LONDON — An Australian radio network at the heart of a hoax targeting Prince William’s pregnant wife canceled the show responsible for the prank on Monday, expressing deep regret following the death of a nurse who took a call from the DJs involved.
The two DJs “will not return to the airwaves until further notice,” the statement from the network, Southern Cross Austereo, said. The company also suspended all prank calls, pulled advertising and ordered a comprehensive review of relevant policies and processes.
The DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, who were impersonating Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, called the hospital Tuesday and gained information about the condition of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge — which they subsequently played on air.
On Friday, the nurse who transferred the call through to the ward, Jacintha Saldanha, was found dead after apparently committing suicide.
“First and foremost we would like to express our deep and sincere condolences to the family … for their loss. We are very sorry for what has happened,” Rhys Holleran, the network’s chief executive officer, said in Monday’s statement.
“We don’t claim to be perfect and we always strive to do better. We have initiated a detailed and rigorous review of our policies and procedures to inform any improvements we can make.”
London’s Metropolitan Police have contacted Australian authorities in relation to the call, but “are not discussing about what or with who” they’re talking, a spokesman told CNN.
A spokeswoman for New South Wales Police in Australia told CNN: “As the investigation into the death of London nurse Jacintha Saldhana continues, New South Wales Police will be providing London’s Metropolitan Police with whatever assistance they require.”
Ben Barboza, Saldanha’s husband, expressed grief over his wife’s death in a post on Facebook: “I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jacintha in tragic circumstances, She will be laid to rest in Shirva, India.”
Saldanha’s daughter posted a photo of herself with her mother and wrote: “I miss you, I loveeee you. Jacintha saldanha.”
The chairman of the hospital where the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was a patient slammed the Australian radio station’s decision to broadcast the recorded prank call as “truly appalling” on Saturday,
“King Edward VII’s Hospital cares for sick people, and it was extremely foolish of your presenters even to consider trying to lie their way through to one of our patients, let alone actually make the call,” wrote hospital chairman Lord Glenarthur.
“The immediate consequence of these premeditated and ill-considered actions was the humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses who were simply doing their job tending to their patients.”
“The longer term consequence has been reported around the world and is, frankly, tragic beyond words.”
Lord Glenarthur called on the radio station to take steps “to ensure that such an incident could never be repeated.”
The fallout from Saldanha’s death has stretched from Britain to Australia — with questions being raised about how far is too far in the effort to find out details about Catherine’s pregnancy.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority, the country’s media regulator, has not yet commented on the case.
However, it will be “engaging with the licensee, Today FM Sydney, around the facts and issues surrounding the prank call,” said the regulator’s chairman, Chris Chapman.
News of Saldanha’s death broke Friday, with the hospital saying she “was recently the victim of a hoax call.”
London’s Metropolitan Police said that Saldanha, 46, had living quarters in central London provided by her workplace.
Police said they were notified Friday morning that a woman was found unconscious at the address. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Police are treating the death as “unexplained.”
A postmortem examination will be held this week, police said.
A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said Saturday that he “thinks this is a very sad case and his thoughts are with her family and colleagues.”
Throughout the controversy surrounding the hoax, authorities did not identify the nurse. Her identity was released after her death.
Audio of the call posted online suggests a woman spoke briefly to the DJs before she put the call through early Tuesday morning to the ward where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for acute morning sickness.
“They were the world’s worst accents ever. We were sure 100 people at least before us would’ve tried the same thing. … We were expecting to be hung up on. We didn’t even know what to say when we got through,” Greig told listeners Thursday.
Off the air, Greig and Christian tweeted about the practical joke on Thursday and earlier Friday, promising “more on the #royalprank.” The pair’s Twitter accounts were taken down late Friday.
Some listeners applauded the prank, like one who identified himself as Guido on the station’s Facebook page and wrote, “It is only a joke people! it was great i love it!!!”
Others were outraged, with negative comments outnumbering positive ones on 2DayFM’s Facebook page even before the nurse’s death.
“Your stunt was done at a time in this country where there is paranoia about the intrusion of the media into people’s lives,” Gary Slenders wrote. “I know you will say it is harmless fun, the management of 2DayFM will say that it won’t happen again, but this is exactly where the phone hacking scandal started.”
The outcry grew exponentially after the hospital confirmed Saldanha’s death, leading the Coles supermarket chain to remove all its advertising from 2DayFM.
“This death is on your conscience,” reads one Facebook post. Several accused the two of having “blood on your hands.”
Saldanha’s family released a statement asking for privacy and directing questions to police. She is survived by her husband and two children.
“We as a family are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Jacintha,” said the statement, released by police.
Saldanha worked at King Edward VII’s Hospital for more than four years, and she was described as an “excellent nurse,” well-respected by co-workers, the hospital statement said.
The hospital “had been supporting her throughout this difficult time,” it said.
A St. James’ Palace spokesman said: “The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are deeply saddened to learn of the death.
“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.”
Separately, a palace spokesman told CNN: “At no point did the palace complain to the hospital about the incident. On the contrary, we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times.”