An Australian DJ has apologised to the family of a nurse who killed herself after falling victim to a hoax call while caring for the Duchess of Cambridge, and said her death would stay with her forever.
Giving evidence at the inquest into the death of Jacintha Saldanha, the broadcaster wept as she said she was “truly sorry” for her role in the tragedy.
Melanie Greig posed as the Queen in a prank call from Sydney radio station 2Day FM to King Edward VII's Hospital in London in December 2012, seeking information about the Duchess’ condition as she was treated for severe morning sickness during her first pregnancy.
The 46-year-old nurse who took the call and passed it on to a colleague on the ward where Kate was staying was found dead in nurses’ accommodation three days later, following the broadcast.
Ms Greig told Mrs Saldanha’s family: "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.”
In a fulsome and heartfelt apology Ms Greig said: "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 went on to urge hospitals and the media to learn from the incident. "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," she added
Returning a verdict of suicide coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox did not criticise the DJ or her colleague Michael Christian for their part in the tragedy.
She told the inquest at the High Court in London: “There is evidence that in the days before her death the hoax call and her difficulties with a colleague had been pressing on her mind.”
However, the coroner did say she believed it was “inconceivable” that Mrs Saldanha would have consented for the prank call to be broadcast.
It emerged that producers for the show had contacted the hospital four times before it was aired seeking permission from the nurse. All were ended by the recipient within seconds, the inquest was told.
“If she did take these calls I find it inconceivable she would have consented, as a participant in the call, to its broadcast,” the coroner said.
In a statement read outside the hearing Mrs Saldanha's son, Junal, said the family had been shattered by the mother-of-two’s death.
“I, my dad and my sister take this opportunity to express our gratitude to everyone in Britain and around the world who has supported us through this difficult time in our lives.”
He added: “My dad my sister and myself miss our beloved mum every day and will do so every day for the rest of our lives.”
MP Keith Vaz who has supported the family through the tragedy described the hoax as “despicable and cruel” and said the family was taking advice on whether to take further legal action.
“It is an irony that four calls made in 115 seconds, which were the cause of so much mirth in Australia could have deprived Benedict [Barboza, her widower] of his wife and Lisha and Junal of their beloved mother,” he said.
Andrew Robertson, chief executive at King Edward VII's Hospital, said everything had been done to support the nurse following the call and that she had thanked her colleagues in a note shortly before she died. “The loss of Jacintha was a tragedy. A family lost a loving mother. We lost a friend and a first class nurse,” he said.Reuse content