LONDON: The nurse who took the prank call of two radio DJs asking questions about the Duchess of Cambridge’s health has been found dead and is suspected to have killed herself.
Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, was found unconscious near the King Edward VII Hospital where Kate spent three nights earlier this week being treated for pregnancy-related vomiting.
Two crews of ambulance officers tried to revive her but she died at the scene and police said her death was unexplained but not suspicious.
"Deeply saddened" ... Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. Photo: AP
The 2Day FM presenters who made the prank call, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, have been taken off the air and told not to comment. Both have deleted their Twitter accounts, after angry users accused them of having "blood on your hands".
A statement from 2Day FM’s parent company, Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), said it was ‘‘deeply saddened by the tragic news’’.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge issued a statement saying they were "deeply saddened" to learn of her death and their thoughts and prayers were with her family. They said they had received excellent care at the hospital.
A palace spokesperson told the BBC they had made no complaint to the hospital over the prank call.
The hospital issued a statement confirming that Ms Saldanha had recently been the victim of a hoax call: "The hospital had been supporting her through this difficult time."
Ms Saldanha, married with two children, had worked there for four years and was an excellent nurse.
Hospital chairman Lord Glenarthur said, "This is a tragic event. Jacintha was a first-class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients during her time with us. She will be greatly missed."
Ms Saldanha was found at 9.35 Friday morning London time. She was reportedly working on reception when two presenters from radio station 2Day FM called in pretending to be the Queen and Prince Philip. She is thought to be the person who took the call and put it through to the duchess's ward, where a second nurse disclosed private details of Kate’s condition.
The Telegraph newspaper in London reported that Michael Christian, the Sydney DJ who pretended to be Prince Charles, apologised earlier in the week but carried on tweeting about it, including a tweet that said, "MORE on the #royalprank after 7.30 tonight."
During the call, DJ Mel Greig pretended to be the Queen and Christian was in the background aping Prince Charles. Greig had rung reception and asked to speak to "my grand-daughter Kate". Ms Saldanha, thinking she was speaking to the Queen, said, "Oh yes, just hold on ma'am" before putting the call through to a duty nurse.
In reports about her suspected suicide, British newspapers and BBC television ran large smiling photos of the Australian hoaxers. They said the DJs and the station had continued to advertise the stunt world-wide.
The Daily Mail wrote, "today Christian was continuing to boast about the prank 'making international headlines' on Twitter".
The King Edward, which is the Royal family’s hospital of choice and the birthplace of princes William and Harry, was deeply embarrassed by the call and at the time accused the DJs of "journalistic trickery". Earlier this week it said it was considering legal action.
The hospital said Ms Saldanha had not been disciplined or suspended over her handling of the call.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said on Friday, "It is deeply saddening that a simple human error due to a cruel hoax could lead to the death of a dedicated and caring member of the nursing profession."
Distressed nurses were photographed holding on to each other when entering the hospital today.
A statement from 2Day FM’s parent company, Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), 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 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.’’
Ms Saldanha's family issued a statement saying they were mourning the loss "of our beloved Jacintha" and asking that the media respect the family's privacy.
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