A spoof e-mail announcing that a secretary at one of Hong Kong's premier law firms had been murdered has left two trainee solicitors in hot water. The internal message told stunned employees at Herbert Smith, whose offices are in Pedder Street, Central: 'Please note our night secretary, Natalie Francisco (24th floor), has been murdered.' It then coldly announced her replacements from March 16 with no words of condolence or explanation. Employees at the firm's British headquarters decided to forward the e-mail outside the firm and within days it had spread across the world like a virus. Both the firm, which runs a legal empire employing 1,700 people across nine countries, and Ms Francisco failed to see the funny side. She said: 'I still can't believe this message was sent. I was deeply upset.' It is understood that a trainee solicitor in Hong Kong was the author of the e-mail and that another trainee in London forwarded it outside the firm. Herbert Smith confirmed that disciplinary action had been taken in Hong Kong but refused to specify the nature or name the culprits. Three trainees in London are also believed to be the subject of disciplinary action. No one has been suspended. Senior partner Nigel Francis said: 'The original message was sent by internal e-mail by one of our administrative women. Then someone sent a second message to individuals in London having edited the original. They then sent it on to people outside the firm. It was a poor attempt at humour.' Mr Francis said Ms Francisco was still coming to terms with her new-found fame: 'I don't think Ms Francisco is too keen to talk about this in detail. I think she'd rather keep her head down.' Mr Francis, who specialises in law relating to this area, said the firm would be reviewing the company's e-mail policies. He admitted he had not come across this kind of incident before in Hong Kong.