A prank call to Kate Middleton's hospital nurse from an Australian radio show turned tragic when the nurse ensnared by the joke allegedly committed suicide. Uproar against the call and those behind it ensued, but the executive of the radio station continues to stand by the pranksters, saying they are "completely shattered."
Rhys Holleran, the CEO of Southern Cross Austereo, the parent company of Sydney's 2Day FM station behind the Middleton hospital prank, has defended DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian, according to the U.K.'s Mirror.
“This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen and we're deeply saddened by it," he said at a press conference in Melbourne. “I spoke to both presenters early this morning and it's fair to say they're completely shattered. These people aren't machines. They're human beings. We're all affected by this.”
Holleran would not say who came up with the Middleton prank, but he said "these things are often done collaboratively" and pranks have been popular "for decades." “They're not just part of one radio station or one network or one country -- they're done worldwide,” he said, acording to the Mirror.
Comedian Wil Anderson, a former presenter on Austereo's Triple M network, went so far as to say he feels sorry for Christian and Greig, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
"Firstly, I have sympathy for the nurse and her family because this is a terrible tragedy," he said at the press conference. "But I also have a fair degree of sympathy for these kids... Is the culture of radio to blame? Possibly. But people make thousands of these prank calls each year and they usually result in good material. These kids have done something that I find distasteful, but it's something that many other presenters have done without any negative consequences."
The prank went down on Tuesday morning, following Middleton's pregnancy announcement on Dec. 3. During the call, information regarding the Duchess' condition was released by a nurse to the DJs pretending to be Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles. Nurse Jacintha Saldanha, the 46-year-old who took the call, was found dead early Friday morning near King Edward VII hospital.
Greig and Christian were pulled off the air "until further notice" following the Middleton prank and nurse's death, according to ABC News.
Reuters notes that the royals have long had an uneasy relationship with the media, which exploded in 1997 following the death of Princess Diana in a Paris car crash. Just a few months ago, the Palace acted quickly when a gossip magazine published naked photos of Middleton on vacation with Prince William in an attempt to fight against the constant, invasive pursuit by the media.
The Palace released a statement about the nurse's alleged suicide, saying: "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jacintha Saldanha. Their Royal Highnesses were looked after so wonderfully well at all times by everybody at King Edward VII Hospital, and their thoughts and prayers are with Jacintha Saldanha's family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time."
A spokesperson told CNN that at no time did the Palace complain about the prank call to Middleton's hospital nurse.
How the media has covered the royal pregnancy: