LONDON — A nurse who fell victim to a prank telephone call seeking information about the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge has died, the London hospital where she worked reported today.
The King Edward VII hospital said nurse Jacintha Saldanha took the hoax call by two Australian radio disc jockeys who impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles early Tuesday to elicit private information on the duchess’s condition. 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 today. 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, which speaks for Prince William, the duchess’ husband, also expressed sadness about the nurse’s death, but insisted that it had not complained about the hoax.
“On the contrary, we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times,” 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 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 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 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.”
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 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.
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 and become third in line to the British throne, after Charles and William.
Associated Press Writers Paisley Dodds and Cassandra Vinograd contributed to this story.