Missing UK woman found dead in US hospital stairwell

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Media captionLynne Spalding's friends set up a Facebook page asking for help finding her

A British woman who went missing from a US hospital more than two weeks ago has been found dead in an outside stairwell at the hospital.

Lynne Spalding, 57, had been treated for a bladder infection at San Francisco General Hospital and had appeared disorientated shortly before she disappeared on 21 September.

She was was not found until Tuesday.

Ms Spalding's body was found by a hospital employee in the rarely used exterior stairwell.

The Foreign Office confirmed that it was aware of the death of a British national and was providing consular assistance to her family.

BBC correspondent Alastair Leithead reported that Ms Spalding, who was originally from Peterlee, County Durham, had suddenly disappeared from her hospital room.

She had been there for two days and was described as being in a fair condition and improving shortly before she went missing, our correspondent said.

Staff 'devastated'

Following her disappearance, the hospital was searched and police opened a missing person investigation.

The hospital's chief medical officer, Todd May, said staff did not know what had happened, or how she had got through a fire exit door which was normally alarmed and locked from the outside.

"What happened at our hospital is horrible," he said.

"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."

A family spokesman asked how could a woman be missing for 17 days in "one of the finest medical institutions in this country".

He criticised the search of the hospital for Ms Spalding for not being thorough enough.