Journalist who was one of the first to arrive at the scene of Princess Diana’s fatal car crash in Paris 24 years ago claims he had to ‘decode’ news of her condition from French authorities
An ex-journalist who reported from Paris the night Princess Diana died claimed he had to ‘decode’ news of the late Princess of Wales’ condition from the French authorities.
Prince William and Harry’s late mother was killed on August 31 in 1997 aged 36, with Tuesday marking 24 years since the fatal car crash in Paris.
But according to ex-Paris correspondent Kevin Connolly, who was one of the first journalists at the scene, the actual sense that Diana had died came ‘quite slowly.’
‘[We were] very cautiously listening to the French authorities and trying to decode what they were telling us,’ he said, speaking to The Express. ‘The police were being very careful about the stories they released.’
Ex-Paris correspondent Kevin Connolly who reported from Paris the night Princess Diana died claimed he had to ‘decode’ news of the late Princess of Wales’ condition from the French authorities. Pictured, attending the ‘Superman IV’ film premiere in London in July 1987
A French police expert working on the wreckage of Princess Diana’s car in the Alma tunnel of Paris on 31 August 1997
‘The initial word from police and hospital sources were “yes, it’s the Princess of Wales, yes, she has been injured” but there’s no sense at the small hours of the morning that she was perhaps fatally injured.
On reflection, the journalist believes the French authorities were ‘horrified’ at having to deal with such a big tragedy.
‘They were aware of the global scale of what will be the reaction – they were aware of the global intensity of interest,’ he added.
It wasn’t until seven years after the crash that Sir John Stevens, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, was asked to investigate several questions.
Pictured: The long awaited bronze statue was unveiled at a special ceremony last month attended by her sons Prince William and Prince Harry at Kensington Palace’s Sunken Garden
These included – was Diana pregnant at the time of her death? Did the blood sample attributed to Henri Paul actually come from him? And was there any valid justification for the elimination of a white Fiat Uno car from involvement in the collision?
Connolly claimed how news of the royal’s tragic death was only filtered through to Paris through reporters on Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s flight in the Philippines.
Describing it as a ‘fairly fraught’ and ‘cautious’ evening, he recalled: ‘The night is a blur until that moment when the pips go at the start of a special programme and you are the person who has to say that the Princess of Wales has died.’
‘That single moment is probably the one I remember best from my whole very long life in broadcasting.’
The Princess ff Wales and Princes William and Harry attend The Vj Day 50th Anniversary celebrations in London
A statue of Diana, Princess of Wales will be specially opened to well-wishers to mark the first anniversary of her death since the long-awaited memorial was unveiled.
Due to the pandemic, Kensington Palace and its gardens are operating reduced opening days and are usually only accessible to the public from Wednesday to Sunday.
But Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) said special arrangements had been made to allow visitors to view the statue from the Cradle Walk around the Sunken Garden where it stands from 3pm to 5pm on Tuesday.
The bronze tribute was finally revealed by the Duke of Cambridge and Duke of Sussex together – despite their troubled relationship – at a ceremony last month on what would have been their mother’s 60th birthday.
A spokesman for HRP said: ‘We acknowledge that there will be interest in viewing the statue on that day.
‘So we will be providing access to the Cradle Walk which is essentially the beautiful walkway around the Sunken Garden.
‘We will be opening that up, freely available, for passers-by or anybody who wants to stop and take a moment on that Tuesday, specially for the anniversary.’
Entry to the Cradle Walk will be free and does not need to be booked, but well-wishers will not be able to leave flowers at the base of the statue nor approach it.