Guard: Diana Conscious After Crash
By John Burgess
LONDON, March 2 Bit by bit, his memory is returning. Trevor Rees-Jones, the bodyguard who survived the crash that killed Diana, Princess of Wales, has told a newspaper here that he remembers hearing her calling out her boyfriend Dodi Fayed's name just after the impact.
"I have had flashes of a female voice calling out in the back of the car," Rees-Jones was quoted as telling the Mirror newspaper in his first press interview since Diana's death last August. "First it's a groan. Then Dodi's name is called. It could only have been Princess Diana. I was conscious and so was she."
His account appeared amid other developments in the story Britain can't leave behind: Diana's executors published her will, which leaves the bulk of a $35.8 million estate in trust to her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. And Dodi Fayed's father, Harrods department store owner Mohamed Al Fayed, submitted to arrest and questioning at a London police station in connection with a criminal action brought by a business rival. He was released later on bail, with no charges filed against him.
From the moment it became clear that Rees-Jones, who was in the front passenger seat of the Mercedes, would survive, police hoped he would help sort out culpability for the crash, notably the role that pursuing photographers might have played. But on recovering, he told investigators he had no memory of the accident.
Rees-Jones, 29, who suffered massive injuries to his face, has garnered wide sympathy among people here as a decent man under tremendous pressure. He remains in the employ of Mohamed Fayed, as he was the night of the crash.
Diana's condition immediately after the impact has been the subject of much debate. By some accounts she was unconscious; by others she murmured, "Leave me alone" to people who drew near. Rees-Jones's comments bolster the second theory.
He also said that two cars and a motorbike pursued the Mercedes as it left the Ritz Hotel in Paris. "One seemed to be a white car with a boot [trunk] which opened at the back and had two doors," he said. French police had shown him photos of a white Fiat Uno like one they believe collided with the Mercedes in the tunnel, but Rees-Jones said, "I can't help much with that kind of detail."
Of the Mercedes' driver, Henri Paul, whose autopsy found more than three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, Rees-Jones said, "I had no reason to suspect he was drunk. He did not look or sound like he had been drinking. He just seemed his normal self. ... He sat at the bar drinking some yellow liquid that I assumed was nonalcoholic."
Some reports have said Paul was drinking pastis, a yellowish aniseed-based aperitif popular in France.
William Bourdon, a French lawyer representing one of the photographers in the case, declined comment on the interview. "What will be interesting is what he will say to the judge" in France, Bourdon said.
Rees-Jones says that based on his new memories, he wants to meet again with the judge investigating the crash. Much of his account as published today matched leaked reports of his earlier statements to the judge.
In other developments today, lawyers representing Diana's executors took the unusual step of publishing her will due to the intense public interest. The estate, consisting mainly of stock, jewelry, cash and belongings in London's Kensington Palace, her last residence, rang up at $35.8 million, of which about $14.4 million was paid in estate and personal tax.
Her two sons will get the majority of the estate when they turn 30. Other beneficiaries include her 17 godchildren, who are to receive things such as a watercolor painting and coffee set as keepsakes, and her former butler, Paul Burrell, who is to get $82,500.
Diana's wedding dress and other clothing and her "intellectual property rights" essentially her likeness and name on products are to be used for the benefit of charity or her sons.
Mohamed Fayed's arrest and questioning today grew out of an action that London tycoon Roland "Tiny" Rowland brought against him in December, alleging that Fayed conspired to steal things from a safe deposit box that Rowland maintained in Fayed's Harrods department store. A spokesman for Fayed told the Press Association, Britain's domestic news service, that the allegations were false.
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