Death of Jacintha Saldanha

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Death of Jacintha Saldanha
Death of Jacintha Saldanha.jpg
Jacintha Saldanha in a family photograph.
Date 7 December 2012 (2012-12-07)
Location Charterhouse Annexe, King Edward VII's Hospital Sister Agnes, London
Cause Apparent suicide by hanging
Participants 2Day FM
Non-fatal injuries Marks also found on wrist
Burial 17 December 2012,
Shirva, Karnataka, India
Inquest Preliminary held 13 December 2012, full 11 & 12 September 2014 [1]
Coroner Fiona Wilcox

Jacintha Saldanha (1966–7 December 2012) was an Indian nurse who worked at King Edward VII's Hospital Sister Agnes in London, England. On 7 December 2012, she was found dead by apparent suicide, three days after falling for a prank phone call as part of a radio stunt. In the prank call, the hosts of the Australian radio programme Hot30 Countdown, broadcast on the Southern Cross Austereo-owned station 2Day FM in Sydney, called Saldanha's hospital and impersonated the Queen and the Prince of Wales enquiring about the health of the Duchess of Cambridge, who was a patient there at the time. Saldanha fell for the hoax and transferred the call to the nurse looking after the Duchess.

Saldanha's suicide led to public outrage, including in Saldanha's home country of India, against those responsible for perpetrating and broadcasting the prank. Despite numerous calls for legal action, no charges were laid.

Background of Saldanha[edit]

Saldanha was 46 years old at the time of her death.[2] She was born in India and had lived in Oman for several years before moving to England in approximately 2002.[3] In December 2012, she was staying in nurse's quarters at her London workplace for the sake of convenience, while her husband, their 16-year-old son, and their 14-year-old daughter resided in Bristol.[3][4]

On 30 December 2011, during a family trip to India, Saldanha was treated at a private hospital in Mangalore. On 8 January 2012, she was treated at a different Mangalore hospital for head injuries, after which she was treated for depression and was prescribed a nine-month course of antidepressants. Saldanha's treatment was based on not only her rapidly degrading mental state but also her rapidly decreasing mental stability which resulted in at least two previously failed suicide attempts.[5]

Prank call[edit]

Buildings of the King Edward VII's Hospital in Devonshire Street, London.

On 2 December 2012, St James's Palace announced that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, was pregnant and had been admitted to King Edward VII's Hospital in London due to hyperemesis gravidarum, or "severe morning sickness."[6] On 4 December, at about 5:30 am London time (GMT) or 4:30 pm Sydney time (AEST), the hosts of the Hot30 Countdown radio programme, Mel Greig and Mike Christian, called the hospital and spoke to Saldanha. Impersonating Elizabeth II, Greig said: "Oh hello there, could I please speak to Kate please, my granddaughter." Saldanha responded, "Oh yes. Hold on," and transferred the call to the Duchess's nurse, who spent approximately two minutes speaking with Greig as well as Christian, the latter impersonating Prince Charles. The hosts used what were later described as "ridiculous comedy accents."[7]

The stunt was broadcast on 5 December, after it had been cleared by the radio station's lawyers. When hospital chief executive John Lofthouse learned of the prank call, he condemned it as an act of "journalistic trickery" that no nurse should have to deal with.[8] The CEO of Southern Cross Austereo, Rhys Holleran, later said that station officials had made at least five attempts to contact the two nurses in the recording prior to greenlighting the call for broadcast.[9]

On 6 December, the radio station issued a brief apology for "any inconvenience caused" by their actions, although Christian continued to promote "the royal prank" on Twitter.[9] Neither Saldanha nor the other nurse was disciplined or suspended by the hospital; St. James's Palace also indicated that they did not blame the nurses for their part in the incident.[10][11]

Death[edit]

On the morning of 7 December 2012, Saldanha was found dead in her nurse's quarters at the hospital. She had died by hanging, and also had injuries to her wrist.[12][13]

It was reported that Saldanha had left three handwritten notes, one of which blamed the radio stunt for her death. Another note discussed her wishes for funeral arrangements, while the third was directed at her employer, criticising their handling of events that preceded the prank call.[14][15]

Southern Cross Austereo[edit]

Following news of Saldanha's suicide, Austereo CEO Rhys Holleran said that Greig and Christian were both "deeply shocked" and would not return to their radio show until further notice.[16] A day later, as advertisers boycotted or threatened to boycott the station, 2Day FM suspended all advertising indefinitely.[17] On 10 December, 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.[18]

Advertising on 2Day FM resumed 13 December, with Austereo announcing that it would donate the remainder of station advertising proceeds for 2012 — a minimum of $A500,000 (£320,000) — to a memorial fund to benefit Saldanha's family.[19] Austereo also cancelled its annual Christmas party for employees in Sydney and donated the funds for the party to the non-profit organisations beyondblue and Lifeline.[20]

On 27 January 2013, Austereo announced that Hot30 Countdown was cancelled.[21] Christian returned to work in February and won Austereo's "Top Jock" award in June 2013 for his work on Fox FM in Melbourne, while Greig remained off-air.[22] Greig later sued Austereo for failure to provide a safe workplace; the lawsuit was settled in December 2013. As part of the settlement, Austereo made a public statement that Greig was not responsible for the decision to air the hoax call and had suggested that it be edited before broadcast.[23]

In India[edit]

The burial function for Saldanha was held on 17 December 2012 in the village of Shirva in Karnataka, India.[24] More than 1,000 people attended the mass and burial ceremony, including a minister of Karnataka state, a former Central Minister and other state functionaries.[24][25] Several Karnataka dignitaries also visited Saldanha's mother, who lives in Mangalore with Saldanha's siblings.[2]

