It was the crash heard round the world, but for Dodi Fayed's bodyguard, who sat in the front seat, the car accident that killed Dodi, Princess Diana and driver Henri Paul had been lost in trauma-induced amnesia. Until now. Six months after the tragedy that nearly took his life as well, Trevor Rees-Jones, who was hospitalized for more than four weeks and underwent extensive facial reconstruction, has begun to experience what his psychiatrist calls "windows of memory."
"I have had flashes of a female voice calling out in the back of the car," the onetime paratrooper, 29, told Britain's The Mirror in interviews published on March 2, 3 and 4. "First, it's a groan. Then Dodi's name is called. I don't remember if it is over and over again. But I do remember a voice calling out Dodi's name. And that voice can only be Princess Diana's."
Rees-Jones's still sketchy recollections gradually emerged after he began undergoing therapy sessions. He says that Dodi's Mercedes was pursued by a motorbike and two cars that night--one a white, three-door hatchback similar to the Fiat Uno described by eyewitnesses. And he remembers spending time with Henri Paul in the Ritz bar before their fateful ride, unaware the chauffeur was drinking alcohol. "He was working," Rees-Jones told The Mirror. "He was competent. End of story."
In Britain, where Diana remains a frequent headliner even in death, Rees-Jones's revelations provided days of tabloid fodder (upstaging an announcement on Feb. 27 that the Queen has no objection to the cessation of the 800-year-old British tradition of male primogeniture--a son's right to succession to the throne over an older sister). A rival paper questioned The Mirror for letting Dodi's father, Mohamed Al Fayed, who now employs Rees-Jones at a desk job in Harrods' security department, be present during the interview, possibly affecting the content.
"Mr. Rees-Jones's memories conform rather neatly to Al Fayed's unproven allegations [about the accident], specially on the issue of whether Diana was conscious after the crash," wrote Vanity Fair's London editor, Henry Porter, a longtime critic of Al Fayed's, in The Guardian. The Mirror editor, Piers Morgan, countered that Al Fayed had not been privy to the interview and that "he did not...coerce Trevor into saying anything." Al Fayed did not weigh in on the contretemps--but then, he had problems of his own. On March 2 he was arrested following allegations of theft of a cache of emeralds and Tibetan coins from a Harrods security box belonging to longtime business rival Roland "Tiny" Rowland in 1995. Formal charges await the completion of an investigation, and Al Fayed was released the same day.
Even as controversy continued to surround the circumstances of her death, questions about Diana's legacy were being laid to rest. On March 2, the executors of her estate released copies of her six-page will. First drawn up in 1993, it bequeaths virtually all of her $35.8 million estate--in equal shares--to sons William, 15, and Harry, 13. (After taxes, each will get about $11 million, fully payable when they reach age 30.) A 35-page amendment drawn up after her estate's executors went to court in December reflects what they believe would have been her wishes. It gives $82,500 to Diana's former butler Paul Burrell and bequeaths mementos ranging from watercolors to a carriage clock to her 17 godchildren. In addition, the will stipulates that her famous Emanuel-designed wedding dress, along with Diana's "intellectual property rights" (copyright, trademark and photo royalties), will be used for charity or her sons' benefit. "She didn't want the dress to go back to the royal family," says author Brian Hoey.
The will held one surprise: Diana stipulated that if she died before Charles, her mother, Frances Shand Kydd, should help raise the princes. "This was an unprecedented rebuff both to Prince Charles and to his family," wrote royal watcher Richard Kay in the Daily Mail. Says Hoey: "It's almost as if she had an omen about what would happen."
Rees-Jones's emerging memories may yet shed more light on what actually did happen. That would please French authorities investigating the accident, who are scheduled to talk to him once more on March 16, and could ease some of the pain felt by Diana's and Dodi's relatives. But they are unlikely to give Rees-Jones much peace. "I was there to look after these people, and I'm the only one who survived," he told The Mirror. "It's an emotion that will always be with me."