Nurse’s body flown back to India as thousands tipped to attend funeral

Husband and two children pay tribute to a 'kind-hearted, generous woman'
  • @AndrewBuncombe

Up to 5,000 people are tomorrow due to attend the funeral of the Indian nurse who took her own life after receiving a prank call from radio DJs trying to reach the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge.

The body of Jacintha Saldanha, 46, was today returned to southern India a week after she hanged herself in the aftermath of a call from two Australian radio DJs posing as British royals to the hospital where the Duchess was admitted during the early stages of her pregnancy.

This weekend, the nurse’s husband, 14-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son paid tribute to a “loving wife and mother”, whose death following what the hospital described as a “cruel trick”, had left them bereft.

“We will miss your laughter, the loving memories and the good times we had together. The house is an empty dwelling without your presence,” her daughter Lisha said, according to a report by the AFP. “We love you Mum.”

Members of the family are expected to attend the funeral at the Our Lady of Health Church in Shirva, near Mangalore, among them her husband, Benedict Barboza, 49, and the couple’s two children.

“Jacintha’s body is expected to arrive in Mangalore on Sunday afternoon,” said Mangalore police commissioner Manish Kardikar.

Last week, an inquest was told that Ms Saldanha, a nurse at the King Edward VII hospital, had been found hanged in staff accommodation on December 7.

A few days earlier, the nurse put the prank call from the Australian radio station through to a colleague, who relayed details about the princess’s intense  morning sickness.

In the aftermath of the event, an inquest heard that Ms Saldanha left three notes, at least one of which reportedly criticised her colleagues over her treatment at he hospital in the aftermath of what happened.  In contrast, the hospital has defended itself, saying it offered support to Ms Saldanha and in no way put pressure on her.

Today, Ms Saldanha’s husband and children were surrounded by crowds of the media when they arrived in Mangalore from the UK. They were hurried into waiting cars and did not speak.

In London, Mr 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.”

He added: “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.”

Over the weekend, dozens of Indian students marched to the British High Commission in Delhi on Saturday, calling for a probe into what they claimed was a “mysterious death”. The demonstrators carried banners demanding “Justice for Jacintha” and alleged that “as a person of Indian origin she was isolated, victimised and subjected to harassment by the authorities”.

Australian police have said death threats have been made against Michael Christian and Mel Greig, the DJs from Sydney's 2Day FM radio station who made the call. The presenters made tearful apologies last week.