I haven't had that problem, and I haven't heard of it before either. There is usually a few rods going between the door catch, outside handle, inside handle and the lock cylinder. It really sounds like a rod behind the door panel came loose and fell out. Maybe one of the plastic clips that connects the rods to the various parts broke.
I can't see why the door panel needs to be replaced, but I've never looked back there. I think it was tweety who had the door panel off and was messing around with the lock mechanism to get the doors to auto-unlock. He could probably shed some more light on the issue and how the door mechanism works.
#4796: Mysterious, Power, Convenience, LSD, Polished Aluminium.