The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been left “deeply saddened” after the 46-year-old nurse duped by hoax callers into revealing details about Kate’s health apparently took her own life.
Jacintha Saldanha was pronounced dead this morning at an address near the King Edward VII’s Hospital in central London where the pregnant Duchess had been treated for a severe form of morning sickness.
The nurse, reportedly a mother-of-two, was the victim of two Australian radio DJs who impersonated the Queen and the Prince of Wales.
She answered their call and, believing the 2Day FM presenters were members of the Royal Family, put them through to another nurse who described Kate’s condition in detail.
In a statement tonight, Ms Saldanha’s family said they were “deeply saddened” by the death and asked for privacy.
“We as a family are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Jacintha.
“We would ask that the media respect our privacy at this difficult time.”
In the wake of the tragedy the company which runs the radio station said that, by mutual consent, the hosts would not be returning to their show until further notice.
In a statement Southern Cross Austereo said: “Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) and 2Day FM are deeply saddened by the tragic news of the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha from King Edward VII’s Hospital and we extend our deepest sympathies to her family and all that have been affected by this situation around the world.
“Chief executive officer Rhys Holleran has spoken with the presenters. They are both deeply shocked and at this time we have agreed that they will not comment about the circumstances.
“SCA and the hosts have decided that they will not return to their radio show until further notice out of respect for what can only be described as a tragedy.”
It is not known how much contact, if any, Kate had with the nurse but in a statement St James's Palace 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’s Hospital, and their thoughts and prayers are with Jacintha Saldanha’s family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time.”
The hospital said in a statement: “We can confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, Jacintha Saldanha.
“Jacintha has worked at the King Edward VII’s Hospital for more than four years. She was an excellent nurse and a well-respected and popular member of staff with all her colleagues.
“We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital has been supporting her at this difficult time.”
Hospital chief executive John Lofthouse said: “Our thoughts and deepest sympathies at this time are with her family and friends. Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much-loved and valued colleague.”
Lord Glenarthur, the hospital’s chairman, 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.”
A St James’s Palace spokesman stressed that they had not complained to the hospital about the hoax call.
He added: “On the contrary, we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times.”
Scotland Yard said Ms Saldanha’s death was not being treated as suspicious.
In a statement it said officers were called at around 9.35am this morning to a report of a woman found unconscious at an address in Weymouth Street in central London.
It said: “London Ambulance Service attended and the woman was pronounced dead at the scene. Inquiries are continuing to establish the circumstances of the incident.
“The death is not being treated as suspicious at this stage.”
The two presenters, Mel Greig and Michael Christian from 2Day FM, remarked during their show how their efforts were the “easiest prank call ever made”, as they put on mock British accents they later described as “terrible”.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Lofthouse condemned the hoax call, made in the early hours of that day, and said the hospital was considering legal action.
The presenters later apologised for their actions, as did their radio station.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This is tragic news, and the thoughts of all at the Royal College of Nursing go to the family of Jacintha Saldanha.
“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.”
The DJs made their call at around 5.30am on Tuesday and were put through by Ms Saldanha, 46.
Another nurse looking after Kate then told them: “She’s sleeping at the moment and she has had an uneventful night and sleep is good for her.
“She’s been given some fluids to rehydrate her because she was quite dehydrated when she came in but she’s stable at the moment.”
The nurse added: “She hasn’t had any retching with me since I’ve been on duty and she has been sleeping on and off. I think it’s difficult sleeping in a strange bed as well.”
The prank call was deeply embarrassing for the hospital, which is the medical institution of choice for the Royal Family.
Mr Lofthouse said on Tuesday: “I’ve received advice that what the Australian broadcasters did may well have broken the law. On the other hand they’ve apologised for it so we’re going to have a long and careful think about what, if anything, we do.”
The prank call was pre-recorded and vetted by lawyers before being broadcast to listeners in Sydney.
In their initial apology the two presenters said: “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.
“We’re very sorry if we’ve caused any issues and we’re glad to hear that Kate is doing well.”
The royals have been the target of hoax callers before.
In 1995 Canadian DJ Pierre Brassard, pretending to be Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, was put through to the Queen.
The pair spoke for around 15 minutes and he even managed to elicit a promise that she would try to influence Quebec’s referendum on proposals to break away from Canada.