How did Princess Diana die? Paris car crash death explained - what happened to bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones?

Princess Diana was just 36-years-old when she was involved in a fatal car crash with Dodi Fayed in Paris

Although 25 years have passed since she died in a Paris car crash, the life and death of Princess Diana continues to fascinate the British public, as well as Royal Family fans across the globe.

It comes after the Princess was depicted in several recent fictional films and TV series, including 2021 movie Spencer and Netflix series The Crown.

But when and how did Princess Diana die?

Princess Diana’s death has been surrounded by conspiracy theories (image: Getty Images)

Who was Princess Diana?

Princess Diana was the first wife of Prince Charles, and the mother of both Prince William and Prince Harry.

Lady Diana Frances Spencer - as she was known before her marriage to the Queen’s eldest son - was born in Norfolk on 1 July 1961.

She married the Prince of Wales in a televised wedding ceremony that took place at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on 29 July 1981.

It is believed to have been watched or listened to by around a billion people - almost a quarter of the world’s population at the time.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles married in 1981 (image: PA)

This publicity, her youth, easy-going personality and charitable work soon led to a media frenzy, with every aspect of Princess Diana’s private life becoming fodder for newspapers.

It only intensified when it was announced she would be separating from Prince Charles in December 1992, and stepping back into a less public-facing role.

The couple officially divorced in August 1996, several months after Diana gave a now-infamous TV interview to BBC reporter Martin Bashir in which she spoke of how unhappy she was in her personal life and revealed how Camilla Parker Bowles had interfered in her relationship with Charles.

While she became less visible after her separation from Prince Charles, the British public and the media continued to take a big interest in Princess Diana’s life.

There was fevered speculation about who she was dating.

Princess Diana’s death led to an outpouring of public grief and anger (image: AFP/Getty Images)

In the months before her death she was in a relationship with Dodi Fayed - son of Egyptian businessman and former Harrods and Fulham FC owner Mohamed Al-Fayed.

Dodi was also killed in the same Paris car crash that took her life in 1997.

How did Princess Diana die?

Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris in the early hours of 31 August 1997.

On 30 August, she had intended to enjoy a romantic meal at the Ritz Hotel in Paris with Dodi Fayed - the Ritz being owned by Dodi’s father.

Dodi was reportedly on the verge of proposing to the Princess.

But the pair soon felt compelled to leave The Ritz because media had congregated there.

At 11.30pm, they got into a car to return to Fayed’s Paris apartment.

Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were dining at The Ritz before the fatal car crash (image: AFP/Getty Images)

Despite having set up a decoy car, the Mercedes the pair were in ended up being followed by paparazzi.

Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed’s driver, Henri Paul is believed to have driven at speeds in excess of 60mph to outpace the photographers and reporters.

However, he lost control of the vehicle in the Pont d’Alma tunnel by the River Seine at around 00.19 on 31 August 1997.

The car hit a concrete pillar, killing Fayed and the driver instantly.

While the Princess was reportedly responsive when emergency services arrived minutes later, she went into cardiac arrest.

She was taken to a Paris hospital where she had emergency surgery on her heart - but she succumbed to multiple injuries, including a severed pulmonary vein, at 4am.

The wreckage of Princess Diana’s car is removed from the Parisian tunnel it crashed in (image: AFP/Getty Images)

She was just 36-years-old.

Diana’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was also badly injured in the crash.

He has rebuilt his life in the years since the accident, and now works as the head of security at pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca.

Why are there conspiracy theories about Princess Diana’s death?

Thanks to the advent of the internet, as well as unreliable witnesses in subsequent investigations and the massive public interest in her life, Princess Diana’s death has attracted many conspiracy theories.

Public anger was initially directed at the press for chasing Diana’s car.

But an initial inquest into the crash that was led by the French authorities pinned the blame solely on driver Henri Paul.

Princess Diana’s death was initially blamed on driver Henri Paul (image: AFP/Getty Images)

Tests taken soon after the fatal crash showed Paul was intoxicated while he was at the wheel, having drunk the equivalent of two bottles of wine.

He was also found to have taken prescription drugs in the run up to the crash.

A later investigation into Princess Diana’s death that the Metropolitan Police conducted between 2004 and 2008 - Operation Paget - took a more nuanced line and said Diana and Fayed had been unlawfully killed by a mix of Paul’s driving and the paparazzi.

Before the French investigation had concluded, Mohamad Al-Fayed claimed the death of his son and Diana was no accident.

He then told a UK inquest in 2008 that the car crash had been a murder carried out by MI6 on behalf of the Duke of Edinburgh, and that Diana had previously told him the Royal Family were conspiring to get rid of her.

There is no evidence to support these claims.

Mohamed Al-Fayed has made several unfounded claims about what caused the death of Diana and his son Dodi (image: Getty Images)

Mr Al-Fayed also questioned why it took more than 100 minutes for Diana to make it to a hospital after the crash, and said the emergency services could have taken her to a closer hospital.

However, the Met Police determined in its investigation that doctors had acted in the Princess’s best medical interests - and had not gone to the closest hospital because it was not equipped to deal with heart-related issues.

In the immediate aftermath of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed’s death, there was another conspiracy theory that said the British establishment had conspired to kill the pair because Diana expressing love for a muslim would have embarrassed the state.

It even led to an attempt by an Egyptian lawyer to sue the Queen and Tony Blair.

Again, there is no evidence to support this claim.

Public inquests into the death of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed have taken place in France and the UK (image: Getty Images)

Other conspiracy theories centre on a white Fiat Uno that Diana’s car was found to have hit, but disappeared from the scene; a bright flash that was said to have occurred as the car entered the tunnel, and the failure of Diana’s seatbelt.

But - aside from the Fiat - the claims have been debunked or ruled out.

The mystery of the Fiat is believed to have remained unsolved because of the French authorities’ desire to prosecute the driver for not stopping to render assistance to the crash victims.