Published on 9 Dec 2012 Sections

Kate hoax call: broadcaster ‘reviewing procedures’

As London police lay the groundwork for an investigation and possible interview of two Australian DJs behind a prank royal call, the broadcaster announces it is reviewing procedures.

The Metropolitan Police notified the New South Wales force they were interested in the matter but had made no requests as of Sunday – a move Australian police said was usual considering the upcoming inquest into the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who answered the prank call.

Ms Saldanha was found dead on Friday near the King Edward VII hospital in London after a hoax call inquiring about the health of the Dutchess of Cambridge from two Sydney DJs pretending to be royalty. The hospital called the prank “appalling” and humilating to nursing staff.

“The London Metropolitan Police may wish to speak to the people involved in the matter from 2day FM but we haven’t been asked to do anything yet,” Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas of the New South Wales Police said today. “We’ve certainly opened up the lines of communication and obviously we’re happy to assist.”

Coroner’s inquest

The deputy commissioners said it would be “perfectly normal” for the police to gather as much detail as possible to present to the coroner, expected to open an inquest this week.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s spokesman called the death “a terrible tragedy. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”

The royal couple have expressed their sympathy at the death of Ms Saldanha. Prince William today pulled out of attending a British military tournament to spend time with his wife.

Radio station 2Day FM is owned by Southern Cross Austereo (SCA). SCA held a crisis meeting on Sunday to consider a letter of complaint from the head of the hospital, Lord Simon Glenarthur, who urged management to ensure such a hoax never happen again.

Following the meeting, Southern Cross Austero Chairman Max Moore-Wilton announced a review of broadcasting procedures and the events surrounding the call. He said the broadcaster would be “fully cooperative” with all investigations.

Lord Glenarthur called the hoax “tragic beyond words” and “extremely foolish.” The fact it was pre-recorded and transmitted after the station management’s approval and legal vetting was “truly appalling”, he said.

Radio station worried about DJs

The two DJs who made the prank call to the Duchess of Cambridge’s hospital were receiving “intense psychological counselling” according to radio station management. The radio station said it was seriously concerned for the welfare of their presenters, and particularly Mel Greig’s mental state.

Counselling has also been offered to everyone on the London nursing staff.

An unnamed source told Reuters that the two presenters were “very distressed” and were receiving counselling while being cared for by their families. The presenters have not received a request for a police interview, Reuters reported.

Family ‘devastated’

London police released a photo of Ms Saldanha who was married and had two children with her husband Benedict Barboza.

He wrote on Facebook: “I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jacintha in tragic circumstances. She will be laid to rest in Shirva (the town where she was born).”

Australian newspapers have backed the two JDs saying the prank may have been “stupid” but they did not intend to cause harm.

“Prank calls are among the oldest tricks in radio. Occasionally funny, mostly cringeworthy, they usually result in mere pointless humiliation of a hapless victim.” Australia’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper said.

Sun Herald journalist Peter FitzSimons called the death a “tragedy of unspeakable proportions” but said there was no evidence of malice.

Article topics