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October 25, 2014

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Inquest: Nurse in British royal hoax found hanging

LONDON — An inquest into the apparent suicide of a nurse duped by a hoax call from Australian DJs about the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge heard Thursday that she was found hanging in her room, had wrist injuries and left three notes.

Coroner's officer Lynda Martindill said nurse Jacintha Saldanha was discovered hanging by a scarf from a wardrobe in her nurses' quarters on Friday by a colleague and a member of security staff at London's King Edward VII Hospital.

Martindill said an attempt to revive Saldanha failed. The case is being treated as an apparent suicide.

Police detective chief inspector James Harman said Saldanha, 46, also had injuries to her wrists.

He told the inquest at Westminster Coroner's Court that two notes were found at the scene and another among Saldanha's belongings. He said there were no suspicious circumstances, meaning nobody else was involved in Saldanha's death.

Harman said that police were examining the notes, interviewing the nurse's friends, family and colleagues and looking at emails and phone calls to establish what led to her death.

He also said detectives would be contacting police in the Australian state of New South Wales to collect "relevant evidence."

Saldanha answered the phone last week when two Australian disc jockeys called to seek information about the former Kate Middleton, who was being treated for severe morning sickness. The DJs impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, and Saldanha was tricked into transferring the call to a nurse caring for the duchess, who revealed private details about her condition.

The DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, apologized for the prank in emotional interviews on Australian television, saying they never expected their call would be put through. The show was taken off the air and the DJs have been suspended indefinitely.

Australia's media watchdog, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, said Thursday it was launching an official investigation into whether radio station 2DayFM breached its broadcasting license conditions and the industry code of practice.

Coroner Fiona Wilcox opened and adjourned Saldanha's inquest until March 26.

Wilcox expressed "my sympathies to her family and everybody who has been touched by this tragic death."

In Britain, inquests are held to determine the facts whenever someone dies unexpectedly, violently or in disputed circumstances. Inquests do not determine criminal liability or apportion blame.

Saldanha, who was born in India, lived in Bristol in southwestern England with her husband and two teenage children.

The family was not in court. Lawmaker Keith Vaz, who has spoken on their behalf, said the nurse's loved ones "need time to grieve."

Vaz said a memorial Mass would be held Saturday at London's Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral.

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