London, Dec. 13: Although police have said “there are no suspicious circumstances” surrounding the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, there is a great deal more that needs to come out, judging by today’s brief inquest.
As had already emerged in leaked reports, the 46-year-old mother of two from Mangalore was found hanging but she left not one but three notes. However, their contents were not divulged.
Giving evidence at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, detective chief inspector James Harman revealed that two notes were found in her room in the nurses’ lodgings in Weymouth Street close to King Edward VII hospital where she had been a valued member of staff for years.
A third note was found among her possessions.
Harman said: “On Friday 7 December Jacintha Saldanha was found by a colleague and a member of security staff. Sadly she was found hanging.”
He added: “There were also injuries to her wrist.” This implies she had attempted to cut her wrist but had failed.
“The London Ambulance Service was called to the scene,” the chief inspector said. “At this time there are no suspicious circumstances.”
It was Jacintha who put through a call from two pranksters from Sydney, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, at 5.30am on Tuesday to another nurse who provided some information about her patient, Kate, the duchess of Cambridge, who had been admitted with severe morning sickness.
Detectives are also looking into telephone calls and emails to see if they throw any light on the death, Harman said. He told the Coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, that Scotland Yard detectives would be in contact with their colleagues in Australia to interview witnesses to “put the best evidence before you” about the circumstances of the death.He promised: “I can expect in the very near future to be in contact with colleagues in New South Wales.”
Jacintha’s body was identified by her accountant husband Benedict Barboza, 49, the court heard. None of Jacintha’s relatives were at the five-minute hearing but they were not forgotten by the coroner. As she set a provisional date of March 26 next year for the next hearing Wilcox told family representatives in court: “I would like the police to pass on my sympathies to her family and everybody who has been touched by this tragic death.”
The chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, Labour MP Keith Vaz, is campaigning on behalf of the family, because he believes her employers have questions to answer. He has taken a slightly critical line on the hospital and is urging it carry out an independent inquiry.
Vaz has written a letter to the chief executive of the Australian radio company Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), Rhys Holleran, calling for the full facts.
The MP, who arrived after the hearing, said outside court: “I have not received a response so I think we will need him to respond. If you write a letter and you have questions, you really want answers, and that is all the family has wanted — the full facts — as you would want in a circumstance like this.”
He also told the BBC News channel: “They are a wonderful family — in all my 25 years in Parliament I have never had to sit in a room as I did with them on Sunday, and hear them grief-stricken. They are wonderful, the family are just very special. They need time to grieve — this is a terrible circumstance for them at the moment.”
The chief executive of Samaritans, Catherine Johnstone, told the BBC: “Suicide is complex. Although a catalyst may appear to be obvious, suicide is seldom the result of a single factor or event and is likely to have several inter-related causes. Sometimes people get to a point where they feel they can’t cope, where it all gets too much to handle. It’s worse if people feel they are alone and they can't talk to anyone about what's weighing on them.”
A mass is to be held for Jacintha at Westminster Cathedral on December 15. The mass will be offered “for the repose of the soul of Jacintha and her grieving family”, a spokesman for Westminster Cathedral said. “We would hope to hold a more formal memorial after the inquest has concluded.”