Radio DJs 'fragile' after nurse's death

Mel Greig and Michael Christian of Australian radio station 2Day FM, with Jacintha Saldanha, right. Photo / Supplied
Mel Greig and Michael Christian of Australian radio station 2Day FM, with Jacintha Saldanha, right. Photo / Supplied

The Sydney radio presenters behind the prank call that has been linked to a British nurse's death are said to be "fragile" and undergoing intensive psychological counselling.

Southern Cross Austereo has expressed concerns about the mental health of 2Day FM presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian following global condemnation after Jacintha Saldanha's death on Friday.

Greig and Christian are being given intensive counselling to deal with the tragic circumstances, an Austereo spokeswoman told AAP on Sunday.

She said the pair will speak to the media, but the timing will depend on their state of mind, which she described as "fragile".

The radio duo has been confronted with a barrage of abusive and threatening messages via social media following the death of Ms Saldanha, who took their call to London's King Edward VII Hospital.

Greig and Christian impersonated the Queen and Prince Charles and sought details about the condition of the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge, who was being treated for severe morning sickness.

Police in London have said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Ms Saldanha's death.

A Facebook page, RIP Jacintha Saldanha. Shame upon those stupid Australian DJs, has been bombarded with messages of condemnation since being launched on Saturday.

While some of the posts target the DJs directly, others suggest criticism should be aimed at the practice of radio phone pranks rather than personalities.

"Its a complete stupid...stupid...stupid prank,no respect to others by the radio presenters especially involving the royal family. All i can say,its so sad that now a husband/children has lost a wife/mother in a tragic situation...RIP jacintha," reads one post.

Another says: "It is time we stopped practical jokes/pranks just for the sake of laughng at someone elses expense and getting good ratings..."

"The DJs did what radio show hosts have done for decades - there was no malice, no intent to harm, simply a prank call which at the time seemed pretty funny. No one could have predicted this type of tragic overreaction on the nurse's part,'' reads a third post.

After a backlash from advertisers, Austereo pulled all ads from 2Day FM until at least Monday.

Austereo chief executive Rhys Holleran said on Saturday Ms Saldanha's death was tragic but could not have been reasonably foreseen, and 2Day FM had done nothing illegal in recording and broadcasting the call.

Meanwhile NSW Police say London officers have been in contact through the Australian Federal Police over the 2Day FM prank.

"`I have to stress that the London Metropolitan Police have not actually asked for any action to be taken at this stage," Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas told reporters in Sydney.

"They simply wanted to touch base, raise the issues, make us aware of them," he said, adding that the call was fairly routine procedure.

HUSBAND PAYS TRIBUTE TO DEAD NURSE

The London hospital that treated Prince William's pregnant wife Catherine and where a nurse was found dead after being hoaxed by an Australian radio show wrote to the station condemning the "truly appalling" stunt.

Britain reacted with horror at the death of mother-of-two Jacintha Saldanha, 46, in a presumed suicide.

Her death triggered a wave of anger online directed at the two Australian radio hosts behind the hoax who have been pulled off the air. The prank call was recorded and vetted by lawyers before being broadcast to listeners in Sydney.

Floral tributes to nurse Saldanha were placed outside the accommodation block where her body was discovered on Friday.

Saldanha's husband Benedict Barboza paid tribute to his wife on Facebook, the Daily Mail reported.

"I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jacintha in tragic circumstances, She will be laid to rest in Shirva, India."

The couple's daughter Lisha, 14, wrote: "I miss you, I loveeee you," said the Daily Mail.

Media reports called Saldanha's death a suspected suicide although police, ahead of a post-mortem examination next week, said it remained unexplained.

There was no receptionist on duty at 5.30am on Tuesday when presenters from Sydney's 2Day FM rang King Edward VII's Hospital, impersonating Queen Elizabeth II and William's father Prince Charles.

Saldanha answered the call before passing it onto a colleague who divulged details of the Duchess of Cambridge's recovery from acute morning sickness.

Hospital chairman Lord Simon Glenarthur wrote to Max Moore-Wilton, the chairman of broadcasting group Southern Cross Austereo, to protest "in the strongest possible terms" about the hoax.

"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," he wrote.

"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.

"The immediate consequence of these premeditated and ill-considered actions was the humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses who were simply doing their job tending to their patients.

"The longer-term consequence has been reported around the world and is, frankly, tragic beyond words.

"I appreciate that you cannot undo the damage which has been done but I would urge you to take steps to ensure that such an incident could never be repeated."

At the family home in Bristol, southwest England, relatives and friends rallied round to comfort Saldanha's partner and the couple's teenage son and daughter, aged 14 and 16.

Reports said the family moved from India around a decade ago.

A friend at the address said the family was "very, very shocked and unhappy at the tragedy".

Neighbour Mary Atwell, 56, said: "She was a lovely, lovely person who always spoke to you when you saw her.

"You could always see that she was very dedicated to her job.

"Both DJs should be sacked they should never have been allowed to do what they did," she added.

"She would be alive today if they hadn't have made that call."

The nurse's death prompted a furious outpouring in Britain and Australia against the radio station and the two presenters involved, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, who were said to be "deeply shocked" by the turn of events.

Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo, said 2Day FM and the hosts had decided that the show would not return "until further notice out of respect of what can only be described as a tragedy".

He also told reporters in Melbourne that the station did not believe it had broken the law.

"We're very confident that we haven't done anything illegal," he said.

The station initially milked the publicity as the "biggest royal prank ever" but Greig and Christian then apologised following uproar over the stunt itself.

In the phone call, in which Greig pretended to be Queen Elizabeth, Saldanha is heard saying, "Oh yes, just hold on, Ma'am", before putting her through to another nurse.

Bond University media law expert, Mark Pearson, said the DJs could have broken the law by not telling Ms Saldanha that the call was being recorded.

Professor Pearson said it was normally illegal for someone to record a conversation without the other person knowing unless there was "some overriding public interest".

"Clearly in this case there is not," he said.

Saldanha's death dominated Britain's newspaper front pages.

The Sun said it was "heartbreaking and bewildering" and a "needless tragedy".

"No doubt she was distraught at unwittingly embarrassing the royals and her employers," its editorial said.

"We can only guess at the inner torment of Jacintha, who after years of loyal professionalism suddenly found herself in trouble for something that was not her fault."

A wooden cross with a British flag was left outside the hospital.

A note with some flowers outside the nurses' accommodation block said: "Dear Jacintha, our thoughts are with you and your family. From all your fellow nurses, we bless your soul. God bless."

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

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the incident as a "terrible tragedy".

The broadcasting watchdog, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), said it would talk to the station about the "facts and issues surrounding the prank call".

In May, ACMA warned 2Day FM it could lose its broadcasting licence for any repeat of offensive on-air comments, after morning show presenter Kyle Sandilands called a female journalist a "fat slag" and threatened to "hunt her down".

The widespread shock at Saldanha's death is a sharp contrast to the excitement that greeted Monday's announcement of Kate's first pregnancy. The baby will be third in line to the throne.

* If it's an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111. Or call Youthline 0800 376 633, Lifeline 0800 543 354, Depression Helpline 0800 111 757, What's Up 0800 942 8787 (noon-midnight).

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