A British woman who disappeared from her room at a US hospital has been found dead in the building's stairwell more than two weeks after she went missing.
Lynne Spalding, 57, was admitted to San Francisco General Hospital for a urinary tract infection on 19 September. The mother-of-two was then reported missing from her room two days later.
Her friends and family then began "scouring the streets of San Francisco with flyers" as they assumed the hospital had been searched and Spalding was nowhere to be seen.
A Facebook page entitled 'Find Lynne' was also set up in a bid to help determine where she had disappeared to.
However, 17 days after she disappeared, the 57-year-old's body was discovered by a member of the hospital's engineering staff on a fourth-floor external stairwell in the hospital.
An investigation is now under way to determine how Spalding, originally from Peterlee, County Durham, died and how she got to the stairwell, which is part of a rarely used fire exit that is alarmed and is locked from the outside.
Todd May, the San Francisco General Hospital chief medical officer, 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."
May said that nurses checked her room every 15 minutes and she disappeared in between these visits.
David Perry, a friend of Spalding, described the situation as a "nightmare" for her friends and family.
"Lynne Spalding died alone, in the stairwell, at one of the finest medical institutions in this country," he said. "I hear that the San Francisco Sheriff's Department initiated a search. Well, evidently it wasn't a very good one. I think there are a lot of questions to be asked."
Assistant sheriff Paul Miyamoto said: "All of us are committed to learning what happened and ensuring it never happens again."
Spalding had lived in San Francisco for more than 20 years. She has two children, aged 19 and 23, who also live in the US. She was described as being very disorientated and weak in the days prior to her hospital visit.
"She looked sick, and she was acting sick," Perry said.
The Foreign Office said it was providing consular assistance to Spalding's family.