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Mon Dec 22 08:18:20 SAST 2014

Dead nurse's family shocked at suicide as prankster DJs hide out

Sapa-AFP, Sapa-dpa | 09 December, 2012 12:29
WRONG CALL: 2Day FM radio hosts Mel Greig, left, and Michael Christian
Image by: REUTERS

A relative of the Indian-born nurse who apparently killed herself after an Australian radio station's royal hoax call said Sunday her family is shocked at the news.

Jacintha Saldanha, 46, had answered the prank telephone call to London's King Edward VII hospital, which was treating Prince William's pregnant wife Catherine for morning sickness.

She had put the call from the station through to a colleague, who relayed details about Kate's condition which made headlines around the globe. Saldanha was later found dead in staff accommodation.

A member of her family, who live in the town of Shirve 400 kilometres from the southern city of Bangalore, said they could not believe the mother-of-two could commit suicide.

"We were shocked to hear from her husband (Benedict Barboza) that Jacintha was no more. He did not tell us that she committed suicide," Jacintha's sister-in-law Irene D'Souza told AFP by telephone.

"It is hard to believe Jacintha could commit suicide as she was not the type of woman to do it."

D'Souza said Jacintha was planning to come to India to celebrate Christmas with the family and they were planning a big party.

"But today we are going to the church to pray for her soul and for her children, who are going through a bad time."

The presenters at Sydney's 2Day FM radio posed as Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke’s father Prince Charles to obtain details of Catherine's condition.

British media have termed Saldanha's death a suspected suicide. Police, ahead of an autopsy next week, say it remains unexplained but is not being treated as suspicious.

The Duke and Duchess, who left the hospital last week, said they were "deeply saddened" by the death of the nurse.

Saldanha lived with her husband and two children in the western English city of Bristol. She had moved to Britain from India around 12 years ago.

The Australian radio presenters behind the prank phone were described as being in a "fragile" mental state.

Mel Greig and Michael Christian were being kept in secret locations by 2Day FM as a backlash built up over their hoax call asking after the welfare of the duchess of Cambridge during the early stages of her pregnancy.

Reporters besieged a Sydney hotel where they believed Christian was staying after a spokeswoman for station owner Southern Cross Austereo told domestic news agency AAP that the pair would speak to reporters but that the timing of their press conference would depend on their mental state - described as "fragile."

2Day FM has been barraged by hostile messages on social media since Saldanha was reportedly found dead

There have been hundreds of postings on a Facebook page, RIP Jacintha Saldanha, demanding retribution for the death of the 46-year-old mother of two.

To try and head off a stampede of advertising from 2Day FM, Austereo has taken the pair off air and is turning away all advertising until "at least" Monday.

Austereo chief Rhys Holleran declared that the station had not broken the law, insisting that "no one could reasonably foresee what actually happened in this case."

A recording of the call was vetted by Austereo lawyers before being broadcast in what 2Day FM trumpeted as the "Biggest Royal Prank Ever."

The Australian Federal Police have been contacted by the London Metropolitan Police but a police spokesman described such contact as routine.

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