UK & World News
Lynne Spalding Found Dead In Hospital Stairwell
A British patient who disappeared from her room at San Francisco's main public hospital more than two weeks ago has been found dead in a stairwell at the building.
Lynne Spalding, 57, was admitted to San Francisco General Hospital for a urinary tract infection on September 19.
The mother-of-two was reported missing from her room there two days later.
Ms Spalding's relatives and friends spent days scouring the streets of San Francisco with flyers and set up a Facebook page to help find her.
But a member of the hospital's engineering staff found Ms Spalding's body on Tuesday - 17 days after she vanished - while conducting a routine check.
Authorities are continuing to investigate how the marketing and tourism executive, who was originally from Peterlee, County Durham, got there and what caused her death.
The hospital's chief medical officer Todd May said: "What happened at our hospital is horrible.
"We are here to take care of patients, to heal them, to keep them safe. This has shaken us to our core. Our staff is devastated."
Nurses were checking on her every 15 minutes, and she disappeared in the brief time between those visits, Mr May said.
The last time she was seen - about 10.15am on September 21 - she was in a "fair condition", the hospital said.
But friends said Ms Spalding was very thin, frail and on medication that could have made her confused when she disappeared.
The San Francisco Sheriff's Department provides security at the hospital.
Assistant Sheriff Paul Miyamoto said it was not yet known how long Ms Spalding had been in the exterior stairwell.
The rarely used stairwell is a fire exit that has an alarm on it, is locked from the outside and exits onto hospital grounds.
"All of us are committed to learning what happened and ensuring it never happens again," Mr Miyamoto said.
David Perry, who is acting as a spokesman for Ms Spalding's family, has told Sky News that relatives and friends are "horrified, dismayed and frustrated".
"For 17 days Lynne's body was there unfound in the very hospital where she'd gone for treatment," he said.
Mr Perry said officials have a lot of explaining to do as to why Ms Spalding "died alone, in the stairwell, at one of the finest medical institutions" in the US.
"There are a number of questions for San Francisco General Hospital and the San Francisco Sheriff's Department," he told Sky News.
"The San Francisco Sheriff's Department oversees searches and security at the hospital, and we were assured that a search had been done.
"If they searched for her 17 days ago, it wasn't a very good search because her dead body was discovered there."
But Mr Perry praised the work carried out by the San Francisco Police Department, which was responsible for searching outside the hospital.
Ms Spalding had lived in the city for more than two decades and had two grown-up children, a 19-year-old son and 23-year-old daughter, who both live in the US.
Mr Perry said Ms Spalding's children are "stunned".
He added: "She had dozens of friends. She was well known and well liked. She was a consummate professional."
The Sheriff's Department is conducting an internal investigation of its security measures at the hospital.
The Foreign Office said it was providing consular assistance to Ms Spalding's family.