Nurse's family slams royal prank DJ honour

Last updated 11:33 06/06/2013
Jacintha Saldanha
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TRAGIC END: Nurse Jacintha Saldanha was on the receiving end of a prank call from two Australian radio hosts.
Michael Christian
Reuters
HOT WATER: Michael Christian came under intense criticism after making the prank phone call with his co-host Mel Grieg.

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The family of the British nurse who killed herself days after a prank call by two Australian DJs has slammed the radio station for giving one of them a major award.

Michael Christian has been crowned "Top Jock" during Southern Cross Austereo's "best in the land" competition - despite continuing outrage over the incident.

The spokesman for nurse Jacintha Saldanha's grief-stricken family says it's "ludicrous" the DJ has been recognised.

"The giving of this award to Michael Christian is distasteful and disgraceful so soon after the tragic death of Jacintha," British Labour MP Keith Vaz said in a statement on Wednesday.

"It sends out completely the wrong message at the wrong time for the wrong reasons."

Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has described the win as inappropriate considering the circumstances.

"To be seen to be awarding people so soon after such an event, I think, is just in bad taste," Conroy told Fairfax Radio.

But chairman of mental health organisation beyondblue Jeff Kennett said it was outrageous to criticise granting an award based on someone's professional development within a company.

"The consequences of what happened were unintended and terribly sad, so why would you want to hurt him now?" the former Victorian premier told AAP.

"I've got no hassles with it (the award) at all."

The honour comes six months after Christian and 2Day FM colleague Mel Greig made a prank call to London's King Edward VII Hospital, where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for severe morning sickness.

The pair were put through to her ward by Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, who took her own life soon after the hoax was widely publicised in the British media.

Christian and Greig faced the brunt of international condemnation for the prank and issued tearful apologies.

Greig has maintained a low profile since then and plans to appear as an individual at the upcoming September inquest into Saldanha's death.

But Christian, who now works at Austereo's Melbourne station Fox FM, said he had something to prove by applying for the network's award.

"Regardless of all that's happened in the past few months, I'm still at the top of my game," he said in a statement.

"It felt good to see my name at the top of the final leaderboard."

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As Top Jock winner, Christian will fly to Los Angeles for a studio tour and he's urged fellow DJs to "try new things" and "never give up", no matter how many obstacles life throws in their way.

Joint winner Ellie Mobbs said: "It's nice for us jocks to finally be recognised."

WHERE TO GET HELP

If it's an emergency and you feel you or someone else is at risk, call 111

Youthline: 0800 376 633

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Depression: Helpline 0800 111 757

- AAP

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