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U.K. hospital nurse who took Kate prank call found dead

A stretcher is brought from a private ambulance into the block of flats where the nurse Jacintha Saldanha lived near the King Edward VII Hospital in central London December 7, 2012. A female nurse who took a prank call at the London hospital that treated Prince William's pregnant wife Kate for morning sickness has been found dead, the hospital said on Friday.

Olivia Harris/REUTERS

A nurse who fell for DJs prank-calling Kate Middleton's hospital has died in what is reportedly a suicide.

The hospital at which Kate Middleton was being treated for morning sickness related to her pregnancy said that the "well-respected" nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, had worked there for more than four years.

"It is with very deep sadness that that we confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff," London's King Edward VII Hospital, a posh private-care centre, said in a statement. "We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital had been supporting her throughout that difficult time."

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In a statement put out by the palace, the Duchess of Cambridge and her husband Prince William said they were "deeply saddened" to learn the news.

"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 radio station said that the DJs were deeply shocked and would be off the air temporarily "out of respect."

British media reported earlier Friday that the woman later revealed to be Ms. Saldanha was found unconscious this morning at an address in central London. She could not be revived.

The London paper The Sun reported that the death was unexplained but headlined the story for online searches as "Tragedy as woman who answered Kate hoax commits suicide." The Daily Mail, another prominent British tabloid, said she was found close to the hospital at which the Duchess of Cambridge was staying until Thursday and that two ambulances were dispatched.

"Paramedics were unable to revive her and she was pronounced dead at the scene," the paper reported. "Officers from Scotland Yard ... 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."

The woman unwittingly played a role in a radio stunt on Tuesday when two Australian disc-jockeys phoned the hospital. Ms. Saldanha answered and one of the callers, putting on a hokey accent, asked for "Kate ... my grand-daughter," the implication being that she was the Queen.

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A moment later the DJs were on hold, snickering that they seemed to be getting away with it. The call was picked up by another woman who relayed routine but confidential information about the duchess's status.

The prank garnered worldwide headlines and the duo later apologized, saying the idea had been a lark they didn't imagine would succeed. The radio station said in a statement that the DJs "have decided that they will not return to their radio show until further notice out of respect for what can only be described as a tragedy."

Earlier Friday, before news of the death had emerged, one DJ was still boasting on Twitter about the attention the stunt had received. "Our #RoyalPrank was even on the in-flight news," he gloated. "It's everywhere!!"

The DJ, Michael Christian, had earlier tweeted a link to an article in which Prince Charles joked about the hoax."

Twitter accounts for both DJs appeared to have been deleted Friday after Ms. Saldanha's death became known.

With a report from The Associated Press

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