UK

Royal hoax call inquest: Nurse 'very upset' after prank

Jacintha Saldanha Image copyright AFP
Image caption Jacintha Saldanha was described as an "outstanding" nurse

A nurse found dead after answering a radio station's prank call to staff treating the Duchess of Cambridge was "very upset" after the incident, an inquest has heard.

Jacintha Saldanha was found dead on 7 December 2012, days after speaking to two Australian DJs. The call led to the disclosure of the duchess's treatment.

The nurse thought it was an inquiry from the Queen, the inquest heard.

The station made four further calls to the hospital, the hearing was told.

The chief executive of the company which owns the station that made the call said it was trying to get permission to broadcast the prank.

'Her fault'

In a statement, nurse Araceli Arcilla said Mrs Saldanha was in charge of the hospital the night the call was received during the duchess's first pregnancy.

"She came to me on the ward and told me she had received a call from somebody saying she was the Queen", she said.

"Jacintha believed it was a genuine call and she put it through to the duty nurse. She was worrying that she had put the call through.

"Jacintha told me she was very upset and felt it was her fault."

Mrs Saldanha was the first nurse to answer a call by DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian.

She passed them to a second nurse on the duchess's ward, who gave out details of her medical condition.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption MP Keith Vaz (second right) accompanied Mrs Saldanha's family

The second nurse, who cannot be named, told the inquest that Mrs Saldanha emailed her after the incident.

The email read: "It's all my fault. I feel very bad about this to get you involved. If there was anything I could do to mend this I would do it.

"I'm very upset and don't know what to do. Things are all going in the wrong direction."

The nurse said she addressed the caller as "ma'am" and spoke about the duchess's condition, saying she was "comfortable".

"I started feeling nervous when the caller talked to a male voice asking about taking the corgis for a walk. This seemed inappropriate for the call," she said.

The hospital's matron, Caroline Cassells, said there had been no mention of disciplinary action and both nurses involved were offered support.

Ms Cassells broke down on the stand when asked about an email she received from Mrs Saldanha the day before she was found dead.

She was unable to respond to the email immediately, she said, but later wrote to the nurse urging her not to worry.

Other calls

The chief executive of Southern Cross Media Group, the parent company of 2Day FM which carried out the prank call, said it did not hold the two DJs responsible for the broadcast.

Rhys Holleran told the inquest the company accepts it did not obtain consent to run the hoax call.

He said four phone calls made to the hospital shortly after the prank were an attempt to seek permission to broadcast the call.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian pretended to be members of the royal family

Earlier, Fiona Barton QC, representing the hospital, told the inquest: "If she [Mrs Saldanha] answered any of these calls - and there were four of them - then it can only have added to the stress she was under when she realised this was a prank call by a radio station."

'Brave lady'

Mrs Saldanha's husband Benedict Barboza read a statement to the court in which he described her as "my beloved wife and a caring wife, loving mother and undoubtedly one of the best nurses".

He continued: "She was a brave lady and we are very proud of her and we will always cherish her memory."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Benedict Barboza said his wife was a "loving mother"

Mr Barboza said his wife had never suffered from psychological problems or depression, or attempted self-harm or to take her life.

The inquest at Westminster Coroners' Court resumes on Friday.

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