Dozens of students staged a demonstration in front of the British High Commission in New Delhi, carrying banners demanding "Justice for Jacintha".[2] The Chief Minister of Karnataka expressed concern over the back-to-back deaths of Saldanha and Savita Halappanavar, both women of Karnataka origin working abroad, and wrote letters to the Indian prime minister urging him to take steps to ensure the safety of Indian citizens abroad.[26] RJ Balaji, based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, discontinued his radio show Cross Talk – where he made prank calls to unsuspecting victims – in response to Saldanha's death.[27]

Legal action[edit]

As part of their investigation into the death, the Metropolitan Police Service in London contacted the New South Wales Police Force in Sydney. However, on 28 December 2012, the New South Wales deputy police commissioner said that there had been no formal request from UK police to interview Greig and Christian, and that it seemed "unlikely any charges will be laid."[28] British prosecutors confirmed in February 2013 that they would not be pressing charges against the DJs; although Greig and Christian may have committed offenses under Britain's Data Protection Act 1998 and Malicious Communications Act 1988, prosecution was deemed to "not be in the public interest" because it would not be possible to extradite the Australians and because "however misguided, the telephone call was intended as a harmless prank".[29]

On 13 December 2012, Australian media watchdog Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) launched an inquiry to assess whether the radio station had breached the conditions of their broadcasting license.[30] In September 2013, it was reported that ACMA had prepared a confidential preliminary report that found 2Day FM had acted illegally by broadcasting the hoax phone call without consent. Southern Cross Austereo was seeking to block the report's release, arguing that ACMA did not have standing to make a criminal finding.[31] A Federal Court judge sided with ACMA in November 2013, but was reversed by a decision of the full bench of the Federal Court in March 2014. ACMA subsequently appealed to the High Court, which agreed in August 2014 to hear the case.[32]

In its report, which was released 22 April 2015, ACMA found that Today FM had breached the Australian commercial radio code of conduct by broadcasting a statement of an identifiable person without her consent and that they had treated her in a highly demeaning or highly exploitative manner.[33][34] ACMA is yet to consider formally what sanctions should apply.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jacintha Saldanha inquest: Australian radio station donates $500,000 to family of nurse who killed herself after royal prank call". The Independent. 13 September 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Royal hoax call: Body of nurse Jacintha Saldanha reaches India". NDTV.com. Retrieved 16 December 2012. 
  3. ^ a b AFP (9 December 2012). "2Day FM radio prank on London nurse Jacintha Saldanha 'appalling', hospital says". The Australian. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  4. ^ "Jacintha Attempted Suicide More than Once, Blamed RJs for her Death: Reports". daijiworld.com. 16 December 2012. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Davies, Caroline (5 December 2012). "Royal baby phone hoax: hospital not amused at prank call". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  8. ^ name=TelegraphGordon Rayner (8 December 2012). "'Cruel' hospital hoax still playing on radio". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  9. ^ a b Alison Rourke (10 December 2012). "Royal hoax station tried to contact hospital before broadcast". The Guardian.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Telegraph" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  10. ^ Christie D'Zurilla (7 December 2012). "RNurse who took prank 'royal' call found dead; DJs now off the air". Los Angeles Times. 
  11. ^ Delia Lloyd (8 December 2012). "Why did nurse at Kate Middleton's hospital kill herself?". The Washington Post. 
  12. ^ "Jacintha Saldanha's family speak of 'unfillable void' after nurse's death". The Guardian. London. 15 December 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  13. ^ Sandra Laville, Caroline Davies (13 December 2012). "Jacintha Saldanha suicide note criticised hospital staff". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 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. ^ "Southern Cross Austereo media statement" (Press release). 2dayfm.com.au. 8 December 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2012. 
  17. ^ Swan, Jonathan (8 December 2012). "2Day FM suspends all advertising amid royal prank backlash". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, Australia. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  18. ^ 'Shattered' DJs discuss prank call tragedy. ABC News, 11 December 2012.
  19. ^ Kate hoax: Radio station to donate to nurse family. BBC News, 12 December 2012.
  20. ^ Michael, Sara. 2DayFM cancels staff Christmas party in wake of phone hoax scandal. News.com.au, 10 December 2012.
  21. ^ "Royal prank DJs given the boot". 3 News NZ. 28 January 2013. 
  22. ^ "Royal prank DJs given the boot". 5 June 2013. 
  23. ^ "Mel Greig wanted prank call altered: Austereo". The Australian. 5 December 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  24. ^ a b Shenoy, Jaideep (18 December 2012). "Family bids tearful goodbye to nurse Jacintha". The Times of India. Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ "Karnataka concerned over Savitha, Jacintha deaths: Former CM". The Times of India. 16 December 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2012. 
  27. ^ Frederick, Prince (12 December 2012). "Hang up on prank calls". The Hindu. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  28. ^ Dominic Gover (28 December 2012). "Kate Middleton Prank Death Call: No Charges over Jacintha Saldanha". International Business Times. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  29. ^ "No charges for royal hoaxters". http://www.stuff.co.nz/. Associated Press. 2 February 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2013.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  30. ^ 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. 
  31. ^ "NACMA royal prank ruling could prejudice AFP probe". The Australian. 19 September 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  32. ^ "'Royal hoax call' battle goes to Australian High Court". Australian Times. 22 August 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  33. ^ "ACMA publishes 'Royal Prank Call' investigation report". ACMA media release. 22 April 2015. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  34. ^ Michael Lallo (22 April 2015). "Royal prank station 2Day FM may fight licence suspension as ACMA publishes investigation". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 April 2015.