Kate hoax call: Scotland Yard contacts Australian police

  • Published
Media caption,
Deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas, NSW Police: "We've certainly opened up the lines of communication"

Scotland Yard has been in touch with Australian police over the death of a nurse from the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for morning sickness.

Jacintha Saldanha, 46, died on Friday, days after she answered a prank phone call from Australian DJs pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles.

An inquest into the apparent suicide is due to be opened this week.

The DJs responsible have been taken off air and are receiving counselling.

Southern Cross Austereo, owner of 2Day FM, held an emergency board meeting on Sunday, but made no comment afterwards.

It has suspended all advertising on the station until Monday, while DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian are on indefinite leave.

The pair are said to be in a fragile condition and receiving "intense counselling", because of the hostile reaction to their prank.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Cambridge has cancelled his appearance at the British Military Tournament at Earl's Court in London on Sunday.

A St James's Palace spokesman said he would spend the day "privately with the duchess instead".

Regarding official contact, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: "Officers have been in contact with Australian authorities."

In certain circumstances, including when a death is sudden or unexpected, police report deaths to a coroner and can be involved in investigating the circumstances.

The deputy commissioner for New South Wales Police, Nick Kaldas, said: "They haven't actually asked us to do anything yet, but we've certainly opened up the lines of communication and obviously we're happy to assist in any way we can."

He added: "All I can say at the moment is that it's been indicated that the London Metropolitan Police may wish to speak to the people involved in the matter from 2Day FM.

"But we haven't been asked to do anything yet, and we certainly have not been asked to interview anyone, or line up any interviews for the Met."

Legal experts say that the DJs are unlikely to be prosecuted in Australia or the UK because they had not shown "guilty intent," reported BBC correspondent Phil Mercer in Sydney.

However, the radio pair may well have violated the Surveillance Devices Act in the state of New South Wales. It prohibits the broadcasting of private conversations acquired using a "listening device".

Station bosses say no laws were broken and that the pre-recorded spoof interview had been approved by lawyers before it was aired.

The company board, including chairman Max Moore-Wilton, met on Sunday, but are not expected to release a statement until Monday.

They discussed the strongly worded letter received from the chairman of King Edward VII's Hospital, where Catherine was being treated for acute morning sickness last week.

In it, Lord Glenarthur said it was "truly appalling" that the call, in which Mrs Saldanha transfers the caller to the duchess' nurse believing it to be the Queen, was approved by radio management before broadcast.

Image caption,
Jacintha Saldanha was married with two children

Lord Glenarthur also said in his letter: "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."

He urged Mr Moore-Wilton to ensure such an incident was never repeated.

A bouquet of flowers was left outside the hospital accommodation where Mrs Saldanha was found on Friday. An attached note said: "We bless your soul."

While Mrs Saldanha's husband and two children were being comforted at their home in Bristol, her extended family in her native India were coming to terms with her death.

Her sister-in-law told AFP news agency from south-west India: "We were shocked to hear from her husband that Jacintha was no more. He did not tell us that she committed suicide."

She added: "Today we are going to the church to pray for her soul and for her children, who are going through a bad time."

Royal College of Nursing chief executive Peter Carter said the death was "a tragedy that was avoidable".

"This is the fallout from these hoaxes. We've seen them in the past. Rarely does it have the dramatic effect that it has had on this occasion."

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