NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A nurse involved in a prank telephone call to elicit information about the Duchess of Cambridge has died, King Edward VII hospital said Friday.
Jacintha Saldanha had been a victim of the call made by two Australian radio disc jockeys, the hospital said Friday.
Saldanha took the hoax call by Australian DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian who impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles early Tuesday to elicit private information on the duchess’ condition, The King Edward VII hospital said.
Saldanha later transferred the call to the nurse caring for the duchess, who is suffering from acute morning sickness. That second nurse spoke freely about her 30-year-old patient, one of the world’s most photographed women.
Saldanha was found dead early Friday. Police said her death is unexplained, but she is suspected to have committed suicide, according to several published reports.
The nurse went on to say the duchess had had an uneventful night, as another radio employee pretended to be a dog yapping in the background. The alleged queen and prince then talked about traveling to the London hospital to check in on the patient, who is married to the queen’s grandson, Prince William.
The hospital said it supported Saldanha in the aftermath of the call and that its phone protocols were under review.
The royal couple quickly issued a statement expressing their condolences over the death of Saldanha, the 46-year-old mother of two duped by the DJs, who had suddenly found herself at the vortex of a global incident.
They stressed they had not complained about the hoax call, and indeed offered praise for the staff. The hospital, too, stressed that Saldanha had not been reprimanded.
St. James’s Palace spokesman released this statement Friday:
“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.”
A woman using the often-mimicked voice of Britain’s monarch asked about the duchess’ health. She was told by the second nurse who took the call from Saldanha that the duchess, the former Kate Middleton, “hasn’t had any retching with me and she’s been sleeping on and off.”
Greig and Christian apologized the following day.
“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,” they said in a joint statement with the station at the time. “We’re very sorry if we’ve caused any issues and we’re glad to hear that Kate is doing well.”
However, the disc jockeys also described the call as the “easiest prank call ever made,” and promoted it through the station’s website and social media accounts.
The Sydney-based 2Day FM continued to promote its prank call on air early Saturday morning. It described the hoax as “the prank call the world is talking about” before playing clips of news programs reporting on the original call.
Christian’s Twitter account has since been taken down.
2DayFM later said in a statement posted on Facebook and Twitter that Greig and would not return to the station until further notice.
During an afternoon press conference in London, Hospital CEO John Lofthouse said the following:
“It is with deep sadness that I can confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, Jacintha Saldhana.
Jacintha has 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 the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital had been supporting her through this very difficult time.
Jacintha was a first class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients during her time with us. Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much loved and valued colleague. our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family and her friends.
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