Family of royal hoax nurse tell of "unfillable void"

LONDON Sat Dec 15, 2012 11:41pm IST

1 of 3. Jacintha Saldanha's widower Ben Barboza holds an order of service and the hand of his daughter Lisha (R) outside of Westminster Cathedral before a memorial service in London December 15, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - The family of a nurse who apparently committed suicide after taking a prank call at the hospital treating Prince William's pregnant wife Kate delivered a tearful tribute to her on Saturday, saying her death had left "an unfillable void".

Jacintha Saldanha was found hanged from a wardrobe with injuries to her wrist in staff lodgings at London's King Edward VII hospital days after she answered the hoax call from an Australian radio station and put it through to a colleague who divulged details of Kate's health.

Last week's call made headlines around the world as did Indian-born Saldanha's death, leading to widespread condemnation of the radio station responsible and the DJs behind the stunt.

Wiping away tears outside London's Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral where the family attended mass, her husband Benedict said "part of me has been ripped out".

"The events of the past week have shattered our lives and we barely have the strength to withstand the grief and sorrow," he told reporters, thanking William and Kate for kind words as well as Prime Minister David Cameron for a message of condolence.

"Nineteen years of togetherness with a strong bond of affection and understanding will be cherished forever in my life. Your loss is a very painful one and nobody can take that place in my life ever again. I love you and miss you forever."

Her children Lisha, 14, and Junal, 16, spoke of a generous mother who had worked tirelessly to provide for them.

"The house is an empty dwelling without your presence. We are shattered and there is an unfillable void in our lives," Lisha said. "We love you mum, sleep in peace and please watch over us until we meet again in heaven."

The media storm erupted after DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian from Sydney radio station 2Day FM phoned the King Edward hospital, pretending to be William's grandmother Queen Elizabeth and his father, heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles.

Despite their unconvincing impersonations, Saldanha, 46, transferred the call to a nurse on the ward where Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, was being treated for severe morning sickness.

Greig and Christian, who have spoken of their devastation at events, have been suspended and the radio station is facing an inquiry from the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

At the opening on Thursday of an inquiry into the death of Saldanha, whose funeral will take place in India on Monday, the coroner was told three notes were found with her body.

Hospital bosses said on Friday they provided her with support after the prank call and had not criticised her role.

"They stood by her actions, and made it clear there was no criticism of her, and that there would be no disciplinary action of any kind," the hospital said in a statement.

British lawmaker Keith Vaz, who accompanied the family on Saturday, said they wanted the hospital to provide answers as to what exactly had happened. (Edited by Jason Webb)

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