PRINCE William and Kate were “shocked and saddened” last night after the hospital nurse fooled by a hoaxer posing as the Queen committed suicide.
Jacintha Saldanha, 46, was found dead two days after the stunt by an Aussie DJ.
Tributes were paid last night to tragic mum-of-two Jacintha, who apparently killed herself after she became tormented by her mistake in putting the call through to pregnant Kate’s ward.
The two Australian radio DJs who rang posing as the Queen and Prince Charles while Kate was being treated for severe morning sickness were taken off the air amid calls for their sacking.
King Edward VII private hospital in central London, where Jacintha worked for more than four years, said she “was an excellent nurse and a well-respected and popular member of staff”.
Hospital chief executive John Lofthouse said: “Our thoughts and deepest sympathies at this time are with her family and friends. Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much-loved and valued colleague.”
Lord Glenarthur, hospital chairman, said: “This is a tragic event. Jacintha was a first class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients during her time with us. She will be greatly missed.”
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 nursing profession.”
Jacintha was found yesterday morning in living quarters next to the private hospital.
She was said to have been “inconsolable and distraught” after being duped by 2Day FM hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian into believing she was speaking to the Queen, asking after Kate’s condition.
Her devastated family said: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Jacintha.” A hospital spokeswoman added: “We can confirm Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call. The hospital had been supporting her.”
A spokesman for Prince William and Kate, both 30, said: “The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jacintha Saldanha. Their Royal Highnesses were looked after wonderfully well at all times by everybody at King Edward VII hospital.
“Their thoughts and prayers are with Jacintha’s family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time.”
An aide told The Sun: “At no point did the palace complain to the hospital about the incident. On the contrary, we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times. It’s awful, absolutely awful.”
A spokesman for the radio station said last night: “Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) and 2Day FM are deeply saddened by the tragic news of the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to her family and all affected by this situation around the world.
“The presenters are both deeply shocked and at this time we have agreed that they will not comment about the circumstances. They will not return to their radio show until further notice, out of respect for what can only be described as a tragedy.” The hoaxers’ audio clip was still on the station’s website for hours after Jacintha’s death.
William and Kate, already angry over the intrusion at the hospital, were told of Jacintha’s death yesterday afternoon.
Royal aides refused to say whether the couple had met Indian-born Jacintha.
She had answered the phone at 5.30am on Wednesday morning when Greig and Christian called. Greig, impersonating the Queen, said: “Oh, hello there. Could I please speak to Kate please, my granddaughter?” Jacintha replied: “Oh yes, just hold on, Ma’am.”
Taken in by their stunt, she put them through to Kate’s ward. A second nurse then spoke to the DJs — unwittingly giving away details of Kate’s illness. Hospital bosses said they took no disciplinary action against Jacintha or anyone else. Kate was released from hospital on Thursday.
A nurse outside the hospital said fellow workers were distraught at Jacintha’s death.
Sources said she was found unconscious by a worker from the hospital shortly after 9.30am. Paramedics battled to revive her but she was found to be dead.
It is believed the alarm was raised when she failed to appear at work. She had been living in staff quarters in Weymouth Street, yards from the hospital.
Detectives expect an inquest to conclude she took her own life. A Scotland Yard statement said: “Although formal identification has not taken place, we are satisfied the deceased is Jacintha Saldhana. A post-mortem examination will be arranged. The death is being treated as unexplained.”
It is understood Jacintha recently moved from Bristol, where she had a £200,000 home with partner Benedict Barboza, her son aged 16 and 14-year-old daughter.
Ex-neighbours in Bristol said they used to joke with Jacintha that her job at the hospital meant she was a “nurse for the Queen”.
One, called Maxine, said: “She was a lovely woman, just so smiley and bubbly. We used to joke with her that she was a nurse for the Queen, she was just so nice.
Another fought back tears as she said: “What a terrible tragedy. She and Ben were a lovely couple. It’s devastating to hear she’s gone — and in circumstances that could have been so easily avoided.” Another neighbour added: “She was a lovely woman. She must have thought there was no way back.”
Last night the radio pair faced a storm of internet abuse and both shut down their Twitter accounts.
Australian TV star Holly Valance, 29, tweeted: “Beyond horrific. Hope they’re held accountable for their prank. A life spent helping people ends up like this.”
Telly presenter Myleene Klass said: “Just heard about Jacintha Saldanha. Poor lady must have been terrified.”