Aug. 30 (UPI) — It’s been 25 years since a car crash in Paris killed Princess Diana, her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and their driver, Henri Paul, shocking the world and launching discussions about the role of paparazzi in the British royal family’s lives.
The crash on Aug. 31, 1997, prompted a slew of investigations, lawsuits and even conspiracy theories.
Here’s a look back at the events leading up to the crash and its aftermath:
Early summer 1997 — Diana, princess of Wales, ended her two-year relationship with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan and began dating Fayed, an Egyptian film producer. The couple had been dating for several weeks at the time of their deaths.
During the inquest into the car crash, Diana’s friend, Rosa Monckton, told authorities Diana viewed her relationship with Fayed as “a distraction” because she was still “deeply upset and hurt” by the breakup with Khan. Fayed’s family believed the two planned to get married.
Last week of August 1997 — Mohamed al-Fayed, Dodi Fayed’s billionaire businessman father, hosted his son, Diana and her two children — Prince William and Prince Harry, then 15 and 12, respectively — aboard his yacht, the Jonikal. The party spent nine days aboard the vessel touring the Mediterranean.
The holiday was the subject of intense media attention, with paparazzi jockeying to get photos of the new couple as they swam and enjoyed the sun.
Afternoon of Aug. 30, 1997 — Diana and Dodi Fayed flew to France from Sardinia, where she planned to spend a last day before returning to Britain to be with her sons. As they left the Olba airport in Paris, the couple were pursued by paparazzi, who tried to slow them down to snap photos.
Evening of Aug. 30, 1997 — The couple planned to have dinner at Chez Benoit, but after again being pursued by photographers, they instead decided to go to the Ritz Hotel — which Mohamed al-Fayed owned.
Just after midnight, Aug. 31, 1997 — After dinner, Diana and Dodi Fayed tried to ditch the paparazzi by slipping out the back of the hotel and leaving in a different vehicle. Paul, who had been drinking, purportedly because he thought his evening was over, drove the Mercedes, attempting to lose the photographers who spotted them despite the decoy.
The vehicle was traveling about 65 mph when Paul lost control, striking another vehicle and a pillar supporting the Pont de l’Alma underpass.
Dodi Fayed and Paul were declared dead at the scene, while Diana and Trevor Rees-Jones were transported to the hospital. Surgeons at Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris said they worked to save Diana for 2 hours, but she died from severe internal injuries, particularly to her heart.
Police took into custody seven of the photographers who chased after Fayed and Diana.
Evening of Aug. 31 — Britain’s Prince Charles and Diana’s sisters, Sarah McCorquodale and Jane Fellowes, accompanied the return of the princess’ body to Britain, where she was taken to a mortuary and eventually to the chapel at St. James’ Palace.
Sept. 6, 1997 — Though she divorced Prince Charles and lost her royal title one year prior, Diana received a royal ceremonial funeral at Westminster Abbey. Celebrities, world leaders and other dignitaries were among the 2,000 people who attended the service.
British singer Elton John, a close friend of Diana’s, reworked and performed his hit “Candle in the Wind” at the funeral. Later sales of the single benefited charities supported by Diana.
She was buried on an island in a lake at Althorp Park, her family’s estate.
Oct. 3, 1997 — Rees-Jones — who underwent a 10-hour operation and spent more than a month in the hospital in Paris to be treated for injuries to his face, head and arm — returned home to Britain. He said he was unable to remember anything from the crash, but later wrote about the incident in the book The Bodyguard’s Story: Diana, the Crash, and the Sole Survivor, published in 2000.
September 1999 — A French probe of the crash determined that Paul was to blame for the crash because he was driving twice the speed limit while under the influence of alcohol and anti-depressant drugs. Though the report criticized the behavior of the photographers following the Mercedes, it said they were nonetheless not responsible for the crash because they had been following at a distance. Manslaughter charges against member of the paparazzi were eventually dropped.
Feb. 22, 2006 — Three members of the paparazzi, though, were convicted of violating Diana and Fayed’s privacy at the time of the crash.
April 7, 2008 — A British inquest concluded that the couple were unlawfully killed and that Paul and members of the paparazzi contributed to their deaths. The coroner behind the inquest said the gross negligence amounted to manslaughter.