Family describe 'unfillable void' left by nurse Jacintha Saldanha's death at Westminster Cathedral mass

 

The family of the nurse found dead after being duped by a prank call from two Australian radio DJs described the “unfillable void” left in their lives as a mass was held for her at Westminster Cathedral today.

Mother-of-two Jacintha Saldanha, 46, was found hanging in her nurses' quarters at King Edward VII's Hospital by a colleague and a security guard on December 7.

The nurse transferred the DJs, believing they were the Queen and Prince of Wales, to a colleague who described in detail the condition of the Duchess of Cambridge during her hospital stay for severe pregnancy sickness.

The mass was held "for the repose of the soul of Jacintha and her grieving family", a spokesman for the Cathedral said.

Following the service, Ms Saldanha's husband Benedict Barboza and two children Junal and Lisha paid an emotional tribute to a "kind-hearted, generous and well-respected woman".

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.

"Without your beautiful smile and sparkling personality, the house is an empty place to live.

"Nineteen years of togetherness with a strong bond of affection and understanding will be cherished forever in my life.

"Your loss is a very painful one and nobody can take that place in my life ever again. I love you and miss you forever."

Ms Saldanha's son Junal said: "Our mother, kind hearted, generous and a well respected woman in both of our lives. You were the core of the family who kept us together.

"In times of difficulty you showed us the way forward to happiness and success.

"Your priority for us was a good education and a bright future. You taught us right from wrong which we appreciate.

"You worked tirelessly to give us everything that we have today. When we achieved good grades and merit, your pat on our backs encouraged us more."

Daughter Lisha, 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 alongside their local MP Charlotte Leslie and MP Keith Vaz, who has been campaigning on behalf of the family, Mr Barboza said the family "could not have foreseen the unprecedented tragedy that has unfolded in our lives".

"The events of the last week have shattered our lives. We barely have the strength to withstand the grief and sorrow."

He thanked the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prime Minister David Cameron for their condolences.

During the service, Father Alexander Master said: "The mass is offered for the repose of the soul of Jacintha Saldanha and also for the family, some of whom we welcome here today.

"We pray for them and, in particular, for her."

Memorial services have already been held at the hospital where Ms Saldanha worked and in Bristol where her husband and children live.

Her funeral will take place in Karnataka, India, on Monday, her family said.

Indian-born Ms Saldanha left three notes and also had marks on her wrist when her body was discovered, Westminster Coroner's Court in London heard on Thursday.

The DJs behind the hoax call - Mel Greig and Michael Christian - have given an emotional account of their reaction to Ms Saldanha's death.

Interviewed on Australian TV networks, the presenters said their prank call to the hospital prompted "a tragic turn of events no-one could have predicted or expected".

Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), the parent company of 2Day FM, has ended the pair's Hot 30 show and suspended prank calls across the company.

A provisional date of March 26 has been set for the next inquest hearing into Ms Saldanha's death.

Yesterday, after a private memorial service for Ms Saldanha at the hospital, its chief executive John Lofthouse said the nurse was reassured on a number of occasions by senior management after the hoax.

Mr Lofthouse said Ms Saldanha was the victim of a "cruel trick", after which senior staff did not blame her and offered her time off and counselling.

Writing in reply to Mr Vaz, who stated that Ms Saldanha's family needed to know the "full facts" of what happened, Mr Lofthouse said: "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."

Mr Lofthouse said she was offered a range of support after the hoax, including time off, but decided to continue working.

He wrote: "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."

Australian news website news.co.au said police have launched an investigation due to SCA staff receiving death threats, with one letter specifically targeting Mr Christian.

Rhys Holleran, the chief executive of SCA, told Mr Vaz the company would carry out "a complete review of all of our procedures and processes".

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (Acma) has announced an investigation into the broadcast, he added.

Mr Holleran said SCA has been given a deadline of January 4 to comply with detailed requests for information.

He added: "As we have stated publicly, we are truly sorry for what has happened."

Mr Vaz, in response, invited Mr Holleran to send an apology addressed to Ms Saldanha's husband.

He added that he would be asking Acma make the results of its investigation public.

PA

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