Royals 'deeply saddened' by nurse's death

Britain's Prince William stand next to his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge as she leaves the King Edward VII hospital in central London. Photo / AP
Britain's Prince William stand next to his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge as she leaves the King Edward VII hospital in central London. Photo / AP

A nurse duped by the prank phone call to the Duchess of Cambridge's hospital was found dead yesterday.

Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, is believed to have taken her own life.

The Duke and Duchess were said last night to be 'deeply saddened' by the news. Miss Saldanha had been manning the hospital switchboard and took the hoax call from two Australian radio presenters impersonating the Queen and Prince Charles.

The pair were transferred to the ward where the Duchess was recovering from acute morning sickness and broadcast confidential information given to them by a second nurse.

Mel Greig and Michael Christian boasted about their charade on Twitter but deleted their accounts following yesterday's tragic news.

They have also been taken off air by their bosses at 2DayFM in Sydney.

Last night Palace officials stressed no royal complaint had been made to
the hospital about the incident. 'On the contrary, we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times,' said a spokesman for William and Kate.

The hospital said Mrs Saldanha had not been disciplined over the call.

Told about the tragedy last night, Vicki Heath, a spokesman for 2DayFM, said: 'Is this is a hoax call? You're having me on, aren't you?' Assured that the call was genuine, she burst into tears.

'I can't believe this - I just can't believe it,' she said. 'Oh my God, oh no.'

Mrs Saldanha took the phone call from Greig and Christian at 5.30am on Wednesday.

Emergency services were called shortly before 9.30am yesterday to her lodgings near the exclusive King Edward VII Hospital in Marylebone, London. Paramedics were unable to revive her and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Scotland Yard is treating the death as 'unexplained' but not suspicious. An inquest will be opened on Monday. Mrs Saldanha, also known as Jess, is thought to have come to the UK from southern India more than ten years ago and settled in the UK with her partner, 49-year-old hospital accountant Benedict Barboza.

The couple bought their $237,000 three-bedroomed home in 2005 in the Westbury-on-Trym district of Bristol. After working for the North Bristol NHS Trust, which runs Frenchay and Southmead hospitals, it is believed the nurse chose to apply for a job at King Edward four years ago and appears to have been living in the nursing accommodation ever since.

A family statement issued last night said: 'We as a family are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Jacintha.' A former neighbour who lived next door to Mrs Saldanha in Bristol several years ago described her as a 'nice, lovely lady'.

Fighting back tears, she said: 'What a terrible tragedy - just before Christmas as well. Oh those young children- they'll be heartbroken. Her and Ben were a lovely couple.'

A 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.'

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.'

Hospital spokesman Sion Taylor said: 'She was not being disciplined. She was being supported, absolutely not being disciplined. Nothing like that.' John Lofthouse, chief executive of the private hospital said: '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 victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital had been supporting her throughout this difficult time.'

Dr Peter Carter, of the Royal College of Nursing, said: '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 Downing Street spokesman said: 'The Prime Minister's thoughts are with the family and colleagues of Jacintha Saldanha at this sad time.'

Three uniformed police stood guard yesterday outside the five-storey building where Mrs Saldanha was found.

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- Daily Mail

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