London - A nurse at the hospital which treated Prince
William's pregnant wife Catherine has been found dead in a suspected suicide
days after being duped by a hoax call from an Australian radio station.
The royal couple said they were "deeply saddened"
by Jacintha Saldanha's death on Friday, and the radio station announced it had
taken the two presenters who made the call off the air until further notice.
Police said Saldanha's death was unexplained but was not
being treated as suspicious. Her employers, the private King Edward VII
hospital in central London, refused to comment on media reports that she had
taken her own life.
Saldanha had accepted a hoax call from the two presenters
pretending to be Queen Elizabeth II and William's father Prince Charles, before
passing it on to a colleague who divulged details of Kate's condition.
The hoax caused a global media storm, coming barely a day
after the palace revealed the 30-year-old royal was pregnant following her
admission to hospital on Monday with severe morning sickness. She stayed three
In what it billed as the "biggest royal prank
ever", presenter Mel Greig from Sydney's 2Day FM station called the
hospital on Tuesday pretending to be the queen and asked to speak to the former
Saldanha said, "Oh yes, just hold on, Ma'am", before
putting her through to another nurse who revealed that Kate "hasn't had
any retching with me since I've been on duty and she has been sleeping on and
2Day FM's owners Southern Cross Austereo said Greig and her
co-host Michael Christian "are both deeply shocked" at the news of
"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 station said in a statement.
The chief executive of the hospital, John Lofthouse, said
the nurse's death was "tragic".
"Jacintha was a first-class nurse who cared diligently
for hundreds of patients during her time with us over the last four
years," he said.
"Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much-loved and
No royal complaint
He said the hospital, a favourite of the royals for years,
had been trying to help Saldanha "through this very difficult time"
after the call sparked intense media coverage.
The family of the nurse, who reportedly had two children,
appealed for privacy while they came to terms with her death.
"We as a family are deeply saddened by the loss of our
beloved Jacintha," they said in a statement.
St James' Palace, the office of William and Kate, also
offered its condolences and stressed that it had not complained about the
"The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are deeply saddened
to learn of the death of Jacintha Saldanha," the palace said.
"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 later added: "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
Social network outrage
Police said they had been called to an address close to the
hospital on Friday morning following reports that a woman was unconscious, but
she was pronounced dead at the scene.
"The death is being treated as unexplained," a
statement said, while a spokesperson said results of a post-mortem were due
The Australian presenters had insisted their hoax was
lighthearted and even Prince Charles joked about the incident, saying to
reporters asking him about Kate's condition on Thursday: "How do you know
I'm not a radio station?"
But news of the nurse's death sparked outrage on social
More than 8 300 comments had hit 2Day FM's Facebook page
by early Saturday, some saying Greig and Christian had blood on their hands and
calling angrily for them to be dismissed.
"Not so darn funny now is it? A British nurse is DEAD
for the sake of a couple of cheap laughs. Shame on you!" wrote Kim Wilson.
The widespread shock at the nurse's death is a sharp
contrast with the excitement that greeted the announcement of a new royal heir
this week. William and Kate's first child will be third in line to the British
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