Royal tragedy

12.08.12

No Sign That "Quiet And Shy" Kate Middleton Suicide Nurse Was Unstable Before Prank Call

Jacintha Saldahna was a timid and nervous person, but no-one suspected she would take her own life

Although she was timid and described herself as ‘a very nervous person’, there was no sign that Jacintha Saldanha was suicidal, unstable or psychologically frail before the fateful moment when, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, working the night shift at King Edward VII Hospital with no full-time receptionist on duty, she picked up a ringing phone.

Down the line a mangled British accent asked to speak to “Kate, my granddaughter,” and Mrs Saldahna, for whom English was a second language, was fooled. She put the call through.

Although Prince Charles would soon be joking about the incident, laughing it off and telling reporters he might be ‘a radio station’, it was, apparently, a mistake for which Mrs Saldahna was unable to forgive herself.

Yesterday morning shortly after 9am, Mrs Saldahna was found dead at the nurses accommodation nearby in which she lived when on duty.

She is believed to have taken her own life.

The family home, which she shared with her husband of 19 years, Benedict Barboza, a hospital accountant, and their two children, aged 16 and 14, was 120 miles away to the west in Bristol. Mrs Saladahna would work several intense days of double shifts, staying at hospital-provided accommodation nearby, and then head home to spend time with her family.

Jacintha, 46, known to her friends as Jess, was born in the Mangalore region of India, according to the (paywalled) Times. Upon completing her medical training and qualifying as a nurse, she, like tens of thousands of her countrywomen left her homeland in search of a better life in the West, along with her husband.

She first worked in the Middle East, before moving to the United Kingdom ten years ago.

Ms Saldanha registered as a nurse in Bristol in 2003 and initially worked for the North Bristol NHS Trust, which runs several Hospitals in the city.

A spokesman for the trust said: “Jacintha worked at North Bristol NHS Trust for a number of years dating back to 2003. We are shocked and saddened by this news and offer our sincere condolences.”

She moved to the King Edward VII Hospital in 2008.

Initially the family rented a home, buying their own property in 2005.

After she left her job in Bristol to go and work at the King Edward VII, her neighbours used to joke that she was a “nurse for the Queen”.

A neighbour who gave her name to the Mirror as Maxine, said: “She was a lovely woman, just so smiley and bubbly. We used to joke with her that she was a nurse for the Queen, she was just so nice. She'll be much missed."

Jacintha had described herself as a “very nervous person” in one internet posting when she thanked her driving instructor, Jeff Sellick, for helping her pass her test.

She wrote: “He was so supportive, specially on my test day, I felt he was the one sitting in the examiners place, so I managed to pass. He is the best driving Instructor, as I have had many others but never felt comfortable as I felt with Jeff.”

Mr Sellick told the Times that Jacintha was a “quiet and shy” person.

He added: “I imagine it would have played very heavily on her mind with what’s happened. It wasn’t her fault but I can imagine it would have troubled her. She was a very, very nice person who wouldn’t say boo to a goose."

The BBC's Nicholas Witchell reported that she had felt "very lonely and confused" as a result of what had happened.

Jacintha was not disciplined as a result of connecting the call. The hospital said in a statement: “She was an excellent nurse and a well-respected and popular member of staff. We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital has been supporting her at this difficult time.”

John Lofthouse, the hospital’s chief executive, said: “Our thoughts and deepest sympathies at this time are with her family and friends. Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much-loved and valued colleague.”

Lord Glenarthur, the hospital’s chairman, said: “This is a tragic event. Jacintha was a first-class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients during her time with us. She will be greatly missed.”

In a statement released through the Metropolitan Police, her family said: "We as a family are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Jacintha. We would ask that the media respect our privacy at this difficult time."

Police said that Mrs Saldanha’s death had been referred to Westminster Coroner’s Court, which is likely to hear the initial stage of her inquest next week.

This morning floral tributes were being left outside the hospital's nurses' block.

One note read: "Dear Jacintha, our thoughts are with you and your family. From all your fellow nurses, we bless your soul. God bless."