LONDON (AP) – A nurse who fell victim to a prank telephone call seeking information about the Duchess of Cambridge has died, King Edward VII hospital said Friday.
The hospital said Jacintha Saldanha took the hoax call by two Australian radio disc jockeys who impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles to elicit information on the duchess. Saldanha later transferred the call to the nurse caring for the Duchess, who is pregnant and was suffering from acute morning sickness.
Saldanha was found dead early Friday. Police say her death is unexplained.
“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies at this time are with her family and friends,” said John Lofthouse, the hospital’s chief executive said in a statement. “Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much loved and valued colleague.”
St. James’s Palace also expressed sadness at 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,” the palace said in a statement.
The prank phone call took place early Tuesday and the two radio personalities apologized the following day.
A woman using the often-mimicked voice of Britain’s monarch asked after 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.”
The nurse went on to tell the personalities that the duchess had had an uneventful night, as a dog yapped in the background. The alleged queen and prince talk about traveling to the hospital to check in on the patient.
The hospital said it supported Saldanha in the aftermath of the call and that its phone protocols were under review.
The Australian station 2DayFM placed the recording of the conversation on its website but later said it was sorry. Australian radio personalities Mel Greig and Michael Christian also apologized for the hoax.
“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.”
Officials from St. James’s Palace have said the duchess is not yet 12 weeks pregnant. The child would be the first for her and Prince William.
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