Crowd lays flowers down after Princess Diana death
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Tomorrow will mark the 24th anniversary of the Princess of Wales’ death, aged 36, from injuries sustained in a Paris car crash. Diana was being driven home from a restaurant with boyfriend Dodi Fayed when their driver lost control of the vehicle at the Pont de l’Alma tunnel and crashed. The princess’ statue, commissioned and unveiled by her sons Prince William and Prince Harry last month, will be made accessible to the public between 3pm and 5pm tomorrow to mark the occasion.
Well-wishers will be allowed to visit the statue, situated on the Cradle Walk of Kensington Gardens, despite it usually being only accessible to the public from Wednesday to Sunday due to the pandemic.
Diana’s death triggered an outpouring of grief across the globe, while some figures claim her funeral was watched by an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide.
Former BBC Paris correspondent Kevin Connolly, who was one of the first journalists on-the-scene the night of the accident, claimed he was having to “decode” news of the Princess’ condition from the French authorities.
Mr Connolly told Express.co.uk: “People were being extraordinarily cautious.
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“The actual sense that Diana had died came only quite slowly.
“[We were] very cautiously listening to the French authorities and trying to decode what they were telling us.
“The police were being very careful about the stories they released.
“The initial word from police and hospital sources were ‘yes, it’s the Princess of Wales, yes, she has been injured’ but there’s no sense at the small hours of the morning that she was perhaps fatally injured.
“Looking back my sense is that the French authorities were horrified at having to deal with this.
“They were aware of the global scale of what will be the reaction – they were aware of the global intensity of interest.”
According to Mr Connolly, and various Reuters and Sky reporters also at the scene, news of Diana’s death was only filtered through to Paris via reporters on Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s flight in the Philippines.
Mr Cook, who passed away in 2005, never confirmed how the news of the Princess of Wales’ death broke.
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Mr Connolly said: “[It was] a fairly fraught evening, very cautious.
“I was going to and from the scene to collect information, to try and find eye witnesses, to try and find anyone who can give a real sense of what has happened.
“The night is a blur until that moment when the pips go at the start of a special programme and you are the person who has to say that the Princess of Wales has died.”
Despite being a veteran reporter who had worked for the BBC on the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism, Mr Connolly claimed announcing Diana’s death was the most memorable moment of his career.
He said: “That single moment is probably the one I remember best from my whole very long life in broadcasting.
“[I knew] the responsibility of that moment and the sense of the shock in which it will be received by the people getting up very early in the morning.
“You feel the weight of responsibility on your shoulders as an individual.”
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