Radio station pledges Rs 2.7 cr to nurse's kin

An Australian radio station on Tuesday pledged at least Aus$500,000 (Rs. 2.7 crore) to help the grieving family of a nurse duped by a royal prank phone call, after coming under sustained scrutiny over the hoax.

Nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who fielded the hoax call from Sydney station 2Day FM to London’s King Edward VII Hospital, was found Friday after apparently committing suicide.

Heartbroken: Jacintha Saldanha’s husband Ben Barboza and daughter Lisha cry as they arrive at the Houses of Parliament on Monday night. The family later visited the King Edward VII Hospital, which is launching a memorial fund for them. Pic/Getty Images

The Indian-born mother-of-two put the call through to a colleague, who divulged details of the recovery of Prince William’s pregnant wife Kate from severe morning sickness.

The station initially suspended all advertising after the death but said it would resume on Thursday, with all profits until the end of the year given to an ‘appropriate fund that will directly benefit the family of Jacintha Saldanha’.

The amount donated would be at least Aus$500,000, it said. “We are very sorry for what has happened,” Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo which owns the station, said in a statement.

“We hope that by contributing to a memorial fund we can help to provide the Saldanha family with the support they need at this very difficult time.”

In the wake of the death the company suspended all prank calls across its network and cancelled the show which ran the segment.

But the station remains under renewed pressure to fully explain how its royal prank call was cleared to air after the shattered hosts said they were not ultimately responsible.

In tearful interviews on Monday, 2Day FM presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian said that while they made the call to the hospital, the hoax was vetted by others without their involvement.

“It’s not up to us to make that decision (to air). We just record it and then it goes to the other departments to work out,” said Greig.

Christian added: “There’s a process in place for prank calls or anything that makes it to air, and you know, that’s out of our hands.”

Media pressure is growing in Australia for the network to fully explain how the segment made it to air. Holleran has said the station called the London hospital five times to discuss what it had recorded before going to air. But the hospital denied that anyone within its senior management or media unit were contacted.

Saldanha’s ‘devastated’ husband and teenage children made an emotional public appearance for the first time on Monday speaking through lawmaker Keith Vaz. “This is a close family. They are devastated by what has happened. They miss her every moment of every day,” said Vaz, alongside Benedict Barboza and the couple’s children.

“They just want me to say that they are extremely grateful to the public here in the United Kingdom and throughout the world who have sent them messages of condolences and supportfollowing the death of Jacintha, a loving mother and a lovingwife.” The family later visited the King Edward VII Hospital, which is launching the memorial fund for them. 

Jacintha’s family suspect foul play
British authorities will conduct a post-mortem and an inquest into the mysterious death of Jacintha Saldhana in London, but her family in Karnataka suspects “foul play” and wants an independent inquiry into the tragic episode. “Jacintha’s grieving family is anxiously waiting for the postmortem report and the outcome of the inquest by the Scotland Yard, because they suspect foul play in her tragic death as she was a strong woman and would not have resorted to such an act (suicide),” said family’s close friend Ivan D’Souza.

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