Dec 17 2012 By Cheryl Mullin
HUNDREDS of mourners gathered in a small town in India for the funeral of nurse Jacintha Saldanha – who was found dead after answering a prank call about the Duchess of Cambridge.
Friends and family paid their respects to Jacintha, 46, during a simple ceremony in Shirva, some 30 miles north of Mangalore on the south-west coast.
Earlier, crowds lined the roads close to the Catholic church to pay their respects while relatives attended a private prayer ceremony at her home.
Ms Saldanha, a mother-of-two, was found hanging in her nurses’ quarters at London’s King Edward VII’s Hospital by a colleague and a security guard on December 7.
Three days earlier she transferred a call from two Australian DJs, believing they were the Queen and Prince of Wales, to a colleague who described in detail the Duchess’s condition during her hospital stay with severe morning sickness.
Her children, Junal, 16, and Lisha, 14, have described the “unfillable void” left in their lives by their mother’s death.
During a mass at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday, her husband Benedict Barboza fought back tears as he paid an emotional tribute to his wife, telling mourners: “I feel a part of me has been ripped out.”
Today he accompanied a casket carrying her body into Our Lady of Health Church at around 4pm local time, after journeying back to the family’s home-town for the funeral.
Authorities in India are understood to have made extensive arrangements – upping security and setting up barricades – to accommodate crowds of mourners touched by Ms Saldanha’s death.
Jesuit priest Fr Richard Rego, who has worked in the region for more than a decade, said the close-knit town had been left in shock.
“The local community were jolted,” he said. “They are now coming together to support the family.”
Mr Barboza is understood to be spending Christmas with his family in Shirva as he comes to terms with his wife’s death.