British press aghast at death of royal prank victim
LONDON, United Kingdom - British newspapers were aghast Saturday, December 8, at the news that a nurse who took a prank phone call at the hospital where Prince William's wife was recovering from acute morning sickness had been found dead.
The national papers all had the story on their front page and several ran angry comments from social media websites directed at the Australian radio duo who rang the London hospital impersonating members of the royal family.
There was no receptionist on duty at 5:30 am when presenters from Sydney's 2Day FM rang King Edward VII's Hospital.
Instead Nurse Jacintha Saldanha answered the call before passing it on to a colleague who revealed details on Catherine's recovery.
Saldanha was found dead on Friday, December 7.
The Sun said the death was "heartbreaking and bewildering," and a "needless tragedy."
"No doubt she was distraught at unwittingly embarrassing the royals and her employers," its editorial said.
"We can only guess at the inner torment of Jacintha, who after years of loyal professionalism suddenly found herself in trouble for something that was not her fault."
The Times said Saldanha's family lived in Bristol, southwest England, where she had worked as a nurse since 2003.
It said they are thought to have moved from the Mangalore region of southwest India at least a decade ago and had links to expatriate associations in Britain.
The Daily Telegraph said Saldanha had not faced any disciplinary action by the hospital, where managers felt she had been the unfortunate victim of a trick.
The Independent's editor Chris Blackhurst wrote that the normal newsroom chatter ebbed away as news of her death spread.
"It was an awful moment, one in which the at-times detached cynicism of some sections of the media -- so central to Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry -- was laid bare," he said, referring to the recent report into British press ethics.
"Has anyone from The Independent ever posed as someone else to obtain information to pursue a story? Yes, we have. But we would maintain we were acting in the public interest -- not to provide mere comic entertainment."
Ken Wharfe, who was the bodyguard of William's mother Diana, Princess of Wales, was quoted in the Daily Mirror as saying it appeared that regular protocol had not been made clear to the hospital staff.
"The first thing we did when we arrived at a hotel or anywhere else was to isolate the switchboard," he said.
"You tell the staff to put any calls through to the detective there. The royals never ring in to hospitals. If anyone needed to speak to Kate they would ring the officer outside her room. All this should have been explained to hospital staff but clearly it wasn't," he added.
Royal commentator Phil Dampier said Saldanha's death would have an impact on Kate.
"It's hard to imagine the shock that the duchess, already weakened by her acute morning sickness, must have felt when she was told the terrible news," he wrote in the Daily Mirror.
"The sense of sadness would be the last thing she needed in her fragile state," according to Dampier.
"It will be impossible to forget the sad and lonely death of a dedicated nurse who probably died from a misguided sense of shame," he said. - Agence France-Presse