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British radio hoax turns tragic


 Police Officers on guard at King Edward VII hospital.
Sang Tan/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 12/8/2012

BY CASSANDRA VINOGRAD AND DANICA KIRKA

Associated Press

LONDON

--The news that Prince William and the former Kate Middleton were expecting their first child--joyous news for a couple looking forward to starting a family--immediately turned bittersweet with the simultaneous announcement that the duchess was being hospitalized for acute morning sickness. Then there was an invasion of her privacy by two disc jockeys who impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles to gain information on her condition.

The royal couple quickly issued a statement expressing their condolences over the death of Jacintha Saldanha, the 46-year-old mother of two duped by the DJs, who had suddenly found herself at the vortex of a global incident. They stressed they had not complained about the hoax call, and indeed offered praise for the staff. The hospital, too, stressed that Saldanha had not been reprimanded.

And yet the week can only be described as tragic, with the happiness so tarnished by the latest developments.

Saldanha was found dead early Friday at apartments affiliated with King Edward VII hospital in central London, where she worked for four years.

Police didn't release a cause of death, but said they didn't find anything suspicious. A coroner will make a determination on the cause.

2DayFM, the Australian station that performed the prank early Tuesday, said in a statement posted on Facebook and Twitter that the two disc jockeys, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, would not return to the station until further notice. They had apologized for the hoax Wednesday.

Saldanha took the hoax call by the pair, who impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles to elicit information on the duchess, the hospital said. She later transferred the call to the nurse caring for the duchess, who was admitted to the hospital Monday with acute morning sickness.

"Our thoughts and deepest sympathies at this time are with her family and friends," hospital chief executive John Lofthouse said in a statement. "Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much loved and valued colleague."

St. James's Palace, the office of the duchess and her husband Prince William, also expressed sadness at the death, but insisted that it had not complained about the hoax.

"On the contrary, we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times," the palace said in a statement.


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