8th March 1998
Stay cool in Grand style
By special arrangement with Asia Features
Trevor Rees-Jones, Dodi Al-Fayed's bodyguard, the sole survivor of the tragic accident in which Princess Diana and Dodi died, is recovering. Here he speaks to Piers Morgan
Back to Paris on the night of August 30. Back into the Mercedes as it sped towards the tunnel from the Ritz Hotel. As it crashed. The most dramatic flashback Trevor Rees-Jones, Dodi Al-Fayed's bodyguard has been experiencing involves Princess Diana.
He chooses his words with extreme precision. This is not a man who wants to embellish, who wants to exaggerate, who wants to distort what he sees as the truth.
Trevor knows that his memory could solve one of the greatest riddles of the 20th Century. He does not want to make a mistake.
Staring intently ahead, he says firmly; I am starting to remember more and more.
"To start with I couldn't remember a thing, and the doctors weren't sure if I would ever remember. I had amnesia, everything was just a blank.
"But now it is coming back.
"I get these sudden flashes of memory. They are small, and don't last very long. The pyschiatrist calls them windows of memory.
"I don't recall the actual moment of collision at all, but I do recall being in the vehicle immediately after the crash.
"I have had flashes of a female voice calling out in the back of the car.
"First it's a groan. And then Dodi's name is called.
"I don't remember if it is over and over again. But I do remember a voice calling out Dodi's name. And that can only be Princess Diana's voice.
"I was obviously in a very bad state myself, but I was conscious. As far as I consider there were only two people conscious in the vehicle.
"I know for a fact I was one of them because I have seen my medical report.
"And I've also seen reports of people who arrived on the scene.
Princess Diana was the other one who was conscious. Unfortunately the other two people were dead. Listening to this sensational testimony is an astonishing experience.
After all the speculation, all the hype, all the wild accusations and claims and counter claims, here at last is the word of the one man who is really in a position to know.
The one man who was there, in the car. And who was conscious.
If Trevor's memory is true, and psychiatrists believe that it is, then it supports Mohammed Al Fayed's claim that Diana was able to speak after the crash. That it is possible she was able to utter the last words that Mr. Al Fayed says were passed on to him by a nurse at the hospital.
It will also lead to renewed concern about whether more could have been done to save her life by the emergency services-who have always insisted she was knocked unconscious by the force of the collision and never regained consciousness. Trevor is not trying to impress me. He knows the significance of what he is saying.
He has no memory of Diana saying anything else. He just has repeated flashbacks of her being conscious. Trevor passes every detail of his recollection onto the investigators in France - who cling to every fragment, desperate for anything that might help them solve the mystery of what happened in that tunnel.
Trevor doesn't know what caused the Mercedes to crash, but he does recall some fascinating details of what led up to it. He remembers disagreeing with Dodi over the best way to leave the hotel. He remembers Henri Paul returning to the Ritz of his own volition and reaching agreement with Dodi that he should drive the fateful car. He remembers spending two hours in the hotel with Paul and another bodyguard. He remembers leaving from the Ritz and being pursued by two cars and a motorbike. Crucially he recalls that one of the cars was white, possibly the elusive Fiat Uno police are still hunting.
Trevor is frustrated he can't remember the exact circumstances of what happened. But he is also angry. Angry at suggestions he acted unprofessionally, by allowing Henri Paul to drive while drunk and that he didn't force Diana and Dodi to wear seatbelts.
Trevor reveals the events of that night as he remembers them, pausing to ensure he does not say anything other than what factual, as his memory tells him happened.
He is aware that some will think he might be tempted to conveniently distort that memory to support what his boss Mr. Al Fayed has already said.
The suggestion deeply offends him. Trevor Rees - Jones does not lie for anyone. He is a man of principle.
He says: 'I am simply saying what happened as I believe it so that people know what I know.
'A lot of things have been said by certain media that have been wrong and insulting to my professional reputation.
'It is a very easy thing for people to look back on what happened and say this was wrong and that was wrong, but obviously we don't live in an ideal world. I do not believe that I acted irresponsibly at all.
'I knew Henri Paul from the other times I had met him at the Ritz.
'My impression of him was that he was a professional man who knew what he was doing.
'I had seen him drive the car behind me from the airport on the afternoon of the day before the accident and I saw nothing that said he was a poor driver.
'He seemed perfectly competent to me. He was driving the backup car and I checked fairly regularly and both another member of the security team, Kes Wingfield and I were very satisfied with what we saw.
How Paul came to be driving again that night is a story of circumstance and a fascinating insight into the relationship between bodyguard and the boss.'
Trevor reveals; My assessment of the situation when Dodi wanted to leave the Ritz with Diana was that we should go in two cars driving in tandem. There were a lot of photographers and tourists and I thought that would be the quickest way out.
