‘I’m free!’ Diana welcomed paparazzi month before death — ‘Asking to be photographed’

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To mark the 25th anniversary of Diana, Princess of Wales’ death, Channel 4 has produced a four-part documentary series about two separate police investigations into the incident. ‘Investigating Diana: Death in Paris’ delves into the initial investigation in the years following the royal’s death, carried out by the French police, and the British inquiry six years later, which was based at Scotland Yard. Step-by-step, the documentary recounts the events of the fateful evening, covering the official findings of the investigators, the conspiracy theories surrounding the incident and the unanswered questions that still remain. 

Perhaps the most well-known royal tragedy in history came on the night of August 31, 1997, when Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris. 

While travelling from the Ritz hotel, Diana and her partner Dodi Al-Fayed were involved in a high-speed collision that killed all passengers except one. 

Nicknamed ‘The People’s Princess’, Diana was well-loved in her home country and, having joined the Royal Family and become a global icon, across the world too. 

When the news emerged that the Princess of Wales had died in a car crash in the middle of the night, the circumstances surrounding the fatal incident became the subject of widespread speculation. 

People were keen to find someone to blame and one of the leading stories became focused on the role of the paparazzi, who had been following the vehicle when it crashed. 

Swarms of photographers had gathered outside of the Ritz when it was revealed that Diana and Dodi were there. After taking a back exit, the couple was spotted and subsequently followed by photographers on mopeds. 

As details of the crash dripped into the media, some were quick to identify the paparazzi as the reason for the black Mercedes’ collision. 

The theory was exacerbated by the fact Diana had been the target of photographers a month earlier when she and Dodi had been holidaying at the Al-Fayed family’s villa in St. Tropez. 

The princess was photographed jumping into the ocean, walking along the beach and jetskiing with her sons — Prince William and Prince Harry.

But Daniel Angeli, a photographer who was in St. Tropez, claimed the princess “wasn’t hiding then” and seemed like she “was asking to be photographed”. 

Mr Angeli told Channel 4’s ‘Investigating Diana: Death in Paris’: “Diana wasn’t hiding then. Perhaps she wanted people to know. 

“I was on the rock opposite the pontoon and I saw her waving to the Brits: ‘Good morning!’

“She gave us everything really. She’d come out wearing a leopard print swimsuit. She’d go water-skiing with her kids. 

“It was like she was asking to be photographed. I felt that it was her way of saying: ‘I’m free’.”

The paparazzi’s presence at the St.Tropez villa also fed into another conspiracy theory circulating at the time: Diana’s death was not an accident.

Leading this narrative was Dodi’s father, Mohammed Al-Fayed, who strongly believed that his son was murdered. 

The photographs in St. Tropez showed Diana and Dodi’s relationship in a candid, informal light. 

They were pictured embracing and enjoying each other’s company, something that Mr Al-Fayed believed would have dismayed the Royal Family.  

Michel Kerbois, an investigator for Mr Al-Fayed, recounted the activity in St. Tropez striking him as “interesting”, as he looked for a “motive” for a murder. 

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He said: “She [Diana] was embarrassing everyone. She made no secret of wanting revenge on her in-laws. 

“She didn’t hide that, everyone knows.

“She’d found a formidable ally for her squabble. The relationship itself!

“There you go, for me, that’s the possible motive.

Mr Kerbois concluded: “So it’s possible there was surveillance on the couple in St. Tropez.”

Mr Al-Fayed believed the couple was targeted because they had planned to marry, and claimed the Firm did not want Dodi to be the step-father of the future king. 

However, while Dodi had bought an engagement ring, there was no evidence that he had asked Diana to marry him nor had she indicated that she wished to marry the film producer. 

The official verdicts from both the French and British investigations also debunked the belief that the paparazzi were to blame for the crash as well as the theory that Diana and Dodi had been deliberately killed. 

In 1999, the French investigation concluded Diana died as the result of the crash. 

Judge Hervé Stephan concluded the paparazzi were some distance from the Mercedes when it crashed and were therefore not responsible.

It found that Henri Paul, head of security at the Ritz who was behind the wheel of the car, had lost control of the vehicle at high speed while intoxicated by alcohol and under the effects of prescription drugs. They came to the conclusion that Mr Paul was solely responsible for the crash. 

Some nine years later, the jury at the British inquest decided that Diana and Dodi had been unlawfully killed by a combination of Mr Paul’s driving and the driving of following paparazzi vehicles. 

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