Royal tragedy

Tragic Nurse Left Note Criticising Hospital


The royal nurse who took her own life after being duped by two Australian radio DJs left a suicide note criticizing senior management at the hospital, it was claimed today.

The revelation focuses attention on the role of the hospital, which has so far escaped significant censure over the tragedy, with most blame being directed at the radio station and DJs who made the call. The hospital has from the outset claimed it was ‘supporting’ Jacintha following the calls.

However, the hospital has declined requests by the Royalist and others to specify exactly what that support entailed.

It was disclosed at her inquest yesterday that Jacintha Saldanha, 46, a married mother of two, wrote three suicide notes before hanging herself in an accommodation block used exclusively by hospital staff.

Although the contents of the notes was not revealed in court, the UK Daily Mirror, citing a family source, is claiming that in one of the notes she ­criticises ‘senior colleagues’ at the King Edward VII hospital over her ­treatment after she connected Mel Greig and Michael Christian, two Australian DJs pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles, to a nurse who was caring for Kate who then disclosed details about the ­duchess’s condition.

The Mirror reports: A source close to Jacintha’s family said: “One of the letters, which is the longest, deals with the hospital and is critical in its tone. Needless to say, Ben wants a full inquiry into what happened, and he wants to make sure the truth comes out. Within the letter Jacintha calls into question some of the treatment she received at the hospital.”

The Guardian reports that although police are in possession of the original notes, the family have been provided with typed transcripts of all three. The other two notes concern funeral arrangements, and her own views on the prank calls.

Citing ‘two separate sources’ the Guardian says the third note addresses “her employers, the hospital, and contains criticism of staff there.”

Scotland Yard is also investigating a number of emails which the inquest heard were relevant to the nurse's death, as well as telephone calls made to and from her phone in the days before her death. They are also talking to police in Australia about the ‘wider circumstances’ of the case.

The existence of a note explicitly criticizing the hospital will pile pressure on the Royal’s medical institution of choice. So far the hospital has largely escaped public ire, as anger has been focused on the DJs, but increasingly questions are being asked why the hospital did not upgrade its night-time security protocols, and hire a 24 hour receptionist, instead of leaving the job of answering the phones to a nurse who spoke English as a second language when the world’s most famous woman was being treated there.

Yesterday Sandra Parsons, a columnist in the Daily Mail asked whether the hospital “cared more about its own PR than its nurses”.

The existence of the note also explains the anger which Keith Vaz, the family’s spokesman has expressed towards the hospital, and his demands for a full, independent inquiry into what happened in the days leading up to his wife’s death.

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Mr Vaz publicly accused her employer of failing to support them on BBC radio, suggesting that the radio DJs who made the calls were being offered more support than Jacintha's family.

Vaz last night published a letter to hospital boss John Lofthouse saying: "I have dealt with similar cases in the past and I would agree with the prime minister that the family need to get the full facts, from the time she took the call from 2Day FM to the time she was found in her accommodation.

"The family gave you a list of questions that they wish the hospital to answer so that they can have the full facts of the case. I know they would appreciate answers to their questions in writing as soon as possible. They may also have additional questions."

He said last night: “The truth of this matter has to come out for the sake of her family.”

Last night, it was revealed staff at 2Day FM in Sydney, the station behind the prank call, had been ordered to live in safe houses after receiving death threats, although, ironically, the Australian media regulator said that its investigations into the tragedy would focus on station management, not the DJs themselves. The DJs claimed in a tearful interview that they passed the recordings along for approval.

Jacintha, from Bristol, was found hanged last Friday at the nurses’ home where she was staying, the opening of her inquest at Westminster coroner’s court was told yesterday.

Detective Chief Inspector James Harman of the Met told the hearing: “Jacintha Saldanha was found by a colleague and a member of security hanging from a scarf attached to a wardrobe. There were also some injuries to her wrists.

“At this time there are no ­suspicious circumstances. Two notes were found at the scene and another note recovered from her ­belongings.”