x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Royal hoax suicide nurse's funeral packed with mourners

About 2,000 mourners have packed a church in India for the funeral of a nurse found hanged after taking a royal hoax call.

Jacintha Saldanha's widower Ben Barboza (fourth from right) and her children Lisha (fifth from right) and Junal (third from right) stand beside her coffin during her funeral at a cemetery in Shirva.
Jacintha Saldanha's widower Ben Barboza (fourth from right) and her children Lisha (fifth from right) and Junal (third from right) stand beside her coffin during her funeral at a cemetery in Shirva.

SHIRVA, India // About 2,000 mourners packed a church in India yesterday for the funeral of a nurse found hanged after taking a royal hoax call, as her family said they had nearly lost the strength to grieve.

Indian-born Jacintha Saldanha, 46, apparently committed suicide after answering the call from Australian radio hosts to the London hospital where the pregnant wife of Prince William was admitted with acute morning sickness.

"The events of the last week have shattered our lives and we barely have any strength to grieve," widower Benedict Barboza and the couple's two children said in a statement read by a family friend after the funeral.

"The incidents leading to this tragedy are being investigated by the London Metropolitan Police and they have assured us of a full and fair investigation."

Mr Barboza and the couple's son, Junal, 16, and daughter, Lisha, 14, were joined by relatives and local residents for the Roman Catholic service in the southwestern state of Karnataka.

Saldanha's coffin, covered with flowers and with a photographic portrait on top, was carried out of the Our Lady of the Health church in Shirva, 50 kilometres from Mangalore city, for burial in the cemetery.

"Benedict has become a widower and her children are motherless. Let us pray for her soul," Ronald Saldanha, a relative of the family, said in the address delivered beneath stained-glass windows and spinning fans.

Before the ceremony, Saldanha's coffin was taken to her mother-in-law's house where female mourners chanted and sang commemorative songs.

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

Afterwards he declined to comment on reports that Saldanha had felt under pressure from the King Edward VII private hospital after the hoax call or that she had been in a separate dispute with colleagues.

The grave was marked with a simple black-and-white cross bearing Saldanha's name and dates of her birth and death.

Shirva is Barboza's hometown while several of Saldanha's relatives, including her frail mother, live in the port city of Mangalore.

A London inquest last week heard that she had been found hanged with a scarf in staff accommodation on December 7 and there were no suspicious circumstances over her death.