BY HENRY CHU Los Angeles Times
LONDON -- A nurse who took a hoax call from two Australian disc jockeys asking about the condition of Kate Middleton, Prince William's pregnant wife, has been found dead, the hospital where the woman worked confirmed today.
British media outlets, citing unnamed sources, reported that Jacintha Saldanha's death was a suspected suicide. Scotland Yard said that the death was being treated "as unexplained."
Saldanha was a nurse at King Edward VII Hospital in London, the private facility where Middleton, who is the duchess of Cambridge, was taken earlier this week for treatment for acute morning sickness, which prompted the royal family to announce her pregnancy.
On Tuesday, two Australian DJs speaking in fake British accents and posing as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, telephoned the hospital asking to speak to Middleton and for an update of her condition. A duped nurse told the "royal" callers that the duchess was asleep, had been rehydrated and was no longer vomiting.
The hospital's chief executive, John Lofthouse, said today that his staff was shocked by Saldanha's death.
"Jacintha has worked at the King Edward VII Hospital for more than four years," Lofthouse told reporters. "She was an excellent nurse and well-respected and popular with all of her colleagues. 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."
Lofthouse described Saldanha as "a first-class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients during her time with us."
Palace officials released a statement saying that Prince William and his wife were "deeply saddened" by Saldanha's death.
"Their royal highnesses were looked after so wonderfully well at all times by everybody at King Edward VII Hospital, and their thoughts and prayers are with Jacintha Saldanha's family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time," the statement said.
After the prank call and the ensuing furor over the invasion of Middleton's privacy, the radio station apologized for the hoax, saying that the two DJs had never expected to get through to hospital staff because of their "terrible accents."
Middleton was released from the hospital Thursday.
Scotland Yard said that officers were called about 9:35 a.m. today to an address on Weymouth Street in central London where a woman had been found unconscious. The street is around the corner from the hospital.
The woman was pronounced dead at the scene. An investigation is continuing.