Royal prank, meant for laughs, ends in tragedy

(CBS News) LONDON -- We don't know why Jacintha Saldanha killed herself. No one who knows her has said.

But we do know that the London nurse, whose body was found this morning, was the subject of a prank this week that involved the royal family.

The nurse was working at the hospital where Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, was being treated for morning sickness. She had passed a call through to Kate's ward, thinking the caller was the Queen.

But it was actually Michael Christian and Mel Greig, a pair of Australian DJs famous for hoaxes, who placed the call. And they were gloating about it all week.

"Can you believe what's happened today?" Christian said on his show.

"You know what, they were the worst accents ever," Greig responded.

Pity the poor nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, who was blindsided by the call.

"Oh hello there, could I please speak to Kate, my granddaughter," Greig said in a phony British accent.

"Oh yes, just hold on ma'am," Saldanha replied.

Australian radio jocks leave airwaves following nurse's death
Nurse in Duchess Kate hoax dead in apparent suicide

The call was put through to the ward nurse, who gave the hoax callers an update on Kate's condition.

The royal family made no complaint. The hospital apologized. The radio station apologized.

Prince Charles, Kate's father-in-law, even joked about it.

"How do you know I'm not a radio station?" he joked in an interview.

And the episode, while embarrassing, seemed to be over -- until the nurse's body was found.

The Australian radio station has now taken the offending DJs off the air and offered condolences.

While the police say they can't confirm a suicide until after an autopsy, the hospital says it had been supporting Jacintha Saldanha through what it called "the very difficult time" she was going through since she fell for the hoax call.

The Australian radio station had been boasting their hoax was "the prank call the world is talking about." The world is indeed talking about it -- but as a tragedy.

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips returned to the CBS News London bureau as a correspondent in 1993. He has covered many major stories since then, including the war in the Balkans, the death of Princess Diana and the weapons inspection conflicts in Iraq.

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