A NURSE found dead after putting through a hoax call targeting the Duchess of Cambridge which led to details of her condition being broadcast on Australian radio blamed herself, an inquest has head.
Jacintha Saldanha, 46, was found dead in nursing accommodation three days after taking a call from two radio pranksters pretending to be the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
She had passed them on to a second nurse on Kate’s ward at King Edward VII’s Hospital, who was duped into giving out details of her medical condition.
The second nurse, who cannot be named, told the inquest that Mrs Saldanha emailed her after the prank to apologise for the incident.
The message, which was read out at the hearing, said: “It’s all my fault. I feel very bad about this to get you involved. If there was anything I could do to mend this I would do it.”
The email went on: “I’m very upset and don’t know what to do. Things are all going in the wrong direction.”
Mrs Saldanha said she was “terribly sorry” and added: “Please blame me for this. I accept the fault was mine. I should have checked before I gave the call to you.
“I can only say sorry. Please accept my apologies.”
The prank call was made as the Duchess was being treated for acute morning sickness during her first pregnancy.
The nurse told the inquest that she believed she would be talking to the Queen because that impression was given to her by Mrs Saldanha.
She said she addressed the caller as “ma’am” and spoke about Kate’s condition, saying she was “comfortable”.
“I started feeling nervous when the caller talked to a male voice asking about taking the corgis for a walk. This seemed inappropriate for the call,” she said.
“I had never been in this situation before. I wanted to bring it to an end quickly.”
The chief executive of Southern Cross Media Group, the parent company of 2Day FM which carried out the prank call, said it does not hold the two presenters - Mel Grieg and Michael Christian - responsible for the broadcast.
Rhys Holleran also told the inquest that the company accepts it did not obtain consent to run the hoax call but that it was checked by legal staff ahead of it being aired.
He said four phone calls made to the hospital shortly after the prank were an attempt to seek permission but were ended by the recipient in seconds.
He added that the company “deeply regrets” the tragedy and extended its “deepest sympathies” to the family and friends of Mrs Saldanha.
“All of our staff have been deeply affected,” he said. “The two presenters have each told me on a number of occasions of their distress and sadness.”
The hospital’s matron, Caroline Cassells, told the inquest she tried to reassure the nurse who was upset following the incident.
She said the hospital took the view that the incident had been a mistake and there had been no mention of disciplinary action.“Although they had breached protocol we felt it was a nasty trick at a ridiculous time of the day,” she said.
A dedicated receptionist is now employed to take calls overnight when high profile patients are staying at the hospital, the inquest heard.
The inquest continues.