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Cash pledge over royal radio hoax

The Australian radio company behind a hoax royal phone call has donated a six-figure sum to the family of tragic nurse Jacintha Saldanha.

Southern Cross Austereo made the donation of £289,000 (500,000 Australian dollars) to a trust fund for the benefit of Ms Saldanha's family following an inquest in London yesterday which recorded a suicide verdict after the nurse - who initially answered the fake call - was found hanging three days after the prank was broadcast.

DJ Melanie Greig, who posed as the Queen while the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated at the King Edward VII's Hospital in London for morning sickness, yesterday broke down in tears as she apologised to the family at the hearing for her part in the ruse, in December 2012.

The radio firm today confirmed it had pledged money to the family.

A statement said: " We do not assume, of course, that this donation or any amount of money could relieve the feelings of loss felt by Ms Saldanha's family, but it is our hope that it may help them in the future.

"The production of radio programmes, like television programmes, is a collaborative process.

"Radio announcers are an important part of the process, but they are not the final decision makers. There is no fair or reasonable basis on which blame can be apportioned to any individual, including the presenters of the programme.

"Southern Cross Austereo has always accepted full responsibility for the making of the call and its broadcast."

Addressing the 46-year-old mother-of-two's family after the inquest, Ms Greig sobbed as she told them and the packed courtroom: "I really just wanted to say I am truly sorry, I've wanted to say that for so long.

"This tragedy will always stay with me and serve as a constant reminder.

"To the second nurse involved, I am so deeply sorry for what you have had to endure. I pray you have found the strength to live on as best you can.

"I was always concerned about the wellbeing of both nurses and I wish I'd tried harder to stop that prank from being aired."

She went on to urge hospitals and the media to learn from the incident and make sure it was not repeated.

She added: "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."

Indian-born Mrs Saldanha was found dead in nursing accommodation on December 7 2012, after Greig and fellow shock-jock Michael Christian broadcast the call on Sydney's 2Day FM on December 4.

Ms Saldanha's only role was to answer the phone to the DJs and, believing the call was from the Queen, put them through to a nurse who revealed details of Kate's condition.

But the two-day inquest at the High Court heard that she held herself responsible for the mistake, despite the private hospital's management supporting her and the other nurse as victims of a cruel joke.

Westminster coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox said there was evidence the hoax had been "pressing on the mind" of the nurse before she killed herself, along with her difficult relationship with a junior colleague who had made a complaint of bullying and harassment against her, which had recently been dismissed.

She did not criticise the DJs or the radio station but, addressing four calls made to the hospital by production staff to gain Mrs Saldanha's consent before the recording aired, added: "If she did take these calls I find it inconceivable she would have consented, as a participant in the call, to its broadcast."

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