UK hospital: Nurse involved in Kate hoax call dies
Two policemen stand guard outside King Edward VII hospital , in central London, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. King Edward VII hospital says a nurse involved in a prank telephone call to elicit information about the Duchess of Cambridge has died. The hospital said Friday that Jacintha Saldanha had been a victim of the call made by two Australian radio disc jockeys. They did not immediately say what role she played in the call. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
LONDON (AP) — The news that Prince William and the former Kate Middleton were expecting their first child — joyous news for a couple looking forward to starting a family — immediately turned bittersweet with the simultaneous announcement that the duchess was being hospitalized for acute morning sickness. Then there was an invasion of her privacy by two disc jockeys who impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles to gain information on her condition.
By Friday, the sadness merely deepened, with the news that the nurse who unwittingly took the hoax call had died.
The royal couple quickly issued a statement expressing their condolences over the death of Jacintha Saldanha, the 46-year-old mother of two duped by the Australian 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.
And yet the week can only be described as tragic, with the happiness so tarnished by the latest developments.
Saldanha was found dead early Friday at apartments affiliated with King Edward VII hospital in central London, where she worked for four years.
Police didn't release a cause of death, but said they didn't find anything suspicious. A coroner will make a determination on the cause.
2DayFM, the Australian station that performed the prank early Tuesday, said in a statement that the two disc jockeys, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, would not return to the station until further notice. They had apologized for the hoax Wednesday.
Rhys Holleran, CEO of 2DayFM's parent company Southern Cross Austereo, said the hosts were shocked and devastated by news of Saldanha's death.
"This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen and we're deeply saddened by it," Holleran said during a news conference in Melbourne on Saturday. "I spoke to both presenters early this morning and it's fair to say they're completely shattered."
Greig and Christian have been offered counseling, Holleran said.
"These people aren't machines, they're human beings," he said. "We're all affected by this."
Holleran would not say who came up with the idea for the call, only that "these things are often done collaboratively." He said 2DayFM would work with authorities, but was confident the station hadn't broken any laws, noting that prank calls in radio have been happening "for decades."
"They're not just part of one radio station or one network or one country — they're done worldwide," he said.
Saldanha took the hoax call by the pair, who impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles to elicit information on the duchess, the hospital said. She later transferred the call to the nurse caring for the duchess, who was admitted to the hospital Monday with acute morning sickness.
"Our thoughts and deepest sympathies at this time are with her family and friends," hospital chief executive John Lofthouse said in a statement. "Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much loved and valued colleague."
St. James's Palace, the office of the duchess and her husband Prince William, also expressed sadness at the death, but insisted that it had not complained about the hoax.