Jacintha Saldanha family's lawyers ask why she was answering hospital phone

Lawyers representing relatives of nurse found dead after prank question whether she should have been acting as receptionist

Lawyers acting for the family of a nurse who was found dead after taking a prank call from two Australian radio DJs targeting the Duchess of Cambridge when she was in hospital have questioned why she was made to answer phones by her employers.

Jacintha Saldanha, 45, was found dead in her nurse's lodgings at the King Edward VII hospital in London in December, three days after putting through the call from the 2Day FM hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian, who were pretending to be the Queen and the Prince of Wales.

On Tuesday Saldanha's widower, Benedict Barboza, daughter Lisha, 14, and son Junal, 17, attended a pre-inquest hearing at Westminster coroner's court.

During the hearing, the family's legal representative, John Cooper QC, questioned whether under the terms of her employment contract the nurse should have been in effect acting as a receptionist on the day of the telephone prank.

He asked why it was that Saldanha "was placed in a position in a matron office to be receiving calls from outside agencies".

Cooper also questioned whether the owners of the Australian radio station, Southern Cross, had contacted the hospital to request permission to broadcast a recording of the hoax call.

"There may be an issue whether Southern Cross did or did not contact the hospital on a number of, maybe four or five times, prior to the broadcast being made. As far we are aware … no such contact took place," Cooper said.

Speaking for the dead nurse's family outside the coroner's court, the MP Keith Vaz said the hearing marked the beginning of the end of the legal process. However, he said, this did not "take away the terrible grief the family are still suffering".

"These have been dreadful, dreadful weeks and months for them," Vaz said. "They will never, ever come to terms with the death of Jacintha who they loved so much, but they hope this process will begin the healing process."

During the short pre-inquest hearing the coroner, Fiona Wilcox, granted anonymity to a duty nurse who was working in the duchess's maternity ward and is due to testify at the full inquest.

Wilcox accepted that the witness should be shielded from media intrusion after the hospital argued that it was "absolutely necessary … as evidenced by events".

After the hearing the hospital's chief executive, John Lofthouse, paid tribute to Saldanha. "Jacintha was a much-loved colleague and a first-class nursing sister. She is sorely missed by everyone at the hospital," he said. "We once again extend our deepest condolences to her family. We feel it would be inappropriate for the hospital to comment at this time."

The inquest will be held on 2 May at the council house chambers in Marylebone, London.

Contributor

Shiv Malik

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Hospital defends treatment of Jacintha Saldanha
King Edward VII hospital says it 'made it clear there was no criticism' of nurse over Duchess of Cambridge prank call

Caroline Davies and Alison Rourke in Sydney

14, Dec, 2012 @7:04 PM

Article image
Jacintha Saldanha found hanged after royal hospital prank call
Inquest hears that three notes were found with nurse who took hoax call during Duchess of Cambridge's treatment

Caroline Davies

13, Dec, 2012 @10:55 AM

Article image
Jacintha Saldanha suicide note criticised hospital staff
Inquest hears that nurse who died after Duchess of Cambridge hoax call left three letters before apparently taking her own life

Sandra Laville and Caroline Davies

13, Dec, 2012 @7:47 PM

Article image
Australian hoax call DJ to appear at inquest of Jacintha Saldanha
Mel Greig, one of two DJs who made hoax call to private hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was staying, to appear at inquest of nurse found dead three days after prank

Haroon Siddique

29, Apr, 2013 @11:25 AM

Article image
Royal prank call DJ details threats after nurse Jacintha Saldanha’s death
Mel Greig, one of the two Sydney DJs involved in the 2012 hoax, says bullets with her name on were sent to police

Chris Johnston

13, Oct, 2014 @6:43 PM

Article image
DJ apologises to Jacintha Saldanha's family as nurse's death ruled suicide

Saldanha's family hear tearful statement from Melanie Greig at inquest into death of nurse found hanged after royal prank call

Caroline Davies

12, Sep, 2014 @1:48 PM

Article image
Nurse Jacintha Saldanha's death: reaction from key parties
Statements from those directly affected by suspected suicide of royal hospital nurse who took hoax call for duchess

07, Dec, 2012 @8:08 PM

Article image
King Edward VII hospital – the royal choice
Duchess of Cambridge is latest in long line of royal inpatients at hospital in Marylebone, central London

James Meikle

07, Dec, 2012 @8:31 PM

Article image
Australian radio regulator steps in over Duchess of Cambridge prank call

Australian Communications and Media Authority to decide whether 2DayFM should have its broadcasting licence revoked

Alison Rourke in Sydney and agencies

13, Dec, 2012 @6:04 AM

Australian hoax DJs 'shattered' over death of royal hospital nurse
Australian DJs who made prank call to Duchess of Cambridge's hospital speak out for first time since death of Jacintha Saldanha

Alison Rourke

10, Dec, 2012 @7:33 AM