Princess Diana: ZDF Documentary reveals details of last night

The 25th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death is fast approaching. Marking this sad anniversary, the documentary “Diana’s Last Night” ZDFzeit traces the events between high spirits, calculus and paranoia – and leaves viewers in doubt.

On August 31, 1997, at about four in the morning, the world stood still for a millisecond: Princess Diana, the ex-wife of Prince Charles and mother of Princes William and Harry, died. accident in Paris. Her lover at the time, Egyptian player Dodi Al-Fayed, and Henri Paul, the driver and head of security at the Ritz, also died in the Alma tunnel.

How did that fateful trip happen? What fatal decisions are sometimes made in advance? And above all: what plans is Diana no longer pursuing due to her premature death at just 36? ZDFzeit’s documentary “Last Night for Diana – Love, Life and Legend” by Annika Blendl, Ulrike Grunwald and Leonie Stadt asked these questions on Tuesday night.

Several of the answers, accompanied by original CCTV and paparazzi footage and re-enactments of game scenes, surprised the audience and left shocked and stunned: On the morning of August 30, he learned that Diana and Dodi had spontaneously decided to go during their summer vacation to end with a final night in the “City of Love”.

It was destined to remain a secret turn: “The pilot had no idea where he was heading until he got on board,” Al-Fayeds press secretary Michael Cole recalls in the documentary. The luxury Ritz hotel staff discovered the famous guests shortly before their arrival.

The fact that the paparazzi were still waiting in front of the entrance when they arrived must mean that someone close to the princess must have given them advice: Was it Dodi’s father, billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed, who used it to announce the Harrods oath. The store was acquired in 1985? Or was Diana herself craving the public good? The documentary cannot definitively answer this question.

British journalist Jenny Bond ‘near the end of her life Diana became stronger’

While the head of security at the Ritz, Henri Paul, was driving the couple’s luggage to Dodi’s apartment in Paris and the hotel manager booked a table in a lavish restaurant on Dodi’s behalf, Diana pursued her own plans: “Towards the end of her life, Diana became stronger,” explained British journalist Jenny. Bond, “Physically and mentally. You have developed an image of who you want to be and the path you want to take.” The money and popularity of the Al-Fayed family will help her plan for the future. As for Mohamed Al-Fayed, he was excited about the idea of ​​a possible marriage between Diana and Dodi, as “it was the perfect trophy for him,” said TV producer Michael Atwell.

At about 5:30 pm, Dodi Al-Fayed left the Ritz and was taken to the jeweler Repossi. Here he bought an engagement ring, because of which his father Muhammad claimed that he later fell victim to an assassination attempt: “He was determined to marry her,” Cole recalls: “More than once, Dodi said to me, she was the only, woman for life.” On the other hand, the relationship with Dodi was just a “summer romance,” as her boyfriend Derek Dean said.

Princess Diana wasn’t hiding

Whatever the relationship between the two, the foundation stone was laid in the spring of 1997: at an event in London, Mohamed Al-Fayed invited Diana and her sons for a summer vacation in Saint-Tropez. Despite the paparazzi’s warning, she assumed, “I think she was about to do something, and it wasn’t about getting the boys off,” predicted Dean.

Diana was not in hiding, on the contrary: she aroused the curiosity of the British press with ambiguous advertisements. She wanted to overshadow Camila’s birthday party. Successfully: When a French photographer accidentally released Diana and Dodi’s famous kiss on his yacht Jonikal, the photo dominated the front pages. It was the beginning of the end: “From then on, the two opened up,” Cole says, “and they’ve been pursued to the day they died.”

The contrasting love-hate relationship that Diana had with the press also prompted her to one of her last phone calls, which she made from the Ritz on the day she died: She noticed a car, informed her friend the fortune teller. Rita Rogers. I followed them on the way from the airport to the hotel. This was not the first time the princess had feared for her safety: her servant Paul Borrell recalled a message she had left for him before her death in the documentary: “She had written: The coming months are the hardest of my life. I fear my husband is planning a car accident. I’m supposed to die from a head injury so he can get married again. And I said to myself: No, never!”

