Tyne & Wear

US stairwell death woman Lynne Spalding was 'true Brit'

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

A woman found dead in the stairwell of a San Francisco hospital was a "true Brit" who was loved by many in the Californian city, her friend has said.

Lynne Spalding, 57, from Haswell in County Durham, was being treated at San Francisco General Hospital when she disappeared on 21 September.

Her body was found on Tuesday in a rarely used exterior stairwell.

Police are investigating how she died and how she was able to disappear for 17 days, at the hospital.

Her friend David Perry described the divorced mother-of-two's death as a "horrible tragedy" which had numbed her family.

'Big personality'

Ms Spalding, who had been being treated for a bladder infection at the hospital, moved to San Francisco several years ago.

She was mother to a 23-year-old daughter and a son, aged 19.

Image caption Ms Spalding had been working in the travel industry

She had worked in the city's travel industry and regularly helped to promote businesses to visiting tourists, but at the time of her death, she was unemployed.

Mr Perry, who runs a San Francisco public relations firm, said she was "known and loved by a lot of people in the city".

"Through her work, to many, she was the face of the city.

"She had a big personality, but you instantly knew she was a Brit from her County Durham accent, which she was very proud of."

He said Ms Spalding's family were "obviously distraught at what has happened".

"I'm in touch with her daughter every day and we hope and pray we get answers to the serious questions that surround Lynne's death."

'Dead and abandoned'

Ms Spalding was taken to hospital by her boyfriend and daughter after she experienced rapid weight loss.

She had been described as being in a fair condition and improving shortly before she went missing.

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

Mr Perry said Ms Spalding's family had been told that "there is no foul play involved, which is some comfort".

"It is enough of a horror to know she was dead and abandoned, but if she was alive and struggling, it would be just too much to take."

Mr Perry said the family hoped to be told about the cause of death on Friday.

The UK Foreign Office said staff were offering support to Ms Spalding's family.

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