Nurse who took Middleton prank call found dead

Last updated 09:05 08/12/2012

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A nurse who took a prank call at the London hospital that was treating Prince William's pregnant wife Kate for morning sickness has been found dead, the hospital said.

The nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, was a 46-year-old mother of two.

The death, which is being treated as a suspected suicide, comes days after the King Edward VII hospital apologised after falling for the call from an Australian radio station and relaying details about Kate's condition.

"It is with very deep sadness that we confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, Jacintha Saldanha," the hospital said in a statement.

"We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital had been supporting her," the statement said.

The owners of the radio station, 2DayFM, have released a statement saying they are "deeply saddened" by Saldanha's death and the hosts, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, have decided not to return to the show until further notice.

Saldanha's family issued a statement saying they were mourning the loss "of our beloved Jacintha" and asked for privacy.

Police said they had been called at 9.35am (local time) about a woman found unconscious at an address near the hospital. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene by ambulance staff.

The announcement that Kate was pregnant with a future British king or queen sparked a media frenzy and generated worldwide interest.

William and Kate said they were "deeply saddened" by the death.

"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," a statement from William's office said.

Two presenters from Australia's 2Day radio station called the hospital early on Tuesday (British time), pretending to be William's grandmother Queen Elizabeth and his father, the heir-to-the throne Prince Charles.

Presenters Michael Christian and Mel Greig were put through to the ward where Kate was being treated and were given details about how she was faring.

The hospital issued a statement after the prank was revealed saying it deeply regretted the incident and said it was reviewing its "telephone protocols".

A royal aide told Sky News that no complaints were laid over the incident.

The prank call and its tragic aftermath comes as Britain's own scandal-hungry press scrambles to agree a new system of self regulation following a damning inquiry into their reporting practices.

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A recording of the call was widely available on the internet and many newspapers printed a transcript of the call.

The Australian radio station had previously apologised for the call, saying it was done with the "best intentions".

But some people leaving comments on the station's website had been unimpressed. "You have probably cost a young nurse her job ... Never mind that you violated a woman's privacy. Never mind, it was all done for fun," one said.

Facebook tribute pages swiftly set up after the nurse's death attracted messages of sympathy, some calling for the radio station to pay compensation to her family and others for the presenters to resign.

Saldanha's body was removed from the redbrick, five-storey building where it was found, and transferred to a small private ambulance, shortly after the hospital confirmed her death.

Detectives and forensics staff had earlier been seen entering and leaving the building, which contains residental apartments and adminstrative offices for the hospital.

- Reuters

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