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#Austereo: Radio station behind Kate hoax call donates £289,000 to Jacintha Saldanha family

The Australian radio network behind a hoax phone call that led to an Indian nurse taking her own life has donated nearly £300,000 to the Karnataka-born nurse’s family.

Southern Cross Austereo made a donation of half a million Australian dollars (approximately £289,000) to the family of Jacintha Saldanha, who was found dead in her London apartment in December 2012, days after two DJ’s made a prank call to Mrs Saldanha’s hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for morning sickness.

An inquest this week heard that mother-of-two Mrs Saldanha had blamed herself for falling victim to the hoax call to the King Edward VII’s Hospital. 

DJ Melanie Greig, who posed as the Queen during the call, broke down in tears during the inquest and apologised to the family for her role in the prank.

Southern Cross Austereo, in a statement, said: “We do not assume, of course, that this donation or any amount of money could relieve the feelings of loss felt by Ms Saldanha’s family, but it is our hope that it may help them in the future.

“The production of radio programmes, like television programmes, is a collaborative process.

“Radio announcers are an important part of the process, but they are not the final decision makers. There is no fair or reasonable basis on which blame can be apportioned to any individual, including the presenters of the programme.

“Southern Cross Austereo has always accepted full responsibility for the making of the call and its broadcast.”

Addressing the 46-year-old mother-of-two’s family after the inquest, Ms Greig sobbed as she told them and the packed courtroom: “I really just wanted to say I am truly sorry, I’ve wanted to say that for so long.

“This tragedy will always stay with me and serve as a constant reminder.

“To the second nurse involved, I am so deeply sorry for what you have had to endure. I pray you have found the strength to live on as best you can.

“I was always concerned about the wellbeing of both nurses and I wish I’d tried harder to stop that prank from being aired.”

She added: “To fellow announcers and DJs, I urge you to speak up if you don’t feel comfortable and consider the feeling of others when trying to make a joke.

“The joke should always be on us, the DJs.”

Mrs Saldanha had answered the initial phone call and passed it on to the matron on duty, believing it was the Queen and Prince Philip calling to enquire after the Duchess’ health on 7 December.

The matron soon disconnected the line after realizing it was a prank.

The inquest into Mrs Saldanha’s death heard that she held herself responsible for the mistake, despite the hospital’s management supporting her.

Westminster coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox said there was evidence the hoax had been “pressing on the mind” of the nurse before she killed herself, along with her difficult relationship with a junior colleague who had made a complaint of bullying and harassment against her, which had recently been dismissed.

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