Death of a nurse: 'I am devastated by the loss of my beloved wife'

As Jacintha Saldanha's husband and children await results of post-mortem, hospital's chairman sends angry letter to the Australian radio station

When Jacintha Saldanha's husband made his daily phone calls home to their family in Mangalore last week, everything had seemed exactly as normal. He chatted to his mother about the usual things and there were no signs of the tragedy that was about to engulf them.

On Friday morning Mrs Saldanha, 46, was found dead after an apparent suicide and her husband, Benedict Barboza, had to make a very different phone call home.

The events that led to that moment have been all too public. Three days before she was found unconscious at staff accommodation near the King Edward VII's Hospital in central London, the hard-working nurse had been on duty early in the morning and put through a telephone call from Australian radio DJs posing as the Queen and Prince Charles. The DJs went on to obtain personal information about the Duchess of Cambridge, who was being treated there for severe morning sickness and the ensuing furore about the hospital and the radio station led news bulletins around the world.

While the world chattered about the events, a silent, personal tragedy was unfolding. Even those closest to Mrs Saldanha did not see it coming. Carmine Barboza, the nurse's mother-in-law, who lives in southern India, said her son had not mentioned the call or the controversy it had caused. "Benedict used to call every day but neither he or Jacintha said anything about what had happened. Everything seemed normal," she told the Daijiworld.com website.

The exact reasons for Mrs Saldanha's death are still little understood. A post-mortem to be held this week are likely to provide a medical explanation, but bigger questions remain over what might have caused her to take her own life.

Meanwhile, her husband, known to friends as Ben, and their two teenage children, Junal, 16, and Janice Lisha, 14, were at their home in Southmead, Bristol, yesterday, struggling to come to terms with the sudden loss of a wife and mother.

The 49-year-old hospital accountant posted on his Facebook page yesterday: "I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jacintha in tragic circumstances. She will be laid to rest in Shirva, India."

The nurse's sister, Cerolin D'Souza, told reporters that they were still waiting to receive detailed information. "We were wondering what happened, whether she met with an accident, when she was returning home from the hospital," she said. When she spoke to her sister's husband he was overcome with emotion. "When I asked what happened, he was not able to communicate and he broke down," she said.

Originally from India, the family moved to the UK from the Mangalore region nine years ago. Mrs Saldanha worked hard, splitting her time between the family's home in Bristol and staff lodgings at the hospital in London where she worked.

Working in an age when nurses are often criticised for not caring, Mrs Saldanha was quite different. Friends described her as a "lovely, lovely person" who was so dedicated to the profession that she used to spend her days off walking a neighbour with dementia to the shops.

She qualified as a nurse at the Father Muller College of Nursing in Mangalore and registered as a nurse in Britain in 2003. She married Mr Barboza in 1993 and the couple moved to Muscat before settling in the UK.

Neighbours of Mrs Saldanha's family suggested yesterday that there may have been more pressing concerns, unknown as yet, on the mind of the nurse. Dudley Todd, 79, who lives nearby at Coldbeck Close, said: "I can't help thinking there is more to this. It just doesn't make sense when you have two children depending on you."

Neighbour Mary Atwell, 56, said: "She was a lovely, lovely person who always spoke to you when you saw her in the street. The kids were always polite and well behaved. The boy often played football on the green outside with his friends.

"She must have taken the whole thing very badly because I don't think the hospital disciplined her for what happened. She simply couldn't live with herself, I suppose. But you could always see that she was very dedicated to her job. She was a lovely person. She used to walk an elderly neighbour who has dementia, who lives a few doors along, down to the shops and back."

She answered Tuesday's call from Australia's 2Day FM DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian only because she was on night duty, and at 5.30am there was no receptionist. It was not even she who divulged the personal details about the duchess; she transferred the DJs to another nurse, who gave details of her condition.

Flowers were left outside the King Edward VII's Hospital's nurses' block yesterday. Attached to the red, white and blue flowers, a note from nurses at the hospital read: "Dear Jacintha, our thoughts are with you and your family. From all your fellow nurses, we bless your soul. God bless."

The hospital sent a strong protest letter yesterday to the owners of the radio station, condemning the prank phone call that led to her death. The letter concluded: "I appreciate that you cannot undo the damage which has been done but I would urge you to take steps to ensure that such an incident could ne Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo ver be repeated."

RCN chief executive Dr Peter Carter said in a statement: "This is tragic news, and the thoughts of all at the Royal College of Nursing go to the family of Jacintha Saldanha. It is deeply saddening that a simple human error due to a cruel hoax could lead to the death of a dedicated and caring member of the nursing profession."

Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo, said the DJs were "completely shattered" by her death. He said at a Melbourne press conference: "This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen and we are deeply saddened by it. I spoke to both presenters early this morning and... they are completely shattered." Since the prank, recorded and cleared by lawyers before it was aired, the station has been inundated with complaints. It has now pulled all its advertising and taken the show off air.

Many of the nurse's relatives posted messages of condolence online. Below Ben Barboza's tribute on Facebook, Jenson Alex Paid said: "Heartfelt condolences to you, Ben Uncle. May the good God grant her soul eternal peace." Suzanna Gomes wrote: "Dear Benedict uncle and family, Very sorry to hear the news. Our heartfelt condolences. May her soul rest in peace."

Hospital chairman condemns 'appalling' decision to broadcast

This the full text of the letter written by the chairman of King Edward VII's Hospital, Lord Glenarthur, to Max Moore-Wilton, chairman of 2Day FM's parent company, Southern Cross Austereo

"I am writing to protest in the strongest possible terms about the hoax call made from your radio station, 2Day FM, to this hospital last Tuesday.

"King Edward VII's Hospital cares for sick people, and it was extremely foolish of your presenters even to consider trying to lie their way through to one of our patients, let alone actually make the call.

"Then to discover that, not only had this happened, but that the call had been pre-recorded and the decision to transmit approved by your station's management was truly appalling.

"The immediate consequence of these premeditated and ill-considered actions was the humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses who were simply doing their job tending to their patients.

"The longer-term consequence has been reported around the world and is, frankly, tragic beyond words.

"I appreciate that you cannot undo the damage which has been done but I would urge you to take steps to ensure that such an incident could never be repeated."

Prince tells of Kate's 'all day and all night sickness'

The Duke of Cambridge last night joked that morning sickness should be renamed to reflect the fact that his wife had been suffering from it day and night. Prince William made the remark at a gala event to raise money for the homelessness charity Centrepoint, his first public engagement since the announcement that he is to become a father.

Michael O'Higgins, a former chairman of Centrepoint, said the Duke had told him the illness should be given a new name. Mr O'Higgins said: "He said they shouldn't call it morning sickness as it's a day-and-all-night sickness. All I've seen of him is his amazing ability to relate to people and I think the care he's shown for his wife this week says a lot."

William did not make reference to the death of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who took the hoax call from radio presenters posing as the Queen and Prince Charles. Looking smart and in a black tie, William, who is a patron of Centrepoint, went solo to the gala, as Kate is still resting after three days of hospital treatment. He told guests that some of the "most inspiring moments of my life" had been with the young people of Centrepoint.

William also referred to a night he spent on the streets in 2009 to experience what sleeping rough is like: "I was cold but safe, and I knew I had a home waiting for me. Many others have no such luck."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015