By People Staff
Updated December 24, 2012 12:00 PM

As the senior overnight nurse at London’s King Edward VII Hospital, Jacintha Saldanha routinely answered the phones. But the female caller at 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 4, asking in a British accent about Kate, “my granddaughter,” changed everything. Saldanha pitched the call to a colleague in the VIP ward-where the pregnant princess was being treated for acute morning sickness-then later learned she and the other nurse (who revealed trivial private details about Kate) had been pranked by a pair of Australian radio deejays. Three days later her frantic husband, his calls unreturned, asked friends to check on her; Saldanha, 46, was found dead in her staff quarters, an apparent suicide. Husband Benedict Barboza wrote on Facebook, “I am devastated.”

The news sparked international outrage and raised a vexing question: Was this public humiliation enough to push a woman whom her family priest Tom Finnegan describes as a “diligent and conscientious” nurse and mom to two teens to such a tragic end? “There have to be some missing pieces,” says Dr. Ronald Maris, a suicide expert at the University of South Carolina. A relative says Saldanha-who worked regular stints in London, far from her family in Bristol-“had a lot to live for. There was nothing wrong in her life.” Adds Finnegan: “She was a caring, loving, compassionate wife and mother. The family doesn’t know why this happened.”