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April 11, 2010
Was her death really an accident, or was there a hidden hand at work? Many still say that she was assassinated. Not long before her tragic end, she predicted in a letter to her loyal butler that she would be murdered in a car accident.
The telephones started ringing in the homes of Paris’s foreign correspondents soon after 1 a.m. on Sunday, August 31, 1997.
It had been a dull Saturday. After a very hot summer when the temperature in Paris had risen to the high 80s Fahrenheit, the sun had that day disappeared behind thick clouds and the city had turned cool so that the Parisians had to wear warm clothing. There had also been a degree of languor in the city; the summer vacation was over but no one as yet felt like returning to work, school or university.
The journalists shared the Parisians’ languor; what they called the “silly season” was ending and with the rentrée – the return or reopening – would arrive new political shenanigans, disasters and wars to report.
The callers were editors from the world over. All asked the same question of their correspondents: “We hear Di’s been in an accident in a tunnel. Can we have a story in the next half an hour for our first edition this morning?”
Not one of the journalists would be able to sleep on what was left of the hours of darkness, or indeed for the next couple of days. They knew that they were working on the biggest story there had been for a long time and would probably be for some time. Later, some of the most hardened among those who worked as freelancers would admit that they had earned so much money that night that they had been able to set off on a luxury vacation afterwards.
For that August night, Diana, Princess of Wales, died from injuries she had sustained in a car crash in a Paris tunnel.
If before that night, you had asked anyone – man or woman – who was the most beautiful, most elegant, most compassionate woman in the world, the one they would love to have dinner with, they would have replied: Princess Di.
But that night she lay dead in Paris aged just 36.