Sunday, July 25, 2021

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Princess Diana delayed UK return from France

Princess Diana delayed her return to the UK from France before her death to avoid “hassle” over her anti-landmine campaign.

The late princess – who died in a car crash in Paris on 31 August, 1997 – had been due to arrive back in London on 28 August, 1997, but made a last-minute decision to extend her trip by three days because she was upset at the negative attention her call for the devices to be banned had attracted, her former driver and minder Colin Tebbutt has revealed.

Colin told the Daily Mail newspaper: “She didn’t come back on the Thursday as scheduled because the Tories were having a go at her again over landmines. She was accused of using the campaign to boost her own image, which was nasty and upset her.

“So she contacted us and said she didn’t want all the hassle that would be waiting for her in the UK. She would return at the weekend instead.

“If she had come back that Thursday…maybe we’d all be alive still today.”

Diana had called for landmines to be banned the previous January following a visit to Angola, but Conservative defence minister Earl Howe had accused her of being a “loose cannon” and “ill-informed on the issue of anti-personnel landmines.”

And in August 1997 when holidaying with boyfriend Dodi Fayed – who died in the same accident – Diana gave an interview to a French newspaper and was asked about the UK’s landmine police.

In reference to the ousted Conservative government, she reportedly replied: “The former one was so hopeless” and said she felt Tony Blair’s Labour were “going to do terrific work”, prompting further criticism.

Colin recalled how difficult it could be to get Diana out of her Kensington Palace residence unseen.

He said: “There are four gates at Kensington Palace and the photographers were at every one of them every day, waiting, watching.

“It was cat and mouse all the time. I always had a plan, but sometimes I wouldn’t know where we were going until she got in the car and told me. No GPS then, but I knew London like the back of my hand.

“If we were to get to Battersea unseen, we would have to do a bit of planning. So I got this antique, battered old Volvo, which you wouldn’t look at twice in the street.

“‘When we were ready I sent her regular car out by one gate and a second decoy car out by another to draw off the paparazzi. Then I got the boss to get in the back of the Volvo and covered her with a blanket and hung up two of my suits (to block) the rear windows.”

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