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Duchess of Cambridge prank call nurse found dead

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-12-08

The nurse at London’s King Edward VII hospital who transferred a prank call from someone pretending to be the queen inquiring about the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge’s health was found dead on Friday in a suspected suicide.

A nurse at the hospital which treated Prince William's pregnant wife Catherine was found dead in a suspected suicide on Friday, days after being duped by a prank call from an Australian radio station.

The royal couple said they were "deeply saddened" by Jacintha Saldanha's death, and the radio station announced it had taken the two presenters responsible off air until further notice.

Police said Saldanha's death was unexplained while 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 was duped by a prank call from two Australian radio presenters pretending to be Queen Elizabeth II and William's father, Prince Charles. She then transferred the call 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 that the 30-year-old royal was pregnant following her admission to hospital on Monday with severe morning sickness. She stayed three nights.

In what it billed as the "biggest royal prank ever", a presenter from Sydney's 2Day FM station called the hospital on Tuesday pretending to be the queen and asked to speak to the former Kate Middleton.

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 off".

2Day FM's owners Southern Cross Austereo said presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian "are both deeply shocked" at the news of Saldanha's death.

"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.

'Victim of a hoax call'

The chief executive of the hospital, John Lofthouse, said her 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 valued colleague."

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 had 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 said that it had not complained about the hospital prank.

"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 spokesman 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 times."

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 spokesman said results of a post-mortem were due this weekend.

Dr Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "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."

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 networking sites, with one person posting on the radio station's Facebook page: "You are a disgrace and her blood is on your hands."

For some the incident had echoes of Prince William's mother Diana, Princess of Wales, 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," said one commentator posting as Lora LB.

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 throne.
 

(AFP)

Date created : 2012-12-07

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