Nurse Jacintha Saldanha who took a prank phone call at Duchess of Cambridge's hospital is found dead in suspected suicide

Jacintha Saldanha is understood to be the first person heard during the hoax call from presenters pretending to be the Queen

A nurse who was duped into transferring a prank call from two Australian radio presenters at the hospital treating the Duchess of Cambridge for severe morning sickness was found dead yesterday in a suspected suicide.

Jacintha Saldanha, 46, a nurse at the King Edward VII's Hospital in central London, answered the call at 5.30am on Tuesday from the Sydney-based 2Day FM station, whose DJs pretended to be the Queen and Prince Charles. Ms Saldanha put them through to a colleague who provided details of the Duchess's condition.

Ms Saldanha was found unconscious at a nurses' residence close to the private hospital in Marylebone at about 9.35am and despite the efforts of paramedics could not be revived. Police said the death was not being treated as suspicious, and a source said officers were investigating whether she had taken her own life. Mental health experts cautioned against any assumptions about factors contributing to her death. The nurse, a mother of two children, who started working at the hospital in 2008, is the first member of staff heard to answer on a recording of the hoax call from presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian.

Ms Greig, seeking to impersonate the Queen, asked to be put through to "my grand-daughter", prompting Ms Saldanha to reply: "Oh yes, just hold on ma'am."

The hospital, which is rated as one of London's best private medical establishments and has a reputation for closely guarding the privacy of its patients, spoke of its shock and "very deep sadness" at the death of Ms Saldanha, whose partner and two sons live in Bristol. Her family said last night: "We as a family are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Jacintha."

In a statement, the hospital said: "She was an excellent nurse and well-respected and popular with all of her colleagues.

"We can confirm Jacintha was the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital had been supporting her throughout this difficult time."

Lord Glenarthur, the hospital's chairman, added: "This is a tragic event. Jacintha was a first-class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients during her time with us."

The radio prank, which was pre-recorded and vetted by lawyers from the radio station before it was broadcast, was picked up by media worldwide and was acutely embarrassing for the hospital, which has a long history as the hospital of choice for the Royal Family.

In a statement earlier this week, the hospital's chief executive John Lofthouse condemned the prank, adding: "We take patient confidentiality extremely seriously and we are now reviewing our telephone protocols."

Mr Lofthouse added: "I think this whole thing is pretty deplorable; our nurses are caring, professional people trained to look after patients, not to cope with journalistic trickery of this sort."

The hospital offers its VIP patients private lines that are connected directly to their rooms, but the Australian DJs were able to reach the Duchess's personal nurse via the switchboard in an apparent breach of procedure.

It is understood that Ms Saldanha, who was registered to practice in Britain in July 2003, had not been disciplined or suspended by the hospital.

She answered the hospital's phone line in her role as duty nurse because there was no receptionist manning the switchboard at the time of the call.

St James's Palace said that neither Prince William and his wife nor any royal staff had complained to the hospital about the prank, adding that they had offered their "full and heartfelt support" to staff and to the nurses involved.

The couple, who had to announce that they were expecting their first child sooner than planned after Kate was admitted to hospital with acute morning sickness on Monday, said they were "deeply saddened" by Ms Saldanha's death. A spokesman at St James's Palace said: "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."

While little information about Ms Saldanha's mental health was available, nurses' leaders last night suggested that there could be a link between her death and the prank.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive 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."

In a statement, the ambulance service said: "We were called at 9.25am this morning to an address on Weymouth Street. We sent two ambulance crews and a duty officer. Sadly the patient, a woman, was dead at the scene."

The owners of the Sydney radio station said last night that the two presenters were "deeply shocked" at the nurse's death and had agreed to stop broadcasting until further notice.

The Samaritans can be contacted on 08457 90 90 90.

King Edward VII: The hospital where it happened

King Edward VII's Hospital, one of London's premier private hospitals, is used to hosting VIP patients for Rolls-Royce medical care in conditions of high security. It has at various times accommodated the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh and Prince of Wales as well as other members of the Royal Family.

It has 58 en-suite rooms with flatscreen televisions and wi-fi and three operating theatres. It boasts on its website of a "strong tradition of excellence in nursing" and says unlike many hospitals "most are permanently employed by us". It claims never to have had a case of the hospital infections MRSA or Clostridium difficile and has won awards for the cleanliness of its wards and standard of food hygiene. The hospital was founded in 1899 and started life in a house belonging to Agnes Keyser who, with her sister, nursed sick and wounded officers returning from the Boer War.

It continues to offer subsidised care to people in the services and their spouses: its full name is the King Edward VII 's Hospital Sister Agnes. It has been treating the Royal Family since it opened and its patron is the Queen.

Jeremy Laurance

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Front-End UI/UX Developer (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ang

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition