A Damaged Man Has the Last Word on Diana
He was the silent of the storm that erupted after the violent death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The only survivor of the horrific crash in Paris, Trevor Rees-Jones would surely answer all the puzzling questions about that night in 1997. But apart from one tabloid interview that he instantly regretted, the 31-year-old bodyguard remained as enigmatic as the last fateful seconds locked irretrievably inside his head.
 The former paratrooper had suffered serious chest and head injuries, his face so badly disfigured that it was sewn back together after more than 20 metal splinters were removed. What hurt more, it seems, were the accusations about his role and the wild conspiracy theories made by his former employer, Mohamed al-Fayed, father of the deceased Dodi.
 Rees-Jones has now decided to break his silence by writing a book, The bodyguard’s Story, which gives his unalloyed account of the events leading up to the final “shambles”. It describes the bizarre Fayed menage. Crates of bottled water were taken to the family villa in St Tropez–the equivalent of coals to Newcastle. Fayed’s private Gulfstream jet transported five sacks of sand to Finland to make a beach for the Fayed children, only to be swept away.
 Although adamant that he is not cashing in on Diana’s death, Rees-Jones is submitting to a media hoopla because he is hard up. Denied compensation in France, facing legal bills and without long-term provision after his acrimonious parting from Fayed, the money has provided him with a two-bedroom house in Oswestry in Shropshire and some security.
 It has bought him no peace of mind. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he confesses he is plagued by the thought that Diana, Dodi and driver Henri Paul died _on my shift_ and that he would gladly have sacrificed his own life to save theirs. “If I could have died and those three survived, I could have done it,”_he says.
 Rees-Jones was one of 40 security men_ 16-stone nannies hired to guard the Fayed family and pander to their whims. A former squaddie with the Parachute Regiment in Northern Ireland, he was a useful rugby player whose tough looks and 6ft 2in frame belied a mild and stoical nature.
 This temperament was soon tested in his dealings with Fayed, whom he found to be a querulous employer insistent on perfection. Even for minor infractions, such as driving a junior Fayed in a car without air conditioning, the Egyptian would berate him: “Stupid donk, you stupid donkey. I don’t pay you to do this.”
 His main job was guarding Dodi, acting as his chauffeur, bodyguard and dogsbody. Although unaggressive and unfailingly polite, the Fayed heir was “a complete pain in the backside” with no concept of time-keeping, yet petulant at necessary delays.
 Rees-Jones spent most nights waiting for Dodi to emerge from restaurants or clubs, reflecting wryly that his boss could drink as much as he liked “Because I was there to make sure he didn’t fall over.”
 Dodi was no playboy, Rees-Jones concluded. He never saw him take cocaine and “he definitely wasn’t jumping into bed with a different girl every night.” Rather, he was a good listener who enjoyed female company, yet essentially an insecure child who had not grown up. However, the bodyguard confirms that Kelly Fisher, the American model who claimed she and Dodi were planning to marry, was “definitely his long-term girlfriend.”
 in his opinion. Diana and Dodi were an unlikely match–the quiet rich boy and the effervescent princess–but he discounts suggestions that Fayed had somehow forced them together, even though the Harrods boss preened because the romance cast him in a good light. “They talked all the time. Something did click with them that summer.”
 Rees-Jones was a player in the drama that grew from Diana’s holiday on the Fayed yacht with her sons to her very public interlude with Dodi under the lenses of the world’s paparazzi. To him, Diana was not a goddess but “the sort of woman you could take down the pub” and a loving mother to her sons. “She was really good with them–there were a lot of laughs. Not what you’d expect the royal family to he. They were less royal than the Fayeds.”
 By the second cruise, however, Rees-Jones was becoming alarmed and angry at the lack of response to his appeals to the Fayed ops moms in London for back-up. He had already complained about Dodi’s unpredictable behaviour and found himself working 18 hours a day. When he accompanied the couple to Paris on August 31, he was ready to resign over the gaps in security.
 That night he was kept in the dark when the couple booked into a restaurant. He nearly confronted them but refrained when the booking was cancelled and they went to the Ritz, Fayed’s hotel. By Rees-Jones’s account, after dinner Dodi announced his plan of subterfuge to avoid the paparazzi: Henri Paul would drive the couple to his apartment. They would leave alone by the back door without a bodyguard while Rees-Jones stationed himself as a decoy at the front.
 Rees-Jones was told the stratagem had been approved by Fayed in London–a claim the Harrods owner denies. Rees-Jones put his foot down, telling Dodi: “I’m f……coming with you.” He was behind the princess as the couple strode towards a waiting Mercedes.
 At this point, the sprockets of his memory claw at a blank reel. Postcrash amnesia has robbed him of the vital three or four minutes that preceded the crash in the Pont d’Alma tunnel and its aftermath, when he lay suspended between life and death. The car’s speed, other vehicles, the impact and the princess’s dying plight have all been erased.
 Among the “what ifs” is whether he could have dissuaded Dodi from embarking on the lunatic ride with a driver who was drunk and on pills. Rees-Jones believes Dodi would have countered his ultimatum by going alone with Diana. The bottom line was that Dodi paid his wages.
 When his parents brought him back to England, believing he was to be admitted to hospital for observation, he found himself being whisked to Fayed’s headquarters and interrogated by a panel of doctors. Due to his own perseverance, within six months he was back at Harrods. Fayed was solicitous, seeing him three or four times a week. “He’d get very emotional and end up crying half the time, and give you his theories on everything: it’s not a crash, it’s M16, it’s this, it’s that.”
 Genuinely sympathetic to his employer’s grief, he would reply neutrally, stifling his impulse to state that the crash was just an accident. He began to suspect that Fayed was rehearsing him for his meeting with the French investigating magistrate. He felt under increasing pressure during an interview arranged with Piers Morgan, editor of The Mirror, whose questions appeared to him to have been prompted. “Desperate” to come up with answers, he found himself quoted as saying that Diana had cried out Dodi’s name.
 When he eventually resigned, his relief was short-lived. Fayed accused him in Time magazine of incompetence and lack of professionalism. Rees-Jones felt betrayed. “I hadn’t done anything to warrant attack from that side. I believe I still haven’t.”
 For the most part, the public has shown him only kindness and sympathy to his face, refraining from blaming him for the tragedy. He has received some “funny phone calls” and reproachful letters, however.
 He treasures a framed letter from the Princess of Wales, thanking him on behalf of Princess William and Harry for his protective role during the “magical 10 days” of their first holiday in St Tropez. Appended to it was a PS from William: “Keep wearing the shirts”–a reference to his colourful liner in apparel.
 Rees-Jones remembers the princes as “lovely lads” “Similar to her. Very genuine. William was very level-headed and switched-on. He seemed to have a lot of her compassion. None of that future king of England bit,”_ he said.
 He would like to see them again–“I’d like to tell them I did all I could to look after their mother”–but believes his name would only remind them of their grievous loss.
 Rees-Jones has set up home with a new girlfriend and has a new security business in prospect. He will always be the survivor who walked away from one of the most poignant tragedies in history. But now, he has decided, he is not going quietly.