A woman originally from Peterlee has been found dead in a hospital stairwell in America, more than two weeks after she went missing.
Lynne Spalding, 57, disappeared from her room at San Francisco General Hospital over a fortnight ago after being admitted with an infection.
Officials said they are investigating how she got to the outside stairwell and what caused her death.
David Perry, a friend of Ms Spalding, said the incident was a "nightmare" for her family and demanded answers.
Ms Spalding, who was reportedly thin and frail, arrived at the hospital to be treated for an infection on September 19, and was reported missing from her room two days later.
More top news
'Disappointed but not downhearted.'
Kerrie Gosney brings you Saturday night's forecast
Hollywood star is mistaken for controversial referee with the same name.