The news came as a surprising shock considering I – and most of the world – didn’t know her.
Her name was Jacintha Saldanha, a nurse who was working the reception desk at the private hospital where Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, was being treated for acute morning sickness. Saldanha was found dead Friday morning in London after she was duped by a hoax call into spilling information about the duchess’s condition. Scotland Yard is investigating and treating the death as “unexplained,” although some outlets have reported that Saldanha died from an apparent suicide.
The immediate thought: How tragic and what a waste. The second one: The Princess Diana conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this.
Earlier this week, two radio DJs in Australia called the hospital pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles. They asked about the duchess’s condition and Saldanha transferred the call to the duchess’s private nurse who gave intimate details about the duchess’s condition. King Edward VII Hospital is the choice hospital for the royal family, and it was reported that the incident caused embarrassment to the institution.
“It is with very deep sadness that we confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, Jacintha Saldanha,” the hospital said in a statement on Friday. “Jacintha had worked at the King Edward VII hospital for more than four years. She was an excellent nurse and well-respected and popular with all of her colleagues.”
According to The Guardian, Saldanha was married with two children. William and Catherine have sent official condolences to the family.
It is a sad turn of events in a story that I hope will have a happy ending for Catherine and William, who has tried to protect his wife from the media scrutiny that befell his late mother. The royal family has not filed a media complaint against the Australian radio duo Mel Greig and Michael Christian, but a social media campaign has called for their firings.
What the pair needs to understand is common decency and privacy. The former Kate Middleton may be a duchess, but she deserves privacy as she handles the first weeks of what could be a complicated pregnancy. No doubt, the prank upset Catherine and William as it would any couple expecting their first child. Who would think of trying to get medical information on a random pregnant woman by prank calling the hospital? Such a joke is so over the line, but apparently hilarious when it comes to a sick, pregnant duchess.
Now the DJs have blood on their hands. A nurse is dead, and her family is mourning. Their joke had collateral damage.
As someone told me last night at a holiday party, “We’ll be hearing about Kate and that baby forever. Imagine if we lived in London how tired we would be of it by the time the birth happens.”
Wouldn’t it be nice to imagine that Catherine and William could actually have the privacy they deserve during this time? That’s very unlikely. Remember the duchess’s topless picture fiasco earlier this year? The couple, however, seems comfortable with the lack of privacy. The duchess left the hospital on Friday and photographers, who had camped out at the hospital for three nights, were there to snap her picture with William. She looked picture perfect as she held a vibrant bouquet of yellow flowers with a baby blue scarf wrapped around her neck. William wore a dark blue sweater. The couple matched beautifully, of course.
The royal couple will remain in the headlines, but how long will we remember Jacintha?
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker