A flurry of tell-all books and documentaries announce the 25-year anniversary of the tragic death of Princess Diana. One such book, written by one of Diana’s bodyguards, suggests that the princess was shaken by the murder of Gianni Versace and expressed concerns that she might be next.
Versace, an Italian fashion designer and friend of Diana, was shot at point-blank range outside his home in Miami in July 1997. Diana, officially divorced from Prince Charles for more than a year, was vacationing for the summer with Egyptian film producer Dodi Al Fayed in Saint-Tropez when she heard of Versace’s murder.
News of how troubled Diana was by the murder of Versace comes from a new book titled “Protecting Diana: A Bodyguard’s Story.” In the memoir, author Lee Sansum, who served as a bodyguard for Diana the summer she died, recounts that during the summer of 1997 Diana spent much of her time on a yacht named the Jonikal.
Shortly after hearing of Versace’s death, Sansum writes that he spoke with Diana while the rest of the security team was having breakfast.
“I went to the stern of the boat,” Sansum recalled. “The princess was there in this quite large room with all the windows at the back. So you could see over the sea. She was the only one there, and she had her back to me. When I went in, I turned around, and she was crying.
“She came towards me, and she was talking about Versace. She was extremely upset. And then she was asking me what [I thought] had happened. I was speaking to her, trying to play it down a lot. And she was really, really tearful.”
Sansum said that Diana was distressed, and it was difficult to check his natural impulse to hug the princess. Sansum writes:
“But it was inappropriate, one, because of my position and two, she was a princess, and three, if the paparazzi had got a photograph through the window of me hugging the princess, could you imagine?” he said. “It would have been horrible for her. It [would have] been horrible for me. So against all my instincts, I kind of backed off.”
Sansum reports that Diana then asked a pointed question:
“She asked me, ‘Do you think they’re going to kill me?'”
Sansum writes: “Diana was very, very concerned about the potential risks to her life at that time. I said, ‘You’re safe here. You’ve got great security. We’re not going to let anything happen to you.’ [I] just tried to give her some confidence that she was safe. … She stopped crying, but she was really upset … [And] I made a quick exit.”
Sansum wrote that Diana did not put on airs and acted “as a normal person, just like you and I,” which proved to be “a breath of fresh air.”
However, Sansum noted in an interview with Fox News, the paparazzi did not think she was a “normal person” and would sometimes swarm the yacht:
“It was a very complex and complicated situation. The paparazzi at the time could do pretty much whatever they wanted. … Some of the pictures the paparazzi took of her would sell for a million euros. So there was a lot at stake for the paparazzi.
“It wasn’t particularly the photographs that we were frightened of because they were going to take photographs wherever you go, but it was the volume of the paparazzi and the measures that they were prepared to [take] and follow us, to hound us … and get as close as they can.”
“It was just crazy,” Sansum continued. “There were hundreds of them around us. We could see boats everywhere. There was even a helicopter going over just to try and get a shot. … The princess was used to all of this, but we weren’t.
“Mohamed Al Fayed was a very high-profile person in the UK, so we were used to having the press around us, but they took it to the next level. When we were on the jet skis, they were also on the sea … It was dangerous at times. There were times when I had to say, ‘You can’t go out today.’
“We did our best to ensure that everybody had a nice holiday.”
According to Sansum, Diana desperately tried to escape the constant harassment of the paparazzi and seriously considered relocating to the United States where she could “get away from it all.”
“Dodi had a place out in California. We were under the impression that’s where she was going. Not necessarily to stay with him but in the same area. Prior to the trip, we understood that there would be work out there as well. I put my name down to go to the states. I’ve got a lot of family in the states. I thought it’d be a great opportunity for me to go there.
“She spoke to me about moving to the states. She said that the press hated her in the UK. She didn’t know why, but in the states, people loved her there, the press loved her there. She felt safe there. She felt welcomed there. And that’s where she had to go.
“I then asked her, ‘What about the boys? Will you be able to take them with you?’ She said, ‘No, they will never let me do that. I’ll just have to see them during school time, school holidays, vacations, things like that.'”
Shortly after the conclusion of his security assignment in Saint-Tropez, Sansum writes that he received a letter from Diana, thanking him for helping to keep her and her sons safe.
Princess Diana died in a car crash while being chased by paparazzi about one month later. Sansum writes that he was shocked and saddened by the news but does not believe any of the conspiracy theories that have emerged over the years.
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