', hospital says". The Australian. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  4. ^ Purnell, Sonia (7 December 2012). "A week of rest for pregnant Kate who will miss engagements as Prince William 'forced to leave her side as he returns to RAF duty'". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 9 December 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Gordon Rayner (8 December 2012). "'Cruel' hospital hoax still playing on radio". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  6. ^ Dominic Gover (28 December 2012). "Kate Middleton Prank Death Call: No Charges over Jacintha Saldanha". International Business Times. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  7. ^ Abul Taher (Daily Mail) (23 December 2012). "Radio prank call nurse Jacintha Saldanha 'on anti-depressants after two suicide attempts' – reports". Herald Sun. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c "Royal hoax call: Body of nurse Jacintha Saldanha reaches India". NDTV.com. Retrieved 16 December 2012. 
  9. ^ Davies, Caroline (7 December 2012). "Royal hospital nurse who took hoax call from DJs found dead". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  10. ^ "London police statement on death of nurse who transferred hoax call". BNO News. 7 December 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  11. ^ "Palace statement on death of nurse who transferred hoax call". BNO News. 7 December 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  12. ^ "Southern Cross Austereo media statement" (Press release). 2dayfm.com.au. 8 December 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2012. 
  13. ^ "Jacintha Attempted Suicide More than Once, Blamed RJs for her Death: Reports". daijiworld.com. 16 December 2012. 
  14. ^ "Jacintha Saldanha's Family in Grief After Prank Call Leads to her Death". Daijiworld.com. 8 December 2012. 
  15. ^ Laville, Sandra; Davies, Caroline (13 December 2012). "Jacintha Saldanha suicide note criticised hospital staff". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 15 December 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  16. ^ Suroor, Hasan (17 December 2012). "Jacintha had 'long-running disagreement' with colleague". The Hindu (Chennai, India). Archived from the original on 17 December 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  17. ^ Leppard, David; Mansey, Kate; Gillespie, James (16 December 2012). "Nurse felt let down by hospital before hoax call". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 17 December 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  18. ^ "Punked Kate Middleton Nurse Jacintha Blamed Radio DJs For Her Death in Final Note". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  19. ^ "UK nurse blamed DJs for suicide – report". 3 News NZ. 29 April 2013. 
  20. ^ Swan, Jonathan (8 December 2012). "2Day FM suspends all advertising amid royal prank backlash". The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, Australia). Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  21. ^ 'Shattered' DJs discuss prank call tragedy. ABC News, 11 December 2012.
  22. ^ Michael, Sara. 2DayFM cancels staff Christmas party in wake of phone hoax scandal. News.com.au, 10 December 2012.
  23. ^ Kate hoax: Radio station to donate to nurse family. BBC News, 12 December 2012.
  24. ^ a b Ben Butler; Harriet Alexander; Julia Medew (10 December 2012). "Austereo responds to hospital over prank call tragedy". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  25. ^ Shears, Richard (13 December 2012). "Jacintha Saldanha death: Australian media watchdog ACMA launches inquiry in to prank call radio station". Daily Mail (London). Archived from the original on 17 December 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  26. ^ "Royal prank DJs given the boot". 3 News NZ. 28 January 2013. 
  27. ^ "Royal prank DJs given the boot". 5 June 2013. 
  28. ^ Shenoy, Jaideep (18 December 2012). "Family bids tearful goodbye to nurse Jacintha". The Times of India. Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  29. ^ Buncombe, Andrew (19 December 2012). "Jacintha Saldanha laid to rest, but family's hunt for answers goes on". The Independent (London). Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  30. ^ a b "Karnataka concerned over Savitha, Jacintha deaths: Former CM". The Times of India. 16 December 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2012. 
  31. ^ Duffin, Claire (8 December 2012). "Duchess of Cambridge: radio station behind hoax call says it has not broken any laws". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  32. ^ 2Day FM 'tried to contact nurses' after prank. ABC News, 10 December 2012.
  33. ^ "Kate hoax call: London hospital protests to radio network". BBC News. 9 December 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  34. ^ Hambly, Natalie. 2Day FM cancels show, suspends prank calls. The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 December 2012.
  35. ^ Dominic Gover (28 December 2012). "Kate Middleton Prank Death Call: No Charges over Jacintha Saldanha". International Business Times. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  36. ^ "No charges for royal hoaxters". http://www.stuff.co.nz/. Associated Press. 2 February 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  37. ^ "Radio Royal hoax 'broke law' according to watchdog". BBC. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2013.