Marilyn Z Tomlins
August 1997 the world media, especially the British nationals, had just one lead story.
Tabloids like the Daily Mail, Mirror and The People, even broadsheets like The Times, kept calling their correspondents for updates: the editors did not want to miss anything.
The story was: Princess Diana, divorced from Prince Charles heir to the British throne, had a new boyfriend. No – lover!
His name made hair stand on end.
It was Emad El-Din Mohamed Abdel Moneim Fayed.
Known, he was, as Dodi.
Dodi was an Arab and thus a Moslem. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1955, the son of Mohamed Al-Fayed, one of the United Kingdom’s wealthiest men and of Samira Kashoggi, sister of billionaire arms dealer Adnan Kashoggi.
Di – this was how everyone had called her affectionately and how I will also call her in this piece, doing so without disrespect- had been openly dating since her divorce from Prince Charles, the heir to the throne in August 1996. One such man had been a rugby player, another a Pakistani doctor.
Then Dodi had whisked her off her feet.
“He has all the toys,” she had confided in a friend.
All that summer, 21 years ago, her every move was reported in the media.
That July she and her sons – William and Harry – had holidayed with Dodi’s father, his second wife and their children, at the Fayed’s luxurious villa at St.Tropez.
Such a holiday was a little odd seeing that Mohamed Al-Fayed was a hated man: hated, that is, by the British who had even been refusing him citizenship for years.
William (15) and Harry (13) seemed to enjoy themselves. So did Di. She was 36 years of age.
Already having met Dodi, Di, on this July stay with the Fayeds, had got to know the young film producer better. He was engaged to an American model, Kelly Fisher. She would in the weeks to come phone him from her home in the States, and shout: “Don’t you fuck with me, Dodi! You flew her down to St Tropez and were seeing her all day and fucking me by night!” On that first stay of Diana with the Fayeds, Kelly Fisher was also down in St Tropez but Dodi had kept her out of sight on his yacht the Cujo, while he helped his father entertain Di and her sons, taking them yachting on Al-Fayed’s larger and luxurious yacht, the Jonical.
That August 1997 started and Di was back in London, alone, as her boys were continuing to holiday with the royal family at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
On the 7th of that month of August, the London media curious to know what was up with Di and the disliked Al-Fayeds, stationed journalists and photographers outside Dodi’s apartment on London’s Park Lane. They hit bull’s eye because that evening Di arrived and did not again step from the apartment until 1 a.m.
Later that day, Di flew to Bosnia on her anti-personnel landmine campaign.
On Friday, August 15, back in London, she and a friend flew to Greece for a holiday. The two women flew to Greece in Mohamed Al-Fayed’s Gulfstream IV jet.
Dodi was in the States. The rumour was that he had gone to find a place for him and Di to make their home: they were going to get married.
On Thursday, August 21, again back in London, Di, and Dodi, back from the States, returned to St Tropez: they flew in the Gulfstream from London.
It was then that the editors really went mad for news about the romance. No one doubted that Di and Dodi were having an affair.
The couple cruised the Mediterranean on the Jonikal, only the two of them, and on Saturday, August 30, they flew into Paris, again on the Gulfstream.
They were to spend some days in Paris, in Mohamed Al-Fayed’s luxury hotel, the Paris Ritz.
That night of August 30, just before midnight, the two, back-seat passengers in a Mercedes S 300 of which the owner was a car-hire company which, as would be reported belonged to the Ritz Hotel and had just one client – the hotel, set off from the hotel.
The rest is history.
At 12.30, the Mercedes crashed into a pillar in Paris’s Pont Alma tunnel, the couple on their way to the apartment of Mohamed Al-Fayed on Rue Arsène-Houssaye at the foot of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe, to spend the night there.
Dodi was instantly dead, Di was still alive, first medics trying to revive her in the tunnel after her heart had stopped, then doctors doing so at Paris’s Petié–Salpêtrière Hospital.
On Sunday, August 31, at 4 a.m. the hospital issued a statement that Di had died.
Twenty-two years have passed, but Di is still remembered, still spoken of. Still adored.
Marilyn Z Tomlins is a crime writer based in Paris,France