If bodyguard Ken Wharfe was still in charge of Princess Diana’s security during that fateful August 1997 night in Paris, he believes things would have played out very differently. The 68-year-old — who was Diana’s personal protection officer from 1987 until 1993 — tells Now to Love a series of basic security blunders let the princess down.
“The biggest flaw was not reaching out for assistance. You can never go it alone on these things and with an operation like this in a foreign city, protecting the most famous person in the world at that time [you need back-up],” Ken says. On the night of her death, Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed’s team consisted of Henri Paul — the drunk driver of the doomed Mercedes S280 and the Deputy Head of Security at the Ritz Hotel in Paris — and Trevor Rees-Jones, the sole survivor of the accident who was appointed as Diana’s security guard for the evening.
A Princess in danger
Ken believes these resources simply weren’t enough to protect Diana. “The local police were not engaged, the British embassy was not engaged, you had a chauffeur who was not a chauffeur, he was a security adviser within the Ritz hotel and an alcoholic,” he points out. When she was part of the royal family, Diana’s security team would spend hours preparing the exact execution of her outings, but during her final holiday none of the appropriate measures were taken — Ken says they were dancing with danger from the start.
“There was no proper liaison with Diana and Dodi Fayed about how they were going to plan this departure. Going out of the rear entrance trying to escape the paparazzi, no one had talked to the press. There was no suggestion of actually setting up a photo opportunity [for the press pack] and looking for a police escort,” he says. “All these basic things that we did on a daily basis over a number of years are proven and a well-tried system of protection that never failed. And yet none of these things were done!”
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“When Henri Paul left the hotel that night under the influence of alcohol and driving at seventy plus miles an hour into a tunnel, it’s no wonder the inevitable happened and there’s a ghastly crash into the 13th pillar and three people lose their lives,” he says of the tragedy. “If Scotland Yard had been there, this would not have happened because A) We would not have allowed Henri Paul to drive that car. And B) We never would have left from the rear entrance, we would have arranged a photo opportunity and arranged for a police escort to take us from the hotel to his private residence.”
An end to the conspiracies
In October 2007, an official inquest into Diana’s death commenced and put to rest many of the wild conspiracy theories surrounding her passing, the most rogue of which claimed she was murdered by the royal family. In April 2008, the final ruling from the inquest revealed Diana, Dodi, and Henri Paul died as a result of reckless driving by Henri, further compounded by the pack of paparazzi chasing them. “Even if there was a conspiracy attempt to kill her, there would have been sufficient protective measures in place to deal with that,” Ken says.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
A truly haunting prophecy
In a spine-tingling twist of fate, Ken reveals Diana often spoke about dying in a car crash. “When we used to travel down to Highgrove most Fridays on a motorway — she would drive sometimes — and there wasn’t a weekend that went by that we didn’t see an accident and she’d say, ‘Oh God, one of these days that’s going to happen to me.’ It’s quite spooky that she said that,” Ken shares.
Prince Charles’ vow of silence
This Thursday, Aug. 31, as the world remembers the People’s Princess, Ken says it will be a particularly challenging time for Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla Parker Bowles. “It’s not easy for them, I’m sure it isn’t. It encourages polls to be taken, to see where Charles and Camilla sit in this so-called popularity contest. I think it’s one of those issues they have to accept,” Ken admits. Indeed, the latest opinion polls conducted in Britain show Princes Charles’ popularity has plummeted dramatically and more than half of the population want Prince William to leap-frog his father to the throne.
Recent reports claim the Queen’s oldest son will be taking “a vow of silence” this week and keeping a low profile with Camilla at Balmoral as they embark on their annual summer vacation. “They have to live with the negative publicity that comes whenever Diana is mentioned. I’m sure they probably don’t like it, but they accept that it’s there,” Ken says.
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This post was written by Bella Brennan. It originally appeared on our sister site, Now to Love.