Outrage and grief pour out over nurse's death after royal prank call
The first image of Jacintha Saldanha made its way around the world on Saturday morning, a blurry head shot of the nurse who, in death, has become a lightning rod for the outrage that has erupted over a prank call.
In the wake of the tragedy that unfolded during the Duchess of Cambridge's stay at King Edward VII Hospital, there has been a mass outpouring of both sympathy for the family and anger at the Australian radio station that originated the call.
The chairman of King Edward VII Hospital, Lord Glenarthur, has written to the head of the company that owns the station about the "appalling" prank that resulted in 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,” he wrote.
It was Saldanha, 46, who was on duty at the switchboard when two hosts of an Australian radio station, 2Day FM, decided to try to get through to the Duchess of Cambridge's room at King Edward VII Hospital on Tuesday night.
Saldanha answered, transferred the call from someone she thought was the Queen, and that was it ... until chaos erupted when the call was found to be a hoax.
Whatever spun through Saldanha's mind over the next 48 hours, no one knows. All that is known is that she was found dead on Friday morning, which many are calling a suspected suicide, though he police only say that her death wasn't "suspicious."
The Australian radio station has been swamped with complaints over the prank which has turned so horribly wrong. At a press conference, Rhys Holleran, the CEO of the station's parent company, expressed sympathies to all involved, but stopped short of admitting any guilt.
"Prank calls as a craft in radio have been going for decades and decades, they are not just part of one radio station, or one network or one country, they are done worldwide," said Holleran (right). "No one could have reasonably foreseen what ended up being an incredibly tragic day."
As for the hosts, Mel Greig and Christian Michael, they have been pulled off the air until further notice. The Twitter world has been awash in calls for their dismissal.
"I spoke to both presenters early this morning and it's fair to say they are completely shattered," said Holleran. "These people aren't machines, they're human beings. What happened is incredibly tragic and we're deeply saddened and we're incredibly affected by that."
Holleran insisted no laws had been broken. The audio of the original prank call had been vetted by station lawyers before it went to air.
Saldanha, a married mother of a teenaged son and daughter, apparently came to England from India about nine years ago and settled in Bristol. She had been working at the King Edward VII Hospital for four years. She would stay in London while working and travel back to her Bristol home on off days.
The hospital has insisted that the nurse was never disciplined over the hoax.
Her husband, Benedict Barboza, a hospital accountant, wrote on his Facebook page: "I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jahintha in tragic circumstances. She will be laid to rest in Shirva, India."
Barboza relayed the news to her family in India.
"Jacintha was a very caring woman," her mother-in-law Carmine Barboza told the Daily Mail. "She used to call us every Sunday without fail. We just cannot believe what has happened."
Meanwhile, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said they were "deeply saddened" by the tragedy and added that at no time did they complain about the breach of protocol that led to the prank call uncovering private information about Kate's condition as she battled acute morning sickness.
A bunch of flowers is left outside the nurses accommodation block by colleagues near the King Edward VII Hospital on Saturday in memory of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who was found dead the previous day. (AFP/Getty Images)