Indian model Poonam Pandey fakes death in cervical cancer publicity stunt to raise awareness of disease

An Indian model who faked her own death to raise awareness of cervical cancer has defended her actions, saying the publicity stunt was "necessary".

Poonam Pandey, 32, shot to fame in 2011 when she promised to strip for the Indian cricket team if they won the World Cup. She has since appeared in Bollywood films and reality TV shows.

A statement announcing her death was posted on her Instagram page on Friday.

Her 1.3 million followers were told: "This morning is a tough one for us. Deeply saddened to inform you that we have lost our beloved Poonam to cervical cancer.

"Every living form that ever came in contact with her was met with pure love and kindness."

Ms Pandey's management team also confirmed her death to media outlets, while colleagues and co-stars posted tributes on social media.

But some were sceptical, pointing to footage posted on the social media site four days earlier showing Ms Pandey enjoying a night-time boat ride in Goa.

She then said in a video posted on Saturday that she had not died and apologised to her fans for shocking them.

"Yes, I faked my demise. Extreme, I know. But suddenly we all are talking about cervical cancer, aren't we?" Pandey said. "I am proud of what my death news has been able to achieve."

"Unlike some other cancers, cervical cancer is entirely preventable. The key lies in the HPV vaccine and early detection tests. We have the means to ensure no one loses their life to this disease.

"Let's empower one another with critical awareness and ensure every woman is informed about the steps to take."

She then urged her followers to "bring #DeathToCervicalCancer".

In a later post defending her actions, she said: "Feel free to express your frustration - I understand. But this is not just lip service, instead I'm committing my entire body to the service of cervical cancer.

"Once you've portrayed your sentiments, I invite you to visit, my gift to you, where we can come together to combat cervical cancer."