In the dark about UK royal hoax call, nurse death a shock for Udupi family

FP

"Jacintha has left us." On Friday evening, as the real and virtual world buzzed over the tragedy of her death, Benedict Barboza placed a call home to Shirva in Udupi district and, with these brief, quiet words, told mother Carmine about the death of his wife Jacintha Saldanha.

A nurse at the King Edward Hospital in London, Saldanha was found dead in her quarters on Friday, days after she had fallen for a prank by two Australian radio jockeys trying to get information on Prince William's pregnant wife Kate, a patient at the hospital.

The cause of death of the 46-year-old, a mother of two teenagers, remained "unexplained" on Saturday. Police, who released a grainy photograph of Saldanha, said a coroner will be making his views known next week. They added that they didn't find anything suspicious.

In a state of shock, Carmine said Barboza's call was the first time she heard about the prank call episode.

It was a couple of days ago that she last talked to "Benna" — as she calls Benedict. Carmine stays in the family's ancestral home in the town with her daughter.

Originally hailing from Valencia village in Mangalore, Saldanha was a graduate of the Fr Muller College of Nursing in Mangalore and married Barboza, an accountant from Shirva, 19 years ago.

Few knew her in Shirva as the couple have lived largely outside India since their marriage — first in Muscat and since 2003 in the UK, where they bought a home. They had been living in Bristol in southwestern England for nine years. Saldanha had been working at the King Edward Hospital for the past four years. At least twice a year, Saldanha and her husband visited Shirva for short trips.

"She was originally from Mangalore, nearly 80 km from Shirva. The Barbozas are from Shirva and that is possibly why she has been identified as being from this part. Benedict was a student of mine," said Prof Alban Rodrigues, a former teacher at the St Mary's School in Shirva.

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