Royal prank: Nurse ‘took it very badly’

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Jacintha Saldanha. Photo: Supplied.

The family of the nurse who allegedly killed herself after being duped by a hoaxer pretending to be the Queen described their devastating loss on Sunday.

Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, was found dead on Friday morning in nurses’ accommodation at the London hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge had been treated for acute morning sickness.

Her husband, Ben Barboza, 49, an NHS accountant, said: ‘I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jacintha in tragic circumstances.’

And in a poignant message posted on Facebook, the couple’s 14-year-old daughter Lisha said of her mother: ‘I miss you, I loveeee you.’

Mrs Saldanha’s sister-in-law Celin D’Souza added: ‘I will really miss her a lot. She was good-natured. I cannot forget her, she was so good.’

Three days before her death, Mrs Saldanha was manning the hospital switchboard when she took a call from two Australian radio presenters – Mel Greig and Michael Christian – impersonating the Queen and Prince Charles. They were transferred to the Duchess’s ward and broadcast confidential information given to them by a second nurse.

Although she wasn’t blamed in any way for what happened, friends said Mrs Saldanha ‘took it very badly’.

Described as popular, quiet and ‘profoundly caring’, she is said to have made clear to her family the depth of her anxiety when the prank was broadcast.

Others have described her as feeling lonely and confused, though the hospital said it supported her and stressed she did not face any disciplinary action.

Mrs Saldanha’s husband raised the alarm after failing to reach her by phone on Friday. Friends said the speed with which he did so reflected his concern for her wellbeing.

On Sunday night the chairperson of the King Edward VII Hospital in Marylebone, wrote to the owners of the radio station, 2Day FM, condemning the ‘humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses’.

Lord Glenarthur called the decision to broadcast the prank ‘truly appalling’ and said the consequence of the presenters’ actions was ‘tragic beyond words’.

Caught in an international backlash, Greig and Christian were yesterday in hiding, where they were said to be receiving medical assistance amid growing fears for their ‘physical and emotional wellbeing’.

While it is not thought the presenters broke any laws, they are expected to be interviewed by police. Scotland Yard is preparing a report for Mrs Saldanha’s inquest and requires statements from them.

On Sunday the dead nurse’s family were being comforted by relatives and friends at their terrace home in Southmead, Bristol.

A friend who answered the door said Mr Barboza, Lisha and the couple’s 16-year-old son Junal were ‘very, very shocked and unhappy’.

Mrs Saldanha, from Valencia in south-west India, married Mr Barboza, from the nearby village of Shirva, in 1993. They moved to Bristol nine years ago. When she was working in London she lived in nurse’s quarters behind the hospital, returning to the family home on her days off.

Mr Barboza’s mother Carmine, 69, said the family returned to India to visit her every two years. She said neither her son nor daughter-in-law had told her about the hoax call. ‘Everything seemed normal,’ she said. ‘But then we got a call last night from Benedict informing us that Jacintha had died. He was crying and couldn’t speak much.

‘We don’t know whether we’ll be able to bring her body back to India but we desperately hope so.

‘We spoke to Benedict again this morning and he said he hasn’t been allowed to see her body yet because of legal formalities and she’ll not be handed over before Monday.

‘Jacintha was a very caring woman. We just cannot believe what has happened.’

On Sunday a wooden cross with a British flag was left outside the King Edward VII Hospital, while flowers were placed outside the nearby nurses’ block.

A note read: ‘Dear Jacintha, Our thoughts are with you and your family. From all your fellow nurses, we bless your soul. RIP xxx’

Neeraj Singh, a former colleague who worked with Mrs Saldanha at Southmeads Hospital in Bristol, said news of her death was ‘devastating’.

Mrs Saldanha once described herself as ‘a very nervous person’ in a testimonial penned for her driving teacher’s website.

Instructor Jeff Sellick recalled her as quiet and sometimes needing a confidence boost, adding that he felt the prank call would have ‘played very heavy on her mind’. - Mail on Sunday


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