August 11: paparazzi expose the relationship

What Were You Doing When ...?

The end began in the Mediterranean - and it began as it was to end.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 30, 1997: Princess Diana, ex-wife of the heir to the British throne, and Dodi Fayed, eldest son of the millionaire businessman, Mohamed Al Fayed, had intended finishing their holiday on Sardinia.

The morning found them again being pestered by the paparazzi.

There was an unpleasant encounter with two photographers while the couple were swimming near the Al Fayed yacht Jonikal, moored off the Costa Smeralda.

They decided to go to Paris for a last evening together before the Princess flew back to England to spend some time with her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, before her first scheduled public engagement of the autumn, on Thursday.

Rosa Monckton
Rosa Monckton: long-time friend in whom Diana confided this summer

The constant attention of the photographers in Sardinia was a blight on what was, according to her friends, one of the happiest periods of Princess Diana's life.

Rosa Monckton had spent time with her in Greece in August, after news emerged that Princess Diana and Mr Fayed were spending a lot of time together.

At Dodi Fayed's suggestion, they travelled to Athens in a Gulfstream jet in the green and gold colours of the Harrods department store in London, owned by Mohamed Al Fayed.

Ms Monckton said later: "It was summer, she was a free woman, she was just having a good time.

"She was happy; very happy, and relaxed, and having a good time - and goodness knows she deserved it."

Diana on Panorama
"It's not a matter of self-pity"

Relatives of Dodi Fayed have gone further. A London-based Arabic newspaper quoted Hussein Yassin, the brother of Mr Fayed's stepfather, as saying: "Dodi said that they were deeply in love and that the relationship was serious and they have decided to get married."

But for now, if that was the case, it was private.

Princess Diana had come to detest these 'snappers'. In her interview with the BBC's Panorama programme in November 1995, she said there had been a working relationship with the photographers.

"But now I can't tolerate it because it has become abusive. It's harassment," she said.

Diana and Dodi Fayed (far right) boarding the plane in Sardinia - Reuters TV

So the couple - as they had become - abandoned the sea and the sun and flew from Olba airport to France in the Harrods jet, leaving at lunchtime.

It did not take long for word of the arrival at 3.20pm local time of the distinctive Gulfstream at Le Bourget airport, outside Paris, to vibrate in the web of paparazzi contacts.

The couple, accompanied by a bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, left in a Mercedes for Villa Windsor, the former home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, now owned by Mohamed Al Fayed.

They were taken by one of the Al Fayed drivers, Philippe Dourneau. A Range Rover followed, driven by Henri Paul, assistant director of security at the Ritz Hotel, also owned by Mr Al Fayed. The cars were pursued by photographers.

The Harrods spokesman, Michael Cole, has said that at one point, a dark car tried to slow down the Mercedes by braking in front of it to enable the paparazzi on motorcycles to catch up. Eventually, the Mercedes and Range Rover both passed it, and Mr Paul slowed down to block the path of the photographers.

At 3.45pm they arrived at the Windsor place in the Bois de Boulogne, west of Paris. Dodi Fayed gave Diana a guided tour of the house and garden. Then they set off for the Ritz.