Princess Diana considered emigrating to America

Diana’s paranoia went to such an extent that she no longer trusted her professional bodyguards from the London police. “At the end of 1993 I gave up the guard completely, a fateful decision,” the film said. Instead, she and Dodi relied on two of Mohamed al-Fayed’s bodyguards, who, at least that’s what the documents suggest, were overwhelmed with dealing with the press.

After a short phone call with her sons, Diana finally called her friend, journalist Richard Kay. Kaye recalled in the documentary that she was worried about British headlines. Her relationship with Al Fayed and her political involvement were not well received in the United Kingdom. During her phone call with Kay, Diana considered immigrating to America: “She seemed ready for a big change,” Kay said.

At about 7 pm, Dodi and Diana left the hotel through the back entrance to drive to Dodi’s apartment nearby. There they wanted to change for dinner. When they left the apartment around 9:35 p.m., the paparazzi followed them. The bodyguards did not know where to go. This was a huge mistake, said the head of Royal Personal Security, Dai Davies. The fact that they spontaneously changed their plans and rushed back to the Ritz to eat made matters worse: “To the jeweler, then back to the Ritz, then to the apartment, then the plan to go to the restaurant: the one who has it was impossible to do safely for a few of the people,” Davis criticized.

The diversion maneuver should protect Diana from the press

Shortly after 10 p.m., Chief of Security Henri Paul was ordered back to the Ritz. At the hotel bar, he and two bodyguards waited for further instructions. Paul, who was regularly taking various medications, allowed himself two alcoholic drinks. Subsequent analysis should determine 1.83 per thousand alcohol. Meanwhile, Dodi decided to return to the apartment. The diversion maneuver should protect Diana from the press. For the princess’s former bodyguard, Ken Wharf, the idea was crazy: “Why the maneuver? Diana is not in danger of being killed just because the paparazzi want a picture of her. After all, engagement or marriage can be imminent. Give them a chance! She always goes through the door.” Front only!”

Instead, Dodi decided to start with Diana in an unattended car from the back exit of the hotel, while two other cars at the main entrance acted to the attention of journalists. Henry Paul was supposed to drive with Dodi and Diana, bodyguard Trevor Rhys-Jones decided to accompany them. Drunken Paul is said to have provoked the paparazzi even more: “Don’t even try to follow us! He shouted ‘You can’t get us.’ He didn’t know that the Mercedes car taken to the scene was an accident vehicle that was not allowed to drive faster than 60 km/h. In At 12:24 am, fleeing the paparazzi at 160 km/h, he lost control of the car and crashed into the thirteenth column in the Alma Tunnel. None of the passengers were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident. This was another failure of the bodyguard, Davis said.

The final quarter of the documentary is finally devoted to the first hours after the devastating accident: emergency physician Frederick Miles remembers how he initially helped Diana and then Trevor Rhys-Jones, the accident’s sole survivor. The utterly devastated images of Warck were heard as emergency services pulled both of them out of the car before Diana’s heart stopped and she died at 4:05 AM. Diana’s chauffeur, Colin Thibaut, and her butler, Paul Burrell, were sent to Paris.

Diana’s body was in a normal hospital room at the time. They protected the windows from the prying eyes of the paparazzi with makeshift sheets. Fans were also prepared to face the heat: “Her hair is moving, her eyelashes are trembling,” the animated Burrell vividly recalls: “I told her, ‘You see, you’re just sleeping! But she did not sleep. You imagine it because you want to believe it.”

The film ended with images of sad people, accompanied by Elton John’s final musical salute, “Candle in the Wind.” It was said that Mohamed Al Fayed never admitted complicity in the death of his son and the Princess of Wales. Instead, he attacked the royal family. However, several investigations by the British and French sides eventually revealed, as the documentary concluded, that Diana’s death was a tragic accident.

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