The family of a nurse who apparently committed suicide after she was duped by a hoax call made to the hospital treating the Duchess of Cambridge “miss her every moment of every day,” MP Keith Vaz said last night.
Flanked by Jacintha Saldanha’s husband Benedict Barboza and her two teenage children, Lisha and Junal, the politician said they had been left “devastated” by the loss of a “loving mother and a loving wife”.
The nurse had been fooled by two Australian radio hosts into believing they were the Queen and Prince of Wales during the prank call made last Tuesday to the King Edward VII’s Hospital in London.
The hospital worker transferred them to a colleague who described in detail the condition of Kate who was being treated at the time for severe pregnancy sickness.
Ms Saldanha, 46, from Bristol was found dead on Friday in what appeared to be a suspected suicide.
The nurse’s brother Naveen told the Daily Mail his sister was a devout Roman Catholic and would have been “devastated” by her unwitting role in the breach of medical confidentiality.
After meeting the family in Parliament, Mr Vaz, who earlier criticised the hospital for not providing Mr Barboza and his children enough support, spoke briefly outside the Commons on their behalf.
He said: “They just want me to say that they are extremely grateful to the public here in the United Kingdom and throughout the world who have sent them messages of condolences and support following the death of Jacintha – a loving mother and a loving wife.
“This is a close family. They are devastated by what has happened. They miss her every moment of every day but they are really grateful to the support of the British public and to the public overseas for the messages of support and kindness.”
Mr Vaz visited the nurse’s family on Sunday at their home in Bristol and during a radio interview earlier yesterday said they were in “terrible distress” and urged King Edward VII’s Hospital to provide them with more support and hold an inquiry.
He told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One: “The hospital has sent them a letter, which I have seen, but I’m surprised that nobody has made the journey to Bristol to sit with them and offer them the counselling that I think they need.”
The MP added: “More support in my view needs to be given.”
His criticism came after the two Australian DJs behind the hoax call – Mel Greig and Michael Christian – gave an emotional account of their reaction to the nurse’s death.
Interviewed on Australian TV networks, they said they had been left “gutted, shattered, heartbroken”. The 2Day FM presenters said their prank call to the King Edward VII’s Hospital had “a tragic turn of events no-one could have predicted or expected”.
A tearful Greig, who was at times comforted by Christian, told Today Tonight on Australia’s Channel Seven: “There’s nothing that can make me feel worse than what I feel right now. And for what I feel for the family. We’re so sorry that this has happened to them.”
Greig said: “I remember my first question was ‘Was she a mother?’.
“I have thought about this a million times in my head, that I just wanted to reach out to them and just give them a big hug and say sorry.
“I hope they are OK, I really do.”
A sombre and downcast Christian added: “I just hope that they get the love, the support, the care that they need.”
In a second interview on the Nine Network, the DJs said they had never expected their fake call would be put through to the Duchess’s ward.
They said they expected it to last 30 seconds, get told off and have the phone hung up in their ear.
A distraught Greig said: “Not for a second did we expect to speak to anyone. We expected to be hung up on.”
Prime Minister David Cameron also described Ms Saldanha’s death as “an absolute tragedy”. Asked about the incident at a Westminster lunch, Mr Cameron said: “I feel incredibly sorry for her and her family. It is an absolute tragedy that this has happened and I am sure everyone will want to reflect on how it was allowed to happen.”
In response to Mr Vaz’s criticism the hospital said its chief executive John Lofthouse had spoken to the nurse’s husband on Friday by phone and offered to meet him whenever he wanted.
In a statement it said: “Mr Lofthouse also made it clear that the hospital would offer any support it could. Mr Barboza said he was grateful for the offer, and the hospital invited him to reflect on whatever help he would like.”