U.K. nurse tricked in Kate hoax call found dead
Radio DJs behind prank 'completely shattered' by tragic death
The nurse who took a hoax call from two Australian broadcasters at the hospital treating the Duchess of Cambridge in London earlier this week has been found dead, King Edward VII's Hospital confirmed today.
The hospital said Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, had been a victim of the call made by two Australian radio disc jockeys.
At a press conference before Australian media early Saturday morning in Melbourne, Southern Cross Austereo CEO Rhys Holleran told reporters he had spoken to the radio presenters earlier in the day, and that they were both shaken by the tragic turn of events.
"It's fair to say that they're completely shattered," he said.
Holleran added that it's too early to begin drawing conclusions about what precipitated Saldanha's death, as the investigation is continuing.
"Our main concern is for the family. I don't think that anybody could have reasonably foreseen that this was going to be a result," he said.
Saldanha was the first to answer the call Tuesday from the two Australian broadcasters posing as Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles seeking information about the condition of the duchess.
Her first responses and those of a second nurse to whom she transferred the call were recorded and broadcast.
Kate had been admitted to the hospital on Monday, suffering from acute morning sickness.
"This is a tragic event," hospital chairman Lord Glenarthur said in a statement. "Jacintha was a first-class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients during her time with us. She will be greatly missed."
- Read the hospital statement on Jacintha Saldanha's death.
- Listen to the prank call from two Australian DJs
- Australian DJs off air after prank | Read call transcript of call
The hospital added: "We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital had been supporting her throughout this difficult time."
Prince William and Kate issued a statement saying they were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Saldanha.
"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," the palace statement said.
The hospital insisted it did not reprimand the employee after the prank, and St. James's Palace, the office of the duchess and her husband Prince William, also said it did not complain about the matter.
"On the contrary, we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times," the palace said in a statement.
In the call from Australia on Tuesday, a woman doing a less-than-perfect imitation of Queen Elizabeth asked about the duchess's health.
She was told by a second nurse who took the call from Saldanha that the duchess "hasn't had any retching with me, and she's been sleeping on and off."
The nurse went on to tell the personalities that Kate had had an uneventful night. The phoney queen and prince talked about travelling to the hospital to check in on the patient.
The hospital said its phone protocols were under review.
Scotland Yard said initially today that it was treating a woman's death as "unexplained."
Paramedics had been unable to revive her.
Saldanha's family asked for privacy in a statement issued through London police.
"We as a family are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Jacintha," the statement said.
The Royal College of Nursing in the U.K. issued a statement that 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."
In Australia, people quickly began to attack the perpetrators of the hoax call, 2DayFM personalities Mel Greig and Michael Christian, who had apologized for the prank.
"The best you deserve is to lose all of your listeners and be closed down," wrote one commenter. "Who is going to take responsibility for this??"
The station said Friday that Greig and Christian were "deeply saddened by the tragic news" of the nurse's death.
The statement announced that the pair have agreed not to comment on the "circumstances" and that they and the station "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."
Australia's media watchdog, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, said it was investigating the hoax.
"These events are a tragedy for all involved, and I pass on my heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased nurse in London," the authority's chairman, Chris Chapman, said in a statement.
With files from The Associated Press