Nurse in British royal hoax call case found hanged, inquest hears
Agence France-Presse in London
A nurse at a hospital treating Prince William’s pregnant wife Kate who fell for an Australian radio prank was found hanged in her room, had wrist injuries and left three notes, an inquest heard on Thursday.
A colleague and a security guard discovered Jacintha Saldanha, 46, in nurses’ quarters near the private King Edward VII’s Hospital in central London on Friday, the opening session of the inquest was told.
The Indian-born mother-of-two died three days after she unwittingly transferred a hoax call from a Sydney-based broadcaster during which two DJs posing as British royals obtained details about Kate’s morning sickness.
The Guardian reported on Friday that one of three notes criticised staff at the hospital where she worked while the other two addressed the hoax call and arrangements for her funeral.
Senior British police officer James Harman told the inquest there were “no suspicious circumstances” surrounding her death, indicating that no other people were involved.
“Jacintha Saldanha was found by a colleague and a member of security staff. Sadly she was found hanging. There were also injuries to her wrist,” he told Westminster Coroner’s Court.
Two notes were found in her room and another was among her possessions, Harman said, without revealing their contents at this preliminary stage.
Police are also looking at telephone calls and e-mails to see if they shed more light on her death, he said.
Scotland Yard will “in the very near future” be in contact with Australian police to ask them to interview people there, he added.
Coroner Fiona Wilcox told the court: “I would like the police to pass on my sympathies to her family and everybody who has been touched by this tragic death.”
Saldanha’s husband Benedict Barboza and two teenage children did not attend the short hearing.
Her body was released to undertakers after the hearing, a Westminster City Council spokesman said.
Her family, who live in Bristol in southwest England, are understood to be making arrangements to return her body to India. A private memorial service is expected to be held later this week.
A mass will also be held for Saldanha at London’s Westminster Cathedral – the main Catholic church in England – on Saturday.
Thursday’s hearing was only to open the inquest into her death, and a full hearing including further details of the case will be held on March 26, next year, after further investigations.
In England, inquests are held to examine sudden or unexplained deaths and can record any one of a number of possible verdicts including suicide or misadventure. They do not apportion blame.
Australia’s media watchdog announced on Thursday that it was probing the broadcaster behind the pre-recorded hoax, Sydney’s 2Day FM.
But Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said it was not investigating presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian who have borne the brunt of worldwide anger.
Saldanha, originally from near Mangalore on the southwest Indian coast, was found dead on Friday.
Three days earlier she answered a prank call to the hospital made by two Australian radio presenters impersonating Queen Elizabeth II and her heir Prince Charles, William’s father.
Saldanha put the call through to another nurse who divulged details of Kate’s condition as she recovered from acute morning sickness.
The radio station has pledged at least A$500,000 (US$523,600) to help the grieving family, but British lawmaker Keith Vaz, who has been acting as their spokesman, said the broadcaster had not done enough.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament on Wednesday that the death was a “complete tragedy”.
Kate is continuing to rest and William attended the British premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on his own on Wednesday.
The royal couple, who are expecting their first child, have said they at no stage complained to the hospital about the hoax call incident. The hospital has also said that it gave Saldanha its full support.
Separately, new legislation ending male precedence in the line of succession to the throne was published on Thursday, meaning that William and Kate’s first baby can succeed to the throne regardless of whether it is a girl or a boy.