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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
life
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
News
people
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn