When the telephone rang at the King Edward VII Hospital early on Tuesday morning, Jacintha Saldanha, one of the night nurses on duty, had the terrible misfortune to pick it up.
Pictured: Two women hug on the steps of the King Edward VII hospital in central London. Photo: AFP
The voice on the other end purported to be the Queen, wishing to speak to the Duchess of Cambridge. The accent was comical at best but Mrs Saldanha could be excused for falling for the hoax perpetrated by a pair of Australian radio presenters. For she was born 5,000 miles from the London hospital, in Mangalore, a port city in the Konkan region of south-west India. Her upbringing was a world away from the lives of the wealthy patients for which she was caring; and from the tomfoolery and mockery of the Australian media.
Mrs Saldanha, 46, had worked hard to earn an honest living, moving to Britain with her husband, Benedict Barboza, and their two young children, nine years ago after working in the Middle East. She had never thought -- perhaps naively -- that anybody would want to trick a ''dedicated and caring'' nurse. But the radio stunt, milked for all the publicity it could muster, backfired and an innocent, close-knit family has been left distraught and in shock as a result.
It appears that Mrs Saldanha took her own life -- she was pronounced dead in her nurses' accommodation on Friday morning -- three days after being ''humiliated'' by the Australian presenters, Mel Greig and Michael Christian.
''I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jacintha in tragic circumstances,'' Mr Barboza posted on Facebook yesterday.
Their 14-year-old daughter wrote: ''I miss you, I loveeee you,'' and signed off with a heart.
Yesterday, Mrs Saldanha's family in India spoke of their despair. With tears in her eyes, her mother-in-law, Carmine Barboza, 69, told of the distressing moment when her son telephoned her with the news on Friday night.
''He was crying and couldn't speak much,'' said Mrs Barboza, at the family home in Shirva, near Mangalore.
''We got a call last night from Benedict informing us that Jacintha had died.
''More than that, we do not know, about what actually happened. She is dead, that's all. Jacintha was a very caring woman. She used to call us every Sunday without fail. We just cannot believe what has happened.
''We don't know whether we'll be able to bring her dead body back to India but we desperately hope so. We spoke to Benedict again this morning and he said he hasn't been allowed to see her body yet because of legal formalities and she'll not be handed over before Monday. We want to bring her dead body to India to perform her last rites.''
Celin D'Souza, her sister-in-law, said: ''I will really miss her a lot. She was a good-natured sister-in-law. I cannot forget her; she was so good. She was beautiful. Jacintha and Benedict looked great together. Their son is also adorable.''
SOURCE: The Sydney Morning Herald