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Updated Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 01:01 AM

2 prank DJs in protective custody

By SARAH LYALL
The New York Times

LONDON — The repercussions from last week’s suicide of the nurse who answered a prank telephone call at the hospital treating the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge were felt again Friday with reports that the DJs who made the call had received so many threats that they had been forced into hiding.

Quoting an unnamed person at 2DayFM, the Australian radio station where the two DJs work, The Daily Mail said they were under the protection of security guards and “could be in hiding for months due to ongoing fears for their safety.” They have been taken off the air indefinitely.

“The safety of our employees is an absolute priority,” 2DayFM’s parent company Southern Cross Austereo said in a statement. “We have sensible measures in place, as we always do, to ensure our people are safe. This is now a matter for the police, and we trust they will investigate any specific threats that emerge.”

New South Wales state police in Australia also said they were investigating a letter sent to the station that made several threats against the DJs. Police declined to release details of the letter.

At the inquest into the episode in London on Thursday, it emerged that the nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, 46, had hanged herself in the nurses’ quarters of the King Edward VII hospital on Dec. 7, three days after the prank call. The police said that she also had marks on her wrists and that she had left behind three notes — one that was among her belongings, and two that were found near her body.

They did not say what was in the notes, but The Guardian reported that one was addressed to the hospital and that it was critical of staff members there. According to the newspaper, one of the other notes dealt with the hoax call; the third was about funeral arrangements.

Saldanha’s death came after the DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, convinced her and another nurse on duty that they were Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles. The pair made the call at 5:30 a.m.; Saldanha took the initial call, and then transferred it to the second nurse.

The name of the second nurse, who was working on the ward where the Duchess of Cambridge had been admitted with acute morning sickness, has not been released. But despite the DJs’ poor accents and rude, unroyal chatter, she was also taken in by the ruse, according to the tape that was played on the radio station and then disseminated across the Internet.

Although none of the details the nurse revealed were particularly humiliating — she said the duchess was sleeping, had successfully been given fluids and had not been “retching” — the incident was an acute embarrassment for the hospital, long a favorite with the discretion-seeking royal family.

At first, Greig and Christian and the station bragged about the hoax on outlets such as Twitter. But after Saldanha’s suicide, they became hate figures, with commenters on social-media sites saying they should be charged with murder. Interviewed on Australian television, they apologized for the episode, and Christian said he was “gutted” and “shattered” by what had happened.

At the inquest, the police said Saldanha, 46, who had two teenage children and commuted home to Bristol on weekends to see them and her husband, had also sent a number of emails and made telephone calls that might shed light on what led her to kill herself.

It was unclear whether her husband, an accountant, or her children had been aware of her role in the hoax.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.



In this screen grab, Australian radio DJs Michael Christian, left, and Mel Greig appear during an interview on Australian television.





Jacintha Saldanha




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