Human Interest

The final hours of Princess Diana, pursued by paparazzi

By María D. Valderrama

Paris, Aug 30 (EFE).- Diana, Princess of Wales was the most photographed woman by the press. Her last summer, spent in the French Riviera and in Corsica, was a feast for paparazzi who followed her right up until her deadly car crash in Paris.

On the 25th anniversary of the death of the ‘People’s Princess,’ the admiration that many still carry for her will be manifested around the crash site in the tunnel that links the French capital’s Place de la Concorde and Pont de l’Alma.

The scene is adorned with photographs, flowers and messages recalling an intense life marked by heartbreak, media persecution and tragedy.

Her final hours evidenced her toxic relationship with the press.

At the time, in 1997, paparazzi were intent on photographing Diana with her new lover, Dodi Fayed, the son of the immensely rich British businessman of Egyptian origin Mohamed Al-Fayed.

In July that year, paparazzi pursued Princess Diana along the coast of Saint-Tropez, and even rented a boat to boost their chances. The set of photographs obtained during that trip showing Diana in a range of swimming suits over the days became well known.

In her earlier days as a royal, Diana avoided press attention when vacationing with her sons – Prince William and Prince Harry – but later she entered a somewhat tacit agreement with the press photographers and it became a way for her to connect with her admirers.

French photographer Jean-Louis Macault was the first to snap Diana and Fayed together, and to ensure the images’ safety, he hired a private helicopter to fly the roll of film to the office.

Such images could sell for tens of thousands of dollars. When Diana and Fayed arrived in Paris, even those who had previously worked as war photographers joined the pursuit of that valuable snap.

On August 30, when the pair arrived at the airport of Le Bourget, a dozen photographers waited at the barriers. Diana and Fayed alighted from the plane and entered a car with a bodyguard and Henri Paul, deputy head of security manager for the Hotel Ritz Paris, owned by Mohamed Al-Fayed, who drove them in the direction of the luxury establishment.

Hours later, the photographs from the airport of the four victims of the crash, which was survived only by bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, seemed morbidly prophetic.

In the documentary The Last Days of Princess Diana, some of the paparazzi said they continued to take photographs while in the tunnel where the accident took place. Police seized some of the cameras but by the earlier hours of August 31, other paparazzi were negotiating exorbitant fees to sell images of the crash.

At that moment, many believed that the Princess of Wales, who was semi-conscious when extracted from the crash, would recover. Diana died hours later at the Pitié-Salpetrière hospital due to internal injuries.

The British tabloid press rejected the images being offered and appeared to show self-reflection on the role of reporters and photographers in Diana’s death.

When it emerged that Paul had driven under the effects of alcohol and Prozac, however, the British media owners were quick to turn the page.EFE


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