Video: Diana’s final years

updated 6/27/2004 11:47:16 PM ET 2004-06-28T03:47:16

It happened seven years ago this summer, the high speed crash in a tunnel beneath the streets of Paris that killed Princess Diana. Much has been written about her death, and her life. Many of the most revealing details have come from biographer Andrew Morton, the man she trusted to tell her story. Now, he's back with a new chapter and long-held secrets from her final years, including conspiracies, surveillance and hidden affairs. It reads like a cloak-and-dagger, romance thriller, and some say, that's what her last years had become. Read an excerpt from "Diana: In Pursuit of Love," below:

Prologue:
A Grotesque Tableau
For Ken Lennox, an award-winning photographer and picture editor of the Sun, that Saturday night in August was no different from any other. Something of a night owl, the Scotsman was pottering quietly around his apartment in Primrose Hill, North London. As picture editor of Britain’s bestselling tabloid, he was idly considering the following day’s selection of photographs – images that could make the paper. Naturally, coverage would be dominated by sport, although the ongoing romance between Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed, son of the Harrods owner Mohamed Fayed, would feature somewhere. Given the fact that Britain’s public had been teased and titillated over the last few weeks with pictures of Diana on holiday with her latest lover, Lennox knew that any snaps had to be exceptional to captivate a public becoming sated with the tale of Diana’s romance.

At 12.20 in the morning he was just getting into bed when his mobile phone rang. The voice of his caller was compelling, excited and French. Although Lennox did not know his face, he knew the voice – and the reputation – of the distinguished photographer Romuald Rat, who had exchanged conflict in the Congo and other trouble spots for celebrity chasing. It was 1.20 a.m. in Paris and not the time for small talk – this was strictly business.

‘Ken, there’s been a crash,’ said the urgent voice at the other end of the line. ‘Dodi is very badly injured but Diana looks all right. I have pix from the scene showing them still in the car.’
Lennox asked how much. ‘You can have first publication, one day’s use only. I want three million francs [about £300,000 or US $540,000].’

Lennox agreed without demur and told him to wire the images to the Sun’s picture desk in Wapping in East London. As he dragged on a pair of jogging pants and running shoes he told the Frenchman not to speak to anyone else.

Even before Lennox had clambered into the taxi he had hurriedly summoned, the pictures of Diana and Dodi were on his ‘electronic picture desk’, a sophisticated computer system that allowed him to view pictures from agencies all over the world. Other exclusive deals, with the potential to make many thousands of dollars, were already under way with publications across the globe. At that moment those photographs were among the most valuable goods on the planet.

While these business deals were being made, the dying princess was gently being removed from the wrecked Mercedes and carefully placed inside an ambulance. As she made her painfully slow last journey to the Pitié-Salpétrière hospital, the ambulance stopping twice to give the paramedics a chance to stabilize the grievously injured woman, her last moments alive were being sold to the highest bidder. That she should have become a prisoner of the flashbulbs even as her life ebbed away was a crude, cruel reflection of her life as an iconic commodity.

By the time Lennox had reached his office and opened up his electronic picture desk he had already dispatched the veteran royal photographer Arthur Edwards and a dozen more cameramen to Paris. Ken and Arthur were old sparring partners. They had both been on the banks of the River Dee at Balmoral in the summer of 1980, taking part in the annual stalking of Prince Charles and his latest love. This new girlfriend seemed much smarter than the others. When she had spotted the photographers as they materialized on the opposite bank of the river she had turned smartly and marched up the slope, never once looking back. Then she had used the mirror from her powder compact to get a better view of her media adversaries. As she explained to me some ten years later: ‘I saw them appearing from the other side. I said to Charles I must get out of the way. You don’t need any aggravation.’ Her reaction meant that the only picture Lennox snapped that day was a back view of what looked like an attractive young girl. At the time he was intrigued that this young woman had shown such presence of mind.

Now, some seventeen years later, the man who took the first-ever press photograph of Lady Diana Spencer was looking at the last pictures of a dying Diana, Princess of Wales crumpled in the back of a black Mercedes limousine in the Pont de l’Alma underpass in central Paris. The pictures had been taken perhaps a minute or two after the accident, and certainly before the first fire engine arrived on the scene at 12.32 a.m. Lennox had little time for reflection as he looked at the pictures, but as he gazed at the grotesque tableau of the photo marked ‘bisjpg@100%’ it was clear to him that Dodi, his jeans ripped by shards of glass and metal and one leg twisted at an impossible angle, was seriously injured, probably dead; as was the driver, Henri Paul, who was sprawled motionless over the driving wheel.

