I’ve always hated prank calls as radio bits. It’s cheap Bart Simpson-grade humour. And while radio prank calls are almost as old as the medium itself, sometimes things go terribly, terribly wrong. Here’s the full story of the Australian DJs who pulled a bad prank that resulted in someone dying.
Speaking with the Queen of England on the telephone, even for a moment, is, by any measure, an out-of-the-ordinary experience. But Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old nurse at King Edward VII’s Hospital in central London, didn’t mention her brief conservation with Her Majesty to her husband Benedict Barboza on Tuesday, Dec. 4, last year.
Barboza and their children — Junal, 17, and Lisha, 14 — lived 118 miles away in Bristol. Along with the hospital’s reputation of caring for upper-class British citizens came a higher income than Saldanha previously earned at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, which in turn allowed the family to live in comfort while they paid their mortgage. Saldanha’s life consisted of staying at nurses’ quarters during the week and savoring weekends at home.
The nurse spoke to her family again on Wednesday and made cryptic reference to the fact that they should watch the news on television. But she didn’t call at all on Thursday. Concerned, Barboza called the hospital soon after 9 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 7, and asked a colleague to check on his wife. What they discovered in her room was a lifeless body with cut wrists, hung by a scarf tied to a wardrobe.
Three suicide notes were found: two at the scene, one among Saldanha’s belongings. The first note was addressed to her employers, and reportedly contained criticism of hospital staff. The second asked that she be buried in her hometown of Shirva, Udupi, India.
The final handwritten note read: “I hold the Radio Australians Mel Greig and Michael Christian responsible for this act. Please make them pay my mortgage. I am sorry. Jacintha.”