KATE Middleton said she was "deeply saddened" yesterday by the apparent suicide of a nurse who fell victim to a hoax during her stay in hospital.
Jacintha Saldanha (46) was manning reception at the King Edward VII Hospital on Tuesday morning when she con- nected a call to the duchess’s ward from two Australian radio presenters, who were impersonating the Queen and the Prince of Wales.
The mother of two was found unconscious yesterday morning at her home near the hospital in central London and was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics who were unable to revive her.
Police said her death was not being treated as suspicious, but sources said she appeared to have taken her own life.
Mrs Saldanha, who had worked at the hospital for four years, was described as "a first-class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients" at the hospital.
Her family said in a statement they were "deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Jacintha".
Mrs Saldanha had not faced any disciplinary action by the hospital where managers felt that she was the unfortunate victim of a "deplorable" trick.
But she described herself as "a very nervous person" and friends said she would have been "hit badly" by the prank, which would have "preyed on her mind".
Confidential details of the duchess's condition and treatment for pregnancy sickness were given to Sydney disc jockeys Michael Christian and Mel Greig, who broadcast the call after Mrs Saldanha put them through to a second nurse on the duchess's ward.
A spokesman for St James's Palace said the duchess had not blamed the two nurses and had not complained to the hospital.
He went on: "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jacintha Saldanha."
The Australian radio station, 2Day FM, expressed its sadness and said the disc jockeys were "deeply shocked" and would not be returning to the air until further notice "out of respect for what is a tragedy".
However, the station replayed the recording of the call hours after Mrs Saldanha died.
Mrs Saldanha had previously worked at the Southmead Hospital in Bristol, where her partner Benedict Barboza and children still live. She lived in hospital accommodation in London when on shift and spent the rest of her time in Bristol.
One neighbour said: "What a terrible tragedy – just before Christmas as well.
"Oh, those two young children – they'll be heartbroken. Her and Ben were a lovely couple, they invited us in for a curry when they moved in."
Mrs Saldanha wrote an online testimonial for her driving instructor, Jeff Sellick, after passing her driving test last year, saying: "I am a very nervous person."
Mr Sellick said of the hoax call: "It would have preyed on her mind. She was very nice but very, very quiet, she wouldn't have said boo to a goose."
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 profession."
So far, 2Day FM has not been censured by the Australian broadcasting regulator.
Conor Burns MP, a Conservative member of the culture, media and sport select committee, said: "The presenters should lose their jobs."