A member of staff at the private hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was treated for acute morning sickness has died in a suspected suicide two days after the hospital was duped by a hoax call from an Australian radio station, it has emerged.
The woman, confirmed by the hospital to be Jacintha Saldanha, a nurse who was working on the reception of King Edward VII hospital when the prank call was made, was found unconscious at an address near the London hospital just before 9.30am on Friday.
The hospital said in a statement: "It is with very deep sadness that we confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, Jacintha Saldanha.
"Jacintha had worked at the King Edward VII hospital for more than four years. She was an excellent nurse and well-respected and popular with all of her colleagues.
"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."
Saldanha was married and is understood to have had two children.
A St James's Palace spokesman said the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were "deeply saddened" by the news.
"At no point did the palace complain to the hospital about the (hoax) incident," he said. "On the contrary, we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times."
Radio DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian, from Sydney's 2Day FM station, rang the hospital in the early hours of Tuesday after the duchess's admission. Greig pretended to be the Queen, while Christian was in the background as "Prince Charles".
Greig asked to speak to "my granddaughter Kate". Saldanha thought she was speaking to the Queen and told Greig: "Oh yes, just hold on ma'am". She then put the call through to a duty nurse, who divulged intimate medical details about the duchess.
In a statement the radio station and its owner, Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), said they were deeply saddened by Saldanha's death "and we extend our deepest sympathies to her family and all that have been affected by this situation around the world".
"Chief executive officer Rhys Holleran has spoken with the presenters. They are both deeply shocked and at this time we have agreed that they not comment about the circumstances. 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 Twitter accounts of Greig and Christian have been taken down since the news of Saldanha's death broke. Earlier they had replayed extended clips of the prank call. Twitter users have called for the pair to lose their jobs, they have been subjected to abuse and Greig has received what appear to be threats on the social networking site.
The radio station is reportedly already serving two five-year licence probations after serious breaches of the regulator's code.
It is understood the dead woman's next of kin have been informed.
John Lofthouse, the hospital's chief executive, 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, chairman of the hospital, 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 has launched an investigation and is treating the death as "unexplained".
In a statement, it said: "Police were called at approximately 9.25am on Friday, December 7, to a report of a woman found unconscious at an address in Weymouth Street, W1.
"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".
In a statement, the ambulance service said: "We were called at 9.25am this morning to an address on Weymouth Street. We sent two ambulance crews and a duty officer. Sadly the patient, a woman, was dead at the scene."
The St James's Palace spokesman 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 prank call was deeply embarrassing for the hospital, which is the medical institution of choice for the royal family.
Lofthouse said on Tuesday the hospital was considering whether to take action against the radio station.
He added: "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 royal couple had made no comment about the hoax call. But Prince Charles appeared to make light of it, joking with journalists at an engagement on Thursday: "How do you know I am not a radio station?"
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."
A former neighbour of Saldanha described her as a "nice, lovely lady''.
The woman lived next door to Saldanha, her two sons and partner, Benedict "Ben" Barboza, in Bristol several years ago.
"What a terrible tragedy – just before Christmas as well," she said. "Those two young boys – they'll be heartbroken.
"Her and Ben were a lovely couple. They didn't live here very long, but they were such nice neighbours. They kept themselves to themselves mostly.
"It's so sad, so tragic. They always spoke to us – she was such a nice lady. I didn't know what she did for a living, but I knew she was a good person, as far as I knew.
"It's devastating to hear she's gone – and in such circumstances that could be so easily avoided."
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