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
The number of landlords in the North East who plan to buy in the coming quarter has nearly doubled compared with a year ago
Hitachi Rail Europe is among the bidders hoping to win the £2.75bn contract to build 60 trains at its Newton Aycliffe site.
A new look for our political programme from Westminster - Paul Brand and guests consider Theresa May's vision for Brexit.