Royal Pregnancy Prank Followed By Suicide

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 7 2012 10:42 AM

Nurse Who Fell For Royal Radio Prank Found Dead

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Prince William and Kate Middleton pose for pictures as they leave the King Edward VII hospital in central London on Thursday

Photo by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images.

I was really hoping that my days on the Kate and Wills beat were over, but there's a rather bizarre—and if true, very sad—story coming out of Great Britain this morning courtesy of a pair of English tabloids. In short the papers report that a hospital employee who was duped into patching through a pair of Australian radio hosts to Kate Middleton's nurse earlier this week was found dead this morning of an apparent suicide.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

For those who haven't been following this story closely: Early Wednesday morning, 2Day FM hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian called the private hospital where the duchess was being treated, pretending to be Prince Charles and the Queen. Jacintha Saldanha, a duty nurse, answered the call because there was no receptionist around, and connected the pair with one of Kate's bedside nurses who then went on to talk about the duchess's condition and care. The radio hosts played their conversation on air and, given the topic, the prank quickly went viral. Which brings us back to today. The Daily Mail, which appears to have been the first to report the story, explains:

The woman’s unconscious body was found at an address yards away from King Edward VII Hospital, where she worked, just before 9.30am today. The emergency services were called and two ambulances were [dispatched] to the central London residence. But paramedics were unable to revive her and she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officers from Scotland Yard launched an investigation yesterday and are treating the death as ‘unexplained’. The exact cause of death remained unclear. However, one source indicated that the woman appeared to have killed herself.
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Since the original reports ran this morning, the hospital has since released a statement confirming Saldanha's death and that she "was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital." The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge likewise released a statement saying they were deeply saddened by the news, according to BBC News. Police say the death is not being treated as suspicious, suggesting that it was a suicide, but to be clear, that hasn't been officially confirmed yet. And even if were to be, we still wouldn't know exactly what role the call played in the death.

The Australian radio station apologized for the prank earlier this week, with the hosts describing the phone call at the time as a light-hearted gag they didn't think would actually work, and saying they were "sorry if we've caused any issues." It's worth pointing out, however, that this isn't the first time that 2Day FM has run into trouble with a prank. The station was slapped with a five-year license probation back in 2009 for violating Australian regulations after a gag involving a lie detector went horribly wrong, ending with a 14-year-old girl disclosing on air that she had been the victim of rape. (The Daily Beast has more on that story here.)

Updated at 11 a.m. to include statement from the royal family and to clarify Saldanha's role at the hospital.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

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