Bangalore, Dec. 17: Friends, family and thousands of mourners today bid an emotional farewell to Jacintha Saldanha, the London nurse who apparently ended her life after falling for a prank call early this month.
The tiny town of Shirva in Udupi district in south Karnataka, some 400km from here, was in gloom as the cortege moved from her husband’s home to the final resting place in the cemetery attached to Our Lady of Health Church.
Jacintha’s body, which arrived yesterday from London via Mumbai, was taken straight from Mangalore airport to the Kasturba Medical College Hospital mortuary near Shirva.
The funeral rites began with the coffin being shifted to the home of her husband Benedict Barboza around 2 this afternoon.
After a private prayer ceremony at the Shirva home, the coffin was taken to the church.
The mourners gathered around Barboza and his two children — son Junal, 17, and daughter Lisha, 14 — who had arrived from London with the body.
The house had been barricaded to stop journalists from getting anywhere near. Barboza’s family had also released a note requesting privacy during the funeral service and the burial.
Earlier, Barboza had visited the final resting place of his late wife. Dressed in jeans and a blue T-shirt, he was seen directing cemetery staff as they prepared the grave.
The funeral service at the church was led by the bishop of the Udupi Diocese, Gerald Isaac Lobo, and lasted around half an hour. The casket was then lowered into the grave. On a black headstone was her name painted in white.
In his first interaction with the media, Jacintha’s husband thanked everyone for respecting the family’s privacy. Steven Almeida, a family friend from the UK who was by Barboza’s side, said the family had no strength left to address media queries, explaining why they had clammed up.
He said London police were investigating the apparent suicide and hence they could not talk about the incident.
Former Union minister Janardhana Poojary, state minister for religious affairs Kota Srinivasa Poojary and other local politicians attended the funeral service.
Janardhana Poojary later told reporters the Centre could only request Britain to conduct a thorough probe as investigations were on. He said the incident had jolted not only the English but also the whole world. “This is an example of how a prank can destroy a noble soul.”
Kota Srinivas Poojary said Jacintha’s death was a “loss to the district, the state of Karnataka as well as the nation”.
Jacintha, who worked at King Edward VII hospital in London, had answered the hoax call by two Sydney-based radio jockeys, pretending to be Prince William’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth and his father, heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles.
Despite their unconvincing impersonations, Saldanha, 46, had transferred the call to a nurse on the ward where Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, was being treated for severe morning sickness.
Within 48 hours, Jacintha was found hanging at her nurses’ quarters.