LONDON: The nurse who took the crank call of two Sydney 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.
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 crank 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.”
She 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 the Prince of Wales. 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 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 this morning 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 apeing 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.
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.
The radio station issued a statement saying it was deeply saddened by the news and extending its deepest sympathies to the family. It said both the presenters were “deeply shocked” and it had been agreed they would make no comment.
They would not return to their radio show until further notice, out of respect for the tragedy, 2 Day FM said.
Ms Saldana’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.
First published on smh.com.au