THE Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were “deeply saddened” today after a nurse who was duped by hoaxers in a call to the hospital treating pregnant Kate apparently took her own life.
Jacintha Saldanha was found an address near the King Edward VII’s Hospital in London this morning.
She had been the victim of two Australian radio DJs who impersonated the Queen and the Prince of Wales to obtain a condition update on Kate, who was suffering severe morning sickness at the private hospital.
In a statement St James’s Palace said: “The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jacintha 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 hospital said in a statement: “We can confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, Jacintha Saldanha.
“Jacintha has worked at the King Edward VII’s Hospital for more than four years. She was an excellent nurse and a well-respected and popular member of staff with all her colleagues.
“We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital has been supporting her at this difficult time.”
Hospital chief executive John Lofthouse said: “Our thoughts and deepest sympathies at this time are with her family and friends. Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much-loved and valued colleague.”
Lord Glenarthur, the hospital’s chairman, 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.”
Scotland Yard said the death was not being treated as suspicious.
In a statement today, it said officers were called at around 9.35am this morning to a report of a woman found unconscious at an address in Weymouth Street, W1.
It said: “London Ambulance Service attended and the woman was pronounced dead at the scene. Inquiries are continuing to establish the circumstances of the incident.
“The death is not being treated as suspicious at this stage.”
The two presenters, Mel Greig and Michael Christian from 2Day FM, remarked during their show how their efforts were the “easiest prank call ever made”, as they put on mock British accents they later described as “terrible”.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Lofthouse condemned the hoax call, made in the early hours of that day, and said the hospital was considering legal action.
The presenters later apologised for their actions as did their radio station.
The station was expected to issue a statement about Ms Saldanha’s death later today.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This is tragic news, and the thoughts of all at the Royal College of Nursing go to the family of Jacintha Saldanha.
“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 DJs made their call at around 5.30am on Tuesday and are thought to have been put through by Ms Saldanha, 46.
Another nurse then told them: “She’s sleeping at the moment and she has had an uneventful night and sleep is good for her.
“She’s been given some fluids to rehydrate her because she was quite dehydrated when she came in but she’s stable at the moment.”
The nurse added: “She hasn’t had any retching with me since I’ve been on duty and she has been sleeping on and off. I think it’s difficult sleeping in a strange bed as well.”
The prank call was deeply embarrassing for the hospital, which is the medical institution of choice for the Royal Family.
Mr Lofthouse said on Tuesday: “I’ve received advice that what the Australian broadcasters did may well have broken the law. On the other hand they’ve apologised for it so we’re going to have a long and careful think about what, if anything, we do.”
The prank call was pre-recorded and vetted by lawyers before being broadcast to listeners in Sydney.
In their initial apology the two presenters said: “We were very surprised that our call was put through. We thought we’d be hung up on as soon as they heard our terrible accents.
“We’re very sorry if we’ve caused any issues and we’re glad to hear that Kate is doing well.”
The royals have been the target of hoax callers before.
In 1995 Canadian DJ Pierre Brassard, pretending to be Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, was put through to the Queen.
The pair spoke for around 15 minutes and he even managed to elicit a promise that she would try to influence Quebec’s referendum on proposals to break away from Canada.
Today the DJs were bombarded with online abuse. The duo have continued to boast about the gag on Twitter while in a video on the radio station’s website they laugh and joke about it.
Greig giggles: “They were the worst accents ever and when we made that phone call, we were sure 100 people at least before us would have tried the same thing.”
Sitting beside her in what appears to be their studio, Christian adds: “We got through and now the entire world is talking.”
Meanwhile, a banner on the radio station’s website continues to proclaims it to be the “biggest royal prank ever”.
The recording in full:
Michael Christian: Now Mel, today is a very special day, it’s the day a lot of people have been waiting for for a very, very long time.
Mel Greig: There has been speculation for months that Kate Middleton, married to Prince William, is pregnant. And it has been confirmed that she is pregnant, she is in hospital with severe morning sickness, poor little dear.
Christian: The thing is, though, that this condition that she has is often attached to women that are having twins, so maybe not one but two royal babies.
