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Royal hoax tragedy: Aus radio presenters taken off air

December 08, 2012 21:20 IST

Two Australian radio presenters, who made a prank call inquiring about the medical condition of a pregnant Kate Middleton, have been taken off air.

The development comes a day after an Indian-origin nurse who transferred their hoax call was found dead in a suspected suicide.

The unconscious body of Jacintha Saldanha, 46, was found on Friday morning at an address yards away from King Edward VII Hospital in London.

The CEO of the company that owns the embattled radio station '2Day FM' has defended the presenters involved in the royal prank phone call, saying there was no way they could have foreseen the tragic outcome of their actions, the Australian Associated Press reported.

Rhys Holleran, CEO of Southern Cross Austereo, said the presenters behind the call, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, were completely shattered by the nurse's death.

The radio station has pulled the pair off air as a mark of respect, he said.

Jacintha answered the hoax call at 5.30 am on Wednesday. Giggling DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian were pretending to be the British Queen and Prince Charles and asked her if they could be put through to Kate.

Jacintha connected them to another nurse who gave details of Kate's condition, who was suffering from acute morning sickness at the London hospital.

The exact cause of her death remained unclear. Media reports have indicated that the woman appeared to have killed herself.

Holleran refused to specify whether the nurse's permission was sought before the segment aired, or at what point the company obtained legal advice.

He described the nurse's death as "a tragic event that could not have reasonably been foreseen. We are confident we haven't done anything illegal".

News of the nurse's death has prompted a furious outpouring against the radio station and the two presenters involved.

Holleran did not say if Austereo was now concerned about losing its broadcasting licence. He said the company had expressed its regret in a statement but had not contacted the nurse's family directly, though he would not rule out doing so later.

Earlier on Saturday, Southern Cross Austereo issued a statement which said, "SCA and the hosts have decided that they will not return to their radio show until further notice out of respect for what can only be described as a tragedy".

"Southern Cross Austereo and 2Day FM are deeply saddened by the tragic news of the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha from King Edward VII's Hospital and we extend our deepest sympathies to her family and all that have been affected by this situation around the world," the statement said.

"Chief Executive Officer Rhys Holleran has spoken with the presenters. They are both deeply shocked and at this time we have agreed that they will not comment about the circumstances. SCA and the hosts have decided that they will not return to their radio show until further notice out of respect for what can only be described as a tragedy," the statement added.

Austereo cut its losses quickly -- and perhaps only temporarily -- with a swift decision today to pull all advertising from the Sydney station at the centre of the royal phone prank scandal.

"We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital has been supporting her at this difficult time," the hospital had said in a statement on Friday.

Scotland Yard police headquarters said on Saturday in London that a post-mortem would take place next week.

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