Mourners farewell hoax call nurse

Last updated 10:39 18/12/2012

A funeral is held for the nurse who apparently committed suicide after taking a prank call at the hospital treating Prince William's pregnant wife Kate.

Jacintha Saldanha
SAD END: Jacintha Saldanha was found dead in her London apartment following the hoax phone call about the royal baby.

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Last year she celebrated her son receiving communion and on Monday Jacintha Saldhana's funeral was held in the same Church of Our Lady of Health in Shirva, south west India, on her specific wish.

Hundreds of mourners packed the Catholic church for the funeral of the UK-based nurse, who was found dead after taking a hoax call from Sydney radio station 2DayFM at the King Edward VII's Hospital in London where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for morning sickness.

Believing the two Australian DJs to be genuine, she put the call through to a colleague who divulged details about the Duchess's medical condition.

A spokesman for the family, Steven Almorda, told Fairfax Media the family had still not spoken to 2DayFM or representatives of Southern Cross Austereo.

"We have not been contacted by the radio station with an apology."

Asked whether the family was considering legal action against the radio DJs, the station or its parent company, he said: "we have no comment on this issue at this stage".

Mr Almorda said the family would consider its future at the conclusion of all of the investigations into Mrs Saldanha's death.

"The family is going back to London to try to lead a normal life."

Mrs Saldanha left three suicide notes, but Mr Almorda said the family would not comment on the suicide notes or on whether the hospital had "harassed" her until after the police investigation had been completed.

One of the notes specified the funeral arrangements Mrs Saldanha had requested. After the funeral was over, her family said that they had followed the wishes she had expressed in her note.

Before the funeral, Mrs Saldanha's body was laid in the front room of her husband's family house in Shirva for family and friends to pay their respects.

A group of six women from the village kept vigil by the body and sang hymns.

About 50 relatives waited outside the home, women in sarees clutched bouquets of flowers.

Gilbert Mining, told Fairfax Media outside the home Mrs Saldanha's death felt senseless to those who knew her.

'"Obviously, we are angry. Somebody's joke has cost a life," he said. "Everything is so sudden and tragic. We are here to offer our solidarity with (husband) Benedict (Barboza)."

Neighbour Peter D Costa said "a prank call made a family's life so sorrowful". "Whether it was intentional or unintentional, who can say?"

He said the whole town knew, and respected, Mrs Saldanha as a dedicated and caring nurse. "Here people are confused, they don't know whether they should be angry or sad."

People began filling the church early, while Mrs Saldanha's coffin was still at her mother in law's house, where female mourners sang hymns and a priest blessed the mortal remains.

By the time the coffin arrived at the church, it was packed. When the coffin was taken out of an ambulance to be laid on a bier on the steps of the church, a brass band struck up a funeral dirge. Her husband, Benedict Barboza, and son, Junal, 16, led the mourners, with daughter, Lisha, 14, a few steps behind.

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Both children looked stupefied and dazed at the number of people in the church, most of them strangers. The number of family and friends was small. The bulk of the congregation comprised local people who knew the family only vaguely or not at all. They came out of curiosity because the story of her death had been widely covered in the local and national media.

"Jacintha Saldanha spent her entire life looking after people who were sick and today it is our turn to show our appreciation of her work and her life," said the Reverend Gerald Lobo.

Dr Lobo told the congregation Mrs Saldanha was empathetic, caring, and keenly felt the problems of others.

"Jacintha was a good mother, good wife and understood the pain of people."

He praised the nurse as a loving member of a tight-knit family, and a woman dedicated to her profession.

"She was popular among her colleagues," he said. "We pray for her. May she rest in peace."

After a few minutes of chaos and jostling when people filled the aisle and the pews reserved for the family in their eagerness to get close to the coffin, the service began with hymns and prayers for Mrs Saldanha's soul.

Before the service began, the atmosphere outside the church was carnival-like. Schoolchildren from the nearby Catholic schools chattered excitedly and local people arrived in droves looking relaxed and full of anticipation.

The media respected the family's wish not to film inside the church. During the burial in the church graveyard, a large crowd continued to watch as the coffin was lowered into the ground.

Mr Barboza hugged his son and daughter at the graveside as the burial rites were concluded and a brass band played a final hymn.

Later, speaking briefly to the press, he said he was too "tired and exhausted" to take questions.

* Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by calling the Suicide Prevention Helpline 0508 828 865, Youthline 0800 376 633, Depression 0800 111 757 or Samaritans 0800 726 666.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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