At first sight it seemed that Diana had escaped relatively unscathed. She was hunched up on the floor facing away from the front passenger seat. A smear of blood on her right hand and in her blonde hair seemed to indicate that at some point she had been conscious and had tried to brush her hair away from her face. But the blood trickling from her left ear and from her nostrils gave Lennox an uneasy sense of foreboding – she did not look like someone who was going to be ‘all right’.

When the managing editor of News International, Les Hinton – a veteran newsman who made his name on the Washington beat – hurried into the newsroom, shouting ‘What do you know?’ Lennox told him of his concerns. A newly arrived picture, labelled ‘d13.jpg(rgb)’, confirmed his growing feeling of apprehension. It showed Frédéric Maillez, a young doctor working with SOS Médecins, who happened to be driving by and had stopped to help, crouching over the Princess, trying to introduce air from an oxygen bottle into her nose and mouth. With her head lolling downwards and a glassy stare in her eyes, Diana seemed to be slipping away.
As the two men deliberated on whether to use the pictures, their conversation was punctuated by a babble from a bank of TV screens and the racking sobs of a young female freelance reporter sitting on the news desk. ‘Les, if she is dead we can’t use them,’ Lennox told Hinton. ‘If she is injured, we can.’ There was no debate. The executive simply nodded, then raced across the office to warn the editor of the News of the World, Phil Hall, who was still in evening dress, having been summoned from a formal dinner when news of the crash came in.

Even as the front page of the News of the World was being changed to make room for the story and photographs from Paris, word was filtering through that photographers at the scene of the crash were being rounded up and arrested. ‘That was the first time I felt sick,’ recalls Lennox. ‘I couldn’t believe the names as they came over the wires. These were not paparazzi but brilliant, award-winning photographers who had worked in trouble spots around the world. But in our celebrity-obsessed world they earn more from a pavement shot of Diana than in two months working in central Africa.’

In Paris, as the medical team at the Pitié-Salpétrière hospital tried in vain to revive the Princess, Father Yves Clochard-Bossuet was summoned and asked to administer the last rites to her. The first indication waiting photographers had of the drama unfolding inside the hospital was when they saw an official from the British Embassy step out of a hospital room, lean back, and then start sliding down the wall, clearly in deep distress.

At four o’clock in Paris (3 a.m. in London), Diana was pronounced dead. At once the photographs of her lying in the back of the wrecked Mercedes were transformed from a valuable commodity into a curse, a veritable plague that infected everyone who touched them. ‘Delete, delete, delete,’ Lennox shouted to his technician, Mark Hunt. ‘Bury them in the machine.’ From that moment on the pictures, for all intents and purposes, ceased to exist, and anyone who asked about them was given a curt and abrupt answer regarding their whereabouts. For they were now evidence of a terrible complicity in the shameful ending of the fairy tale; a damsel in distress exploited by commercial greed to feed the public’s shameless voyeurism. As for the photographers who had milled around the wrecked car only seconds after the crash, they now began their own journey, a nightmare that started in a police cell and ended in prosecution, financial ruin and, for at least one, suicide.

While the pictures of the dying Princess became a liability rather than an exclusive, Lennox was enough of a seasoned campaigner to realize that one day they might well surface. In his work in the war zones of the world, the award-winning photographer had a rule of thumb for some of the gruesome images he witnessed and captured on film: today, tomorrow, and maybe never. He put the Diana pictures into the ‘maybe never’ category, believing that one day someone, somewhere might take a chance and publish them. Seven years later, in April 2004, he was proved right when, in America, CBS TV broadcast grainy shots of the Princess trapped in the car as part of a documentary ‘investigating’ the crash.

On that fateful night, 31 August 1997, Diana had been on a different journey, one that began in hope and ended in tragedy, a life cut short just as it was truly beginning. While it was the journey of only one woman, somehow it came to embrace and involve us all. In a life of many contrasts and contradictions, one of the most savage of ironies is that Diana’s life ended in a tunnel just as she was seeing light at the end of her own long march to fulfilment and happiness.



Extracted from "Diana: In Pursuit of Love" by Andrew Morton, published on 25 June 2004 by Michael O'Mara Books Ltd. Copyright © Andrew Morton 2004.

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