The family of the nurse found dead after being duped by a prank call from two Australian radio DJs described the “unfillable void” her death has left in their lives at a mass in London on Saturday.
Mrs. Saldanha, 46, was found hanged in staff accommodation near the King Edward VII’s Hospital where she worked by a colleague and a security guard on Friday, December 7.
The mother of two unwittingly transferred a call from Mel Greig and Michael Christian — who impersonated the Queen and Prince Charles — to a duty nurse on the ward where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for acute morning sickness.
It was, in fact, the second nurse who divulged details about the Duchess’ condition to the radio presenters.
A mass was held at Westminster’s Roman Catholic cathedral “for the repose of the soul of Jacintha and her grieving family”, according to a cathedral spokesman.
According to The Independent, after the service, Mrs. Saldanha’s husband, Benedict Barboza, an accountant and two teenage children, Junal and Lisha, “paid emotional tribute to a kind-hearted, generous and well-respected woman.”
Reportedly fighting back tears, Mr. Barboza said:
“My wife, you were the light in my darkness, who always showed me the way forward. From the day we met, you always stood by me in times of hardship and happiness. I feel a part of me has been ripped out.”
The Daily Mail reports that Junal Saldanha described his mother as the “core of the family” who “worked tirelessly to give us everything that we have today.”
An anguished Lisha Saldanha, 14, said:
“We will miss your laughter, the loving memories and the good times we had together. The house is an empty dwelling without your presence.
“We are shattered and there’s an unfillable void in our lives. We love you mum, sleep in peace and watch over us until me meet again in heaven. We will always love you and keep you close to our heart.”
Standing outside the cathedral, British politician Keith Vaz, who has been acting as a spokesman for the Saldanha’s, said the family “could not have foreseen the unprecedented tragedy” that unfolded last week. Mr. Vaz also thanked the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and UK Prime Minister David Cameron for their public condolences.
On Thursday, Westminster Coroner’s court heard that Mrs. Saldanha was found hanged and had marks on her wrists. It was widely reported that she left three notes and that one of these notes “criticized hospital staff.”
Now, questions are growing about the public statements made by King Edward VII hospital who previously said they gave both nurses “full support” after the prank call incident and that “there were no disciplinary” actions.
Yesterday, a private memorial service for Mrs. Saldanha was held at the hospital.
The Independent reports that the hospital’s chief executive, John Lofthouse, sent a letter in response to Mr Vaz’s open letter (sent last week) which called for a hospital inquiry to reveal the “full facts” of what happened.
Mr Lofthouse’s letter read:
“Jacintha believed that the call was genuine and she felt it appropriate to put the call through. We stand by her judgment.”
“Following the hoax call, Jacintha was reassured on a number of occasions by senior management that no blame was attached to her actions and that there were no disciplinary issues involved, because she had been the victim of a cruel trick.”
“As well as this reassurance, Jacintha was offered a range of further support including time off, the opportunity to return home and counselling from our occupational health service.”
“Jacintha said that she would prefer to continue working. Neither ourselves, her friends or family noticed anything to give cause for concern.”
Meanwhile, the UK’s Metropolitan police and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) have now launched investigations into 2Day FM and its parent company Southern Austereo Cross (SAC).
Following a similarly critical letter from Mr. Vaz to Southern Austereo Cross, Rhys Holleran, CEO of SAC, has since told Mr. Vaz that the company would carry out a “complete review of all of our procedures and processes.” Mr. Holleran also said that SAC had been given a deadline of January 4 by the ACMA to comply with requests for information.
According to The Independent, Mr. Vaz responded by inviting Mr. Holleran to send a personal apology to Mrs. Saldanha’s husband. Mr. Vaz also said he would be asking the ACMA to make the results of its investigation public.
Southern Austereo Cross has set up a memorial fund for Mrs. Saldanha and contributed a minimum payment of AU ($500,000 (£320,000).
Last week it was revealed that Australian police have opened an investigation into death threats made against 2Day FM presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian.
Public records state that the next inquest hearing into Mrs. Saldanha’s death has been set for March 26, 2013. A funeral for Mrs. Saldanha will take place in Karnataka, India, on Monday, the family said.