Southern Cross Austereo, the radio company behind the prank call to Royal nurse Jacintha Saldanha, donated 500,000 Australian dollars (£289,000) to a trust fund for the benefit of the deceased nurse's family following an inquest into her suicide on Friday, 12th September, almost two years after her death. 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 against those 'responsible'.
A statement from the radio station read, “We do not assume, of course, that this donation or any amount of money could relieve the feelings of loss felt by Mrs. Saldanha’s family, but it is our hope that it may help them in the future. Southern Cross Austereo has always accepted full responsibility for the making of the call and its broadcast”. The family of Saldanha, including her widower, Benedict Barboza, and her two teenaged children, Lisha and Junal, also attended the hearing. Westminster coroner Dr. Fiona Wilcox reminded the court that "no one is on trial" at the inquest.
India-born Saldanha, 46, who was working as a nurse in Kind Edward VII's Hospital during the first pregnancy of Duchess of Cambridge, was found dead in her nursing accommodation three days after she received a phone call from two Australian DJs, Greig and Michael Christian, posing as the Queen and Prince Philip, respectively, asking about the details of the second Royal pregnancy.
In his statement before the inquest, MP Keith Vaz had said, “This inquest will finally take place after a wait of over a 21 months. It has been a long road for the family and I deeply admire the patience, humility and dignity they have shown throughout this traumatic time. It is right that they finally gain closure”.
One of the DJs who made the prank call, Melanie Greig, stated “I am truly sorry. This tragedy will always stay with me and serve as a constant reminder.” 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." No charges have been pressed on her.
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. However, coroner Dr. Wilcox did say she believed it was 'inconceivable' that Mrs. Saldanha would have consented for the prank call to be broadcast.
“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,” Mr. Vaz said.