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Nurse Who Took Prank Call At U.K. Hospital Is Dead

A nurse at a London hospital who took a hoax call about Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge was found dead on Friday. Jacintha Saldhana let through a call from an Australian radio station purporting to be the Queen calling about the ailing Duchess.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Earlier this week, we told you about a crank phone call made to the British hospital where Prince William's wife, Kate, was being treated for a severe case of morning sickness. Two Australian DJs impersonated the Queen and Prince Charles. They fooled nurses into revealing details of the Duchess of Cambridge's condition. Well, now, one of the nurses who took that call is dead. Vicki Barker has more on the story, from London.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRANK PHONE CALL)

MEL GREIG: (Impersonating Queen Elizabeth) Kate, my darling, are you there?

UNIDENTIFIED NURSE: Good morning, ma'am. This is a nurse speaking. How may I help you?

GREIG: (Impersonating Queen Elizabeth) Hello, I'm just after my granddaughter's...

VICKI BARKER, BYLINE: Jacintha Saldanha is not the nurse heard describing the Duchess of Cambridge's condition during the prank call. Saldanha, the duty nurse that night, answered the hospital's main telephone in the pre-dawn hours on Tuesday; and taken in by DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian, transferred their call to Kate's ward.

Police say Saldanha was found unconscious at staff accommodation near the hospital, early this morning. She was married with two children. The cause of death has not been officially established. But the head of King Edward VII Hospital, John Lofthouse, drew a direct connection with Tuesday's incident.

JOHN LOFTHOUSE: We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital had been supporting her through this very difficult time.

BARKER: He said Jacintha Saldanha had been excellent at her job, and well-respected and popular with all her colleagues.

LOFTHOUSE: Jacintha was a first-class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients during her time with us. Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much-loved and valued colleague.

BARKER: Kate was discharged from the hospital yesterday, after three nights there being treated for severe morning sickness. She and her husband have expressed shock and sadness at the news of Saldanha's death. Palace officials insist no one in the royal family had complained to the hospital. In fact, they had attempted to reassure and console hospital staff. The hospital's management says Saldanha had not been disciplined or suspended for her part in this unwitting violation of Kate's privacy.

Many Londoners hurrying home during the evening rush hour hadn't yet heard about the tragic turn of events. Rebecca Wilson, a researcher from Chiswick, West London, says she can see why a nurse would have been devastated to have broken patient confidentiality.

REBECCA WILSON: I'm not a royalist, but I still don't think that people should have their information given out. Terrible, all seems very dark and suspicious so I'll be interested to hear - read more, and listen more about the story.

BARKER: News of Jacintha Saldanha's death broke in the middle of the Australian night. No one was answering the phone at Sydney's 2day FM radio.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Thank you for calling. You have reached us outside business hours...

BARKER: DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian did apologized for a stunt that not very many Brits had found funny. The station's owners have since issued a statement saying they are deeply saddened by the nurse's death. As a mark of respect, they say, the DJs have decided to stay off the air until further notice.

For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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