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Monday 13 March 2017

How wine caused me to miss the biggest story of my career

It was a lovely evening. August 30, 1997, in Paris. We'd dined well and then stopped for a couple of glasses of wine at L'Ecluse, a wine bar a few blocks from our apartment.

We headed home sometime after midnight, a little tipsy maybe. But tipsy enough so that I had lost the most important asset a journalist has; his or her instinct. 

There was a little more traffic than usual on this particular night, and a few sirens could be heard in the distance. 

By the time we reached rue de Chaillot the traffic was gridlocked, horns were being honked with vigour and there were more and more sirens; now much closer. 

My normal instinct, as a reporter (I was a foreign correspondent/sports writer for Agence France Presse at the time), would have been to have checked out the reason for this unusual activity. 

But it was getting late. I'd had those few wines, and who would care about a car accident anyway? 

I was just three blocks walk to the Alma Tunnel, the centre of activity, but I headed for bed. And enjoyed a long sleep in. It wasn't until 11 am on August 31 that I turned on the radio and heard the news. 

The most famous woman in the world was dead; possibly murdered by the British royal family. And I'd missed the chance to be amongst the first media on the scene. 

Diana, Princess of Wales, died as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash in the Alma Tunnel. Dodi Fayed and Henri Paul, the driver of the Mercedes-Benz S280, were pronounced dead at the scene; the bodyguard of Diana and Fayed, Trevor Rees-Jones, was the only survivor.

A white Fiat that collided with the Mercedes before it crashed was never found. And Rees-Jones could not remember the incident.  

It was believed by many that the British royal family had thought Diana was pregnant to boyfriend Dodi Fayed, and fearful of her having an Arab baby, had arranged the accident. Others said that was far fetched and a conspiracy theory. 

The car crashed at 12.23am. The first police arrived at 12.30am. Diana was removed from the car at 1am. She then went into cardiac arrest. Diana was moved to the SAMU ambulance at 1.18 am, left the scene at 1.41 am (an unexplained delay) and arrived at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital at 2.06 am. She died at 4am, by which time I was deeply asleep. 

I headed in to work the following afternoon as usual - and did not say a word about my late-night stroll home from L'Ecluse.   


1 comment:

  1. Having just visited Paris I can honestly say I wasn't expecting to be as moved as I was when visiting the memorial piece placed at the top of the tunnel. It certainly brought back memories of hearing the news and feeling emotional for a woman whom i'd never met.
    As for you missing the story, by now you are possibly thinking, C'est la vie....