When two presenters from Sydney's 2Day FM radio station telephoned a London hospital seeking news of Prince William's pregnant wife Catherine, many saw the call as a harmless prank.
But when events took a tragic turn Friday with the apparent suicide of the nurse who answered Tuesday's call, thousands decried the hoax on the Internet -- with some seeing the death as fallout from media "hounding" of the royals.
For some of those posting angry comments on 2Day FM's Facebook page, the death of 46-year-old nurse Jacintha Saldanha had echoes of William's mother Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being pursued by paparazzi.
"One would think ... the death of Princess Diana would have taught the media a lesson about invasion of privacy of the royal family, but I guess not," wrote Lora LB, one of thousands to bombard the radio station's Facebook page.
Many called for presenters Mel Greig and Mel Christian to resign, saying they had blood on their hands.
"Hope you get your comeuppance and are looking long and hard at your actions and their consequences. Hope you're both sacked and spend a very long long time looking for work," wrote Alastair Drake Hardwick.
Greig and Christian had put on British accents to pose as Queen Elizabeth II and William's father Prince Charles in the call to London's private King Edward VII hospital, which was treating Kate for severe morning sickness.
There was no receptionist on duty at 5:30 am and Saldanha had answered the phone when the pair rang.
Greig, impersonating the queen, asked to speak to "Kate, please, my grand-daughter".
Saldanha replied: "Oh yes, just hold on, Ma'am," before putting the call through to another nurse who divulged private details of Kate's recovery.
The two presenters are "shattered" by the tragedy, the head of 2Day FM's parent company said on Saturday.
"What happened was incredibly tragic and we're deeply saddened," Southern Cross Austereo's chief executive Rhys Holleran said, adding that the pair would not return to the airwaves until further notice, "out of respect".
But he insisted that the tragedy "could not have been reasonably foreseen" and that he did not believe the radio station had done anything illegal.
-- 'Wreaking havoc with innocent lives' --
In Britain, the reputation of the press was battered by the death of Diana -- and the 2011 phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid saw journalists' public esteem fall to new lows.
Prime Minister David Cameron set up a judge-led inquiry into media ethics in the wake of the scandal.
Decades of press harassment, invasion of privacy and other misdemeanours were thrust under the spotlight during eight months of hearings led by judge Brian Leveson.
British newspapers have "wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people", the judge concluded in his final report last week, recommending a tougher independent watchdog to regulate the press.
In the wake of Diana's death and the Leveson Inquiry, British journalists have covered the royal family with caution -- but their international colleagues have not always felt obliged to follow suit.
In August, photographs emerged of William's brother Prince Harry cavorting nude during a wild party in Las Vegas. They went viral on the Internet but were shunned by the British press, with the exception of Murdoch's Sun tabloid.
Similarly, no British newspaper printed the topless paparazzi photos of Kate that appeared in French gossip magazine Closer before being republished by titles in Italy, Ireland, Sweden and Denmark.
Royal experts say there is little public appetite in Britain for the invasion of royals' privacy after the death of Diana.
"Diana was hunted by the press," Kate Williams, author of several books on the British monarchy, said recently. "They do not want to see it again.
"The Duchess of Cambridge is young, beautiful, instantly recognised worldwide, and there is a kind of feverish intent in her that carries a dark whiff of hysteria. We saw it before with Diana, princess of Wales," wrote Jenny McCartney in The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
"This most recent incident, one must hope, might come as an international wake-up call to back off" and give William and Kate "the normal space in which to be happy".