Greig: I would rather pump out a couple at a time. Makes it easier I think.
Christian: You make it sound so special and emotional. (does an impression of Greig) I’d rather pump out a couple, that’d be all right wouldn’t it? (Laughter) Have someone in the corner of the room with a baseball mit, catching them. Pump it out.
Christian: Here’s the thing. We’ve been handed a phone number and we have been told that this phone number is the hospital where Kate Middleton is currently staying. We thought we’d give it a call. We don’t want to cause any trouble, we don’t want to stress her out because she is doing it tough. But I reckon we could maybe get her on the radio tonight.
Mel Greig: Look, I don’t know. I mean everybody will be trying this.
Christian: Well, this is why I’ve thought of a plan. We can’t just ring up and go ‘Hi it’s MC and Mel from the Summer30, can we chat to Kate?’ Hang up. Not gonna happen. You are going to be the Queen...
Greig: This is awesome.
Christian: I’m going to be Prince Charles.
Greig (Queen voice): Hello, I’m the Queen.
Christian: Ben and Em (off microphone) so you’re involved in this as well, we thought that maybe you could be the royal corgis, if you’re OK with that?
Em: over intercom: Sure we’ll pop on in, in a sec.
Christian: I’m going to dial this number.
Greig: This is fun, I mean (adopts Queen voice), this is fun.
Christian: So you’re going to be the Queen.
Greig: Hello, I’m the Queen.
Christian (in a Prince Charles voice): Hello. Prince Charles over here, mummy.
Greig: Oh, you’re Prince Charles, I like your ears.
Christian: Let’s give this hospital a call and see if we can get Kate Middleton or maybe even Prince Wills on the phone tonight. So the number is going in ... oh Jeez, I hope this happens.
Receptionist: Hello, good morning, King Edward VII Hospital.
Greig (Queen voice): Oh hello there, could I please speak to Kate please, my granddaughter.
Receptionist: Oh yes, just hold on ma’am.
Greig: Thank you.
Christian: Are they putting us through?
Christian: If this has worked, it’s the easiest prank call we have ever made. Your accent sucked, by the way, I just want you to know.
Greig: I’m not used to playing 80-year-olds. (Phone connects) Kate, my darling, are you there?
Nurse: Good morning, ma’am, this is the nurses station, how may I help you?
Greig: Hello, I’m just after my granddaughter Kate. I wanted to see how her little tummy bug is going.
Nurse: She’s sleeping at the moment and has had an uneventful night, and sleep is good for her, as we speak. She’s been given some fluids to re-hydrate her because she was quite dehydrated when she came in. But she’s stable at the moment.
Greig: OK. Well, I’ll just feed my little corgis then (barking in the background). So when is a good time to come and visit her? Because I’m the Queen so I’ll need a lift down there. Charles! When can you take me to the hospital, Charles?
Christian (pretending to be Prince Charles): When will it be all right to come down and see her? Maybe in the morning or something? If that’s OK?
Nurse: I would suggest that any time after nine o’clock would be suitable, because the doctor will be in in the morning and we’ll just be getting her freshened up in the morning. I would think any time after nine.
Christian: Wonderful. Is Wills still there or has he gone home? I haven’t spoken to him yet.
Nurse: He went home at about half past nine last night. Actually, probably about nine o’ clock last night.
Christian: OK, Lovely. But they’re all OK, everything’s all right?
Nurse: Yes, she’s quite stable at the moment. She hasn’t had any retching with me since I’ve been on duty. And she has been sleeping on and off.
Nurse: I think it’s difficult sleeping in a strange bed as well.
Christian: Yes, of course, it’s hardly the palace, is it!
Greig: It’s nothing like the palace is it, Charles? Oh, when are you going to walk those bloody corgis?
Christian: Mumsy, I’ll go and take the dogs outside.
Greig: I need to go and visit Kate in the morning. My dear, thank you so much.
Nurse: You’re very welcome.
Greig: Thank you, bye.
Greig: She was giving us real information!
Christian (as Prince Charles): Mumsy, I think that they believed everything we said.
Greig: I am the Queen: bow for me, bow for me.
Christian: Bow for you and your terrible accent.