Jacintha Saldanha suicide: The story behind it

NEW DELHI: Southern Cross Austereo, the radion station behind the prank call to the hospital where Prince William's pregnant wife Kate was being treated, said that it will donate advertising revenue until the end of the year to the family of Jacintha Saldanha, who felt humiliated after the prank and committed suicide.

What was the prank?

Two presenters from Australia's 2DayFM radio station, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, called King Edward VII hospital, pretending to be William's grandmother Queen Elizabeth and his father Prince Charles.

Despite unconvincing accents, presenters Michael Christian and Mel Greig were put through to the ward where Kate was being treated and were given details about how she was faring.

Saldanha, who shifted to Britain from Mangalore some 10 years ago, had answered the call as it was early morning and there were no receptionists on duty, and had passed it to a nurse on the ward.

A recording of the call was widely available on the Internet and many newspapers printed a transcript of the call.

She is believed to have killed herself after suffering the humiliation of having to listen to her voice on television and radio asking the pretend Queen to hold on while she passed on the call to Kate's nurse.

Her death comes days after the King Edward VII hospital apologised for being duped by an Australian radio station and relaying details about Kate's condition which made headlines around the globe.

"It is with very deep sadness that we confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, Jacintha Saldanha," John Lofthouse, the King Edward's chief executive told reporters outside the central London hospital.

"We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital had been supporting her throughout this difficult time."

The radio station launched its stunt in the wake of a frenzy of media attention in Britain and worldwide after officials announced Kate was pregnant with a future British king or queen.

Pranksters: Gutted and shattered

The two Australian radio hosts behind the prank call to the Duchess of Cambridge's hospital have made a tearful apology, saying they were gutted over the death of the 46-year-old nurse who took their call.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the death on Friday of Jacintha Saldanha, 2Day FM hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian said they were "shattered, gutted, heartbroken".

Both broke into tears while describing their responses to the news that Saldanha, a mother of two, had died. Greig said it was "the worst phone call I have had in my life".

"I remember my first question was, 'Was she a mother?'" she told Channel Nine Network. "I am very sorry and saddened for the family. I can't imagine what they are going through.... I am just so devastated for them. I am really feeling for them. It was never meant to go that far. This wasn't meant to happen."

Describing his response, Christian said he was "shattered, gutted, heartbroken".

"No harm was intended on Jacintha or the other nurse or Kate or Prince William or anyone," he said. "It was an incredibly tragic turn of events that no one could have predicted and for the part that we have played we are incredibly sorry."

Greig said she would like to apologise personally to Saldanha's family but it was still too soon.

"We are thinking of you," she said. "If we could call you, if we played any involvement in her death then we are very sorry for that."

Christian told Channel Nine: "Naturally, we are shattered. We are people too... I am still trying to make sense of it all."

Greig said: "There's not a minute that goes by where we don't think about her family and what they must be going through and the thought we may have played a part in that is gut-wrenching.

"I've thought about this a million times in my head and I've wanted to just reach out to them (Saldanha's family) and just give them a big hug and say 'sorry'. I hope they're OK, I really do."

The two hosts insisted that they themselves were supposed to be the butt of the prank and they had not tried to achieve a "scoop".

"The joke 100 per cent was on us," Christian said. "The idea was never 'let's call up and get through to Kate or speak to a nurse'. The joke was (that) our accents are horrible, they don't sound anything like they are meant to be. There was no malice. It was not to dig."

Greig added: "The entertainment value was in us. It was meant to be us being silly and getting hung up on. We wanted to be hung up on. We thought a hundred people before us would've tried it, we thought it was such a silly idea and the accents were terrible and not for a second did we expect to speak to Kate let alone have a conversation with anyone at the hospital."

Asked how the call originated, Christian said: "It was just the team sitting down before the show ' just had the idea for just a simple harmless phone call. That when we thought about making a call, it was going to go for 30 seconds, we were going to be hung up on, and that was it.

"These prank calls are made every day, on every radio station in every country around the world and they have been for a long time and no one could've imagined this to happen."

The private hospital is one of Britain's most exclusive and has a history of treating members of the royal family, including the Queen's husband Philip who was admitted in June for a bladder infection after taking part in a jubilee pageant on the Thames river.