'We had had a few problems earlier in the evening when the couple tried to eat their meal in the restaurant and photographers were upsetting them a bit. It would also give us a backup car behind the first Mercedes to put a bit of distance between us and whoever tried to follow. But the couple were not happy about that plan. Dodi preferred to leave through the back door with me and Henri Paul leaving the usual driver to go out the front as a decoy.
'We had travelled single driver for the previous two weeks in London with Diana and also in St Tropez and it had worked pretty well. So I didn't see the need to make a big issue out of it. I thought it would be better to have two cars, but Dodi was the boss. Henri Paul had returned to the hotel by now, after hearing that Diana and Dodi were there, and it was agreed he should drive the main car. I was relaxed about that because he was an experienced security man and very experienced at driving in Paris - which I was not at all.'
Paul joined Trevor and Kes Wingfield.Trevor recalls; there was absolutely nothing untoward about his behaviour. "If there had been. Kes or I would have picked up on it straight away. That is what we are trained to do. But he seemed perfectly normal to both of us.
"He sat at the bar drinking some yellow liquid that I assumed was nonalcoholic.' In fact it was pastis, an aniseed-based aperatif popular in France. He spent most of the time talking to Kes about work matters, while I kept a look out for Dodi and Diana on the staircase. They had gone up to the Imperial Suite for a bit of privacy.
'As far as I was concerned he was on duty and that was that.
'I had no reason to suspect he was drunk. He did not look or sound like he had been drinking.
'I can state quite categorically that he was not a hopeless drunk as some have tried to suggest. I remember that part of the evening clearly and he was fine. I like to think I have enough nose and intelligence to see if the guy was plastered or not and he wasn't. I was quite happy with the situation.
He says; 'I can recall that we were being followed as we headed for the apartment.
'There were two cars and a motorbike, one seemed to be a white car with a boot which opened at the back and three doors.'
Trevor was the only person wearing a seatbelt when the Mercedes crashed - yet witnesses say he was NOT wearing one when the car left the Ritz.
He does not know why he switched or when. Again, his memory of this detail could be vitally important. He says; 'In general, in town, I don't wear a seatbelt unless the speed warrants it. I can't explain why I was the only one wearing a belt, or why I put it on because I can't remember. But the final say on whether Dodi and Diana wore belts would have been down to them. I can only recommend it you can't make someone wear a belt if they don't want to.
Trevor appears worn out by what he has just discussed. He has never spoken publicly about any of this, least of all to a journalist.
The future for Trevor Rees-Jones is uncertain both professionally and personally. He has been guaranteed a job for life by Mohammed Al Fayed, who he says has been 'fantastic' in looking after him and his family. He has nearly won the physical battle, through sheer grit and hard work and determination. But I suspect the mental battle will be more difficult to overcome. He is clearly very deeply affected by what happened to him that night and to the people he knew well and liked. For Trevor Rees-Jones the road ahead is uncertain. But he knows life will never be the same again.
Trevor Rees-Jones' injuries were severe but not life-threatening. Witnesses described how he lay in the front passenger seat conscious with half his face ripped off and hanging loose.
The anonymous passer-by told detectives; "I told him not to panic, help was on its way. He looked at me and struggled but could say nothing.
"He was in a bad way - he was hard to look at. Another witness, Mark Butt, said Trevor was moaning in agony as he was cut free from the car.
Ironically, he looked the most damaged of all the four people in the car yet he was the one who survived.
He talks of his injuries in the way you would expect a former soldier to, dispassionately, matter-of-fact, almost bored. "Most of my face was fractured and badly broken.
My skull was fractured at the front and my jaw was dislocated, smashed and broken. I also cracked a vertebrae in my neck which has affected my right shoulder a bit.
drain in and it was OK. Early reports claimed he had lost his tongue and would never talk again. But as he speaks articulately and with just a tiny suggestion of an impediment, that was clearly exaggerated.
"My tongue was cut by my teeth but it's alright now. There's a little scar underneath it, that's all.' Miraculously, Trevor is on course to make a full recovery.
He says; I would say I am 80 per cent fit now. I've still got a few problems. "I have to have physiotherapy about two or three times a week but even that has been cut down now. I've got to visit the surgeon in Paris just for the final check-up as far as I know. But as you can see, I'm well enough to get back to work and perform a few light duties. The speed of his recovery has amazed doctors.
But this modest rather shy man won't have any talk of heroics. "Look, it's down to the kind of person you are really.
"If you are quite happy to sit around mooching in hospital for months on end and have all the attention on you then you are not going to get well as quickly as a person who doesn't want to feel self-pity and just wants to get up and get on with it. I've never been through anything like this before, you can't prepare for it obviously. But you can have the right attitude to recovery.'
Surgeons reconstructed Trevor's face with the aid of his wedding album of photographs."
"They think there are just a few bruised nerves down to the shoulder.
"It doesn't hurt too much, it's just that I dont have much power there. But they are sure that will come back.
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