When 36-year-old Princess Diana stepped into a black 1994 Mercedes-Benz S280 on the wee hours of August 31, little did the world know she will not step out alive. After spending about ten days with partner Dodi Fayed, the son of Egyptian millionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed, on a yacht in the Emerald Coast in Sardinia, Diana was headed home to meet her sons – Prince William and Harry after almost a month.
Even during her last moments, the Princess of Wales had Camilla, Dodi and sons on her mind. Royal writer Richard Kay recalls Diana calling him just hours before the accident to share that she found Camilla is "not a nice woman."
Diana was supposed to head back to London on August 30. However, bad weather forced her to stay back a day extra in Paris. Kay, writing for Daily Mail, revealed that the delay bothered her. She made her final call to Kay from the Ritz Hotel, Diana informed Kay that she wanted to start afresh.
"She had decided to radically change her life," Kay wrote. "She was going to complete her obligations to her charities and then, around November, would completely withdraw from her formal public life," Kay added.
Diana did not give Kay a reason but he had a hunch: "They were, to use an old but priceless cliche, blissfully happy. I cannot say for certain that they would have married, but in my view it was likely."
"I've just got out of one marriage and I need another one like a hole in the head," Diana told Kay in the final call. It was obvious that she was referring to Dodi. This was the royal blood's first public romance since her split from Charles – a relationship she did not accept nor deny.
Like Diana, Dodi too had the Princess on his mind. Hours after the fatal crash, a ring was found with him, indicating that he was about to propose to Diana.
The Washington Post reports that on August 30, 1997, Fayed's calendar had just one entry: To pick up a ring at a store near his father's hotel in Paris, The Ritz, around 6:30 pm.
The last supper:
A pit stop in Paris attracted paparazzi attention. Express UK time-stamped the events that took place that night sharing that the couple reached The Ritz late afternoon on August 30. Diana had a hair appointment at a Salon while Dodi picked up the ring.
They then rested in the hotel's Imperial Suite before heading to Fayed's apartment and got dressed for dinner. Diana called William and Harry, who were in Scotland with Prince Charles and the queen. In a recent documentary, the sons recalled the conversation with their mother. They regret having such a short conversation with her.
After the call the couple headed out for a romantic dinner. The dinner was unfortunately cut short due to the paparazzi present. The couple returned to their suite and waited for the cameras to go away. The couple decided to spend the night at Dodi's apartment but waited for the cameras to go away before heading out.
But since the media attention refused to die, the couple had to make an escape in an unmarked car. The CCTV cameras from the hotel saw Diana, Dodi and their entourage make their way to the lobby.
The final ride:
Around 12:20 am, the couple took to a black Mercedes to leave The Ritz. Princess Diana was seated on right-rear passenger seat with Dodi sitting next to her. The couple was accompanied by chauffeur Henri Paul and bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones. The vehicle left the hotel and was headed to Place de la Concorde opposite the Louvre museum, where Dodi's apartment was.
Five minutes into the ride, the Mercedes crashed into the 13th pillar of the Alma tunnel and the car crumpled following the collision.
Three minutes after the deadly crash, emergency services and a photographer reached the venue. However, it was almost after an hour of the crash that Diana was taken to the hospital. Paparazzi flooded the location and ample photos began flooding the news channels featuring the horrific crash.
In a recent documentary, Harry recalled Diana was alive after the crash and criticised the paparazzi for not helping her out rather than merely clicking photographs.
"One of the hardest things to come to terms with is the people who chased her into the tunnel were the same people who were taking photographs of her while she was still dying on the back seat of the car," he told the BBC.
"And William and I know that, we've been told that numerous times by people that know that was the case. She'd had quite a severe head injury but she was very much alive on the back seat. And those people that caused the accident instead of helping were taking photographs of her dying on the back seat. And then those photographs made their way back to news desks in this country," he said.
Dodi was the first to be declared dead. Diana suffered a heart attack, an open heart surgery was performed and at 4am, Princess Diana was pronounced dead. A week later, the funeral ceremony took place and London mourned its loss as British citizens got to the streets to pay their respects to the Princess.
Though it has been 20 years since her death, anything remotely related to Princess Diana still makes headlines.