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Inquest hearing into Indian nurse's death set for May

March 26, 2013 21:56 IST

The inquest into the death of India-born nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who was found hanging after a hoax call made to a United Kingdom hospital treating Kate Middleton, reopened in London on Tuesday.

A two-day hearing to record the cause of her death has been scheduled for May 2.

The 46-year-old mother of two had been found dead days after she forwarded a hoax call from two Australian DJs posing as the royal family to the ward where Middleton was being treated for pregnancy-related sickness.

Coroner Fiona Wilcox announced that the formal inquest proceedings will take place at the Council House Chambers in Marylebone on May 2-3.

Saldanha's husband Benedict Barboza, 49, and their children Junal, 16, and Lisha, 14, were present at Westminister Coroner's Court alongside Labour Member of Parliament Keith Vaz, who has been supporting the Bristol-based family since the incident in December 2012.

"Today marks the beginning of the end as far as the legal process is concerned but it does not take away the terrible grief the family are still suffering," said Vaz on the court steps.

"The next few weeks are going to be very difficult for the family until May 2 when, of course, the inquest will begin. Both children have very important exams which they wish to concentrate on. These have been dreadful, dreadful weeks and months for them. They will never, ever come to terms with the death of Jacintha who they loved so much, but they hope this process will begin the healing process," he added.

The radio broadcaster involved in the hoax call that tricked the nurse, days before she was found hanging in her nurse's accommodation at King Edward VII's Hospital in west London, were also granted permission to be part of the inquest.

Southern Cross Media group's lawyer Maya Sikand had applied to be a party to the proceedings, claiming her clients may be able to assist.

John Cooper, who has been representing the family pro-bono as they were denied legal aid for the case, indicated he would be asking how Jacintha Saldanha was working as a receptionist and whether that was included in her contract.

The coroner said there would be four witnesses to the case including the duty nurse, whose name cannot be reported, and the hospital's chief John Lofthouse.

She also indicated that her hearing would be a court of inquiry to allow a cause of death to be recorded and not deal with other issues.

The wife of Prince William was being treated at King Edward VII's Hospital in December last year for an extreme form of morning sickness when DJs Michael Christian and Mel Greig made their prank call, pretending to be members of the royal family.

Saldanha had answered the call and put them through to another nurse, who gave an update on the Duchess of Cambridge's condition.

The prank call had sparked international outrage against the radio station following Saldanha's subsequent suicide.

In February, the UK's Crown Prosecution Service had decided there was no evidence to support a charge of manslaughter against the Australian DJs.

Aditi Khanna In London
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