Scotland Yard contacts Oz police to interview royal hoax DJs

Last Updated: Monday, December 10, 2012 - 00:30

London/Melbourne: The Scotland Yard on Sunday contacted their Australian counterparts for interviewing two radio presenters who made a prank call that apparently led to an Indian-origin nurse`s suicide, as the DJs were said to be in hiding amid global outrage.

46-year-old Jacintha Saldanha was found hanging at nurses` quarters next to the private King Edward VII hospital in Marylebone, central London on Friday, The Sun reported.

Scotland Yard is understood to have asked police in Sydney for assistance, with a view to interviewing the two DJs ahead of an inquest into Jacintha Saldanha`s death.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: "Officers have been in contact with Australian authorities".

Nick Kaldas, deputy commissioner for New South Wales Police, confirmed the request, telling Sky News: "It hasn`t been indicated to us that an offence has occurred and they have not actually asked for anything yet."

"They`ve simply touched base, let us know of their interest and they will get back to us if they actually want something done. Nothing has been requested of us yet," he said.

A New South Wales Police spokesman said: "As our policing colleagues in London continue to examine events leading up to the death of London nurse Jacintha Saldanha overnight, we will be providing them with whatever assistance is required."

A post-mortem examination is due to be held this week and an inquest opened and adjourned at Westminster Coroner`s Court, Scotland Yard said. The death is not being treated as suspicious.

Saldanha answered the hoax call at 5.30am on Wednesday morning, and was helping out on reception at the time of the prank. Giggling DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian were pretending to be the British Queen and Prince Charles and asked her if they could be put through to Kate.

The Sydney radio presenters, Greig and Christian, behind the prank call that has been linked to the nurse`s death are said to be in hiding and in a "fragile" state, undergoing intensive psychological counselling.

Southern Cross Austereo has expressed concerns about the
mental health of `2Day FM` presenters following global condemnation after Jacintha Saldanha`s death on Friday, the Australian Associated Press reported.

The pair are on indefinite leave from the radio station, and have been bombarded with abusive and threatening messages on social media websites.
Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Austereo, said there were real fears for the pair following the tragedy and ensuing backlash.

"Everyone who knows Mel fears for her mental state," he said. "There are very real fears she could self-harm, and nobody wants that."

Meanwhile, Southern Cross Austereo also held an emergency board meeting this afternoon to assess the situation.

Sources told the Press Association that investigation was "likely" to be opened into the broadcast.

In a damning letter to Max Moore-Wilton, the chairman of Southern Cross Austereo, hospital chairman Lord Simon Glenarthur wrote: "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".

"Then to discover that, not only had this happened, but that the call had been pre-recorded and the decision to transmit approved by your station`s management, was truly appalling," he wrote.

Moore-Wilton said: "We`re considering that letter and I`ll be responding to them after I discuss it with my board colleagues later today.

Police has said the cause of Saldanha`s death was "unexplained" and an inquest is expected to open tomorrow, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The nurse`s husband, Benedict Barboza, has said he was "devastated".
There was an outpouring of grief across Britain over the tragedy. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge published a statement on their website to add their condolences, saying they were "deeply saddened".

Her son Junal, 16, and daughter Lisha, 14, were described as in "shock". Last night an online message believed to be from Lisha read: "I miss you. I loveeee you."

In a statement posted on a social networking site
yesterday, her husband, Benedict, 49, wrote: "I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jacintha in tragic circumstances, she will be laid to rest in Shirva, India".

They DJs responsible for the hoax call were last night facing a police quiz after the nurse they duped killed herself.

Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minister, has called Saldanha`s death a terrible tragedy, saying: "Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time".

A family friend in Bristol said: "Ben is utterly devastated. He cannot believe it. They used to speak most days on the phone when she was away working. They were very close, but he cannot understand what`s happened".

Saldanha`s mother-in-law, Carmine Barboza, has spoken of how her son struggled to speak through his tears when he broke the news of his wife`s death to his family.

Carmine Barboza, 69, said: "We got a call last night from Benedict saying she is no more. More than that we do not know, what actually happened. She is dead, that`s all. He was crying and couldn`t speak much. Jacintha was a very caring woman."

Parishioners at the family`s Catholic church in Bristol, where Saldanha and her family are regular worshippers, remembered her in prayers today.
She lived in a hospital accommodation while working in London.

The way in which the hoax call was able to get through was described by royal sources as a one-off lapse of strict security protocols.

At night, the hospital`s reception is closed, and nurses are expected to accept calls that come in but only to pass on messages and not transfer calls.
Royal sources were quoted by the British media as saying they did not hold the hospital responsible for the lapse.

"The procedures are in place, they have always worked. In this case, very sadly, they didn`t," the source said.

Royal aides said the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge maintained "complete confidence" in the hospital. The Duchess would return there should she require any further treatment during her pregnancy.

"There is no doubt about that," said an aide.
"At no point during the process did the Duke and Duchess lay any blame on anyone there. They only offered their sympathy and support at the time, and even more so now," the aide said.

Relatives of Saldanha have revealed that she told no one in the family about the prank call that has been blamed for driving her to suicide.

Saldanha and her family were active members of the expatriate Konkani community, people who hail from the Konkan region which runs down the south-west coast of India.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, December 9, 2012 - 11:23

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