LONDON (Reuters) - Princess Diana’s sons were said on Wednesday to be extremely disappointed that a British television channel ignored their pleas not to screen graphic photos in a documentary about her death in a Paris car crash 10 years ago.
Princes William and Harry have called the photos, to be screened by Channel 4 on Wednesday evening, “a gross disrespect to their mother‘s’s mother‘smemory.”
Channel 4 said it would press ahead with plans to broadcast “Diana: The Witnesses in the Tunnel,” that pieces together her last moments, after weighing the princes’ concerns against the legitimate public interest.
“The princes are extremely disappointed at Channel 4’s decision to go ahead with the program,” a spokesman for William and Harry told Reuters.
Senior aide James Lowther-Pinkerton, who wrote to the station with an 11th hour appeal from the princes, said: “It’s the scene of their mother’s last moment on earth. It’s an invasion of their privacy.”
In light of extensive press coverage in the lead-up to the broadcast, Lowther-Pinkerton and the princes’ communications secretary Paddy Harverson had asked for a private viewing of the film. They briefed the princes afterwards.
Channel 4, a broadcaster that has tested the boundaries of acceptable television in Britain, was mired in controversy this year when forced to apologize over a racist row in its “Celebrity Big Brother” reality show.
The decision of the channel to go ahead with the documentary sharply divided opinion in Britain.
The opposition Conservative Party said the broadcaster should have heeded the royal pleas. The centrist Liberal Democrats said there was legitimate public interest.
Patrick Jephson, Diana’s former private secretary, said: “This is a well-made program that invites us to look again at the culpability -- or the lack of it -- of the photographers who were first on the scene.”
Diana died along with her companion Dodi al Fayed when the car driven by their chauffeur Henri Paul crashed in a Paris road tunnel while being pursued by paparazzi on motorbikes. Paul, subsequently said by French investigators to have been drunk and under the influence of anti-depressants, was also killed.
Through reconstruction, archive footage, still images and eyewitness accounts, the film, seen by Reuters in a preview copy, pieces together Diana’s last moments.
The documentary film-makers interviewed the photographers and the doctor shown administering oxygen to the stricken princess. Her face is blotted out in a grainy picture from the crash scene.
The documentary concluded that photos of Diana fighting for her life in the back of the car suddenly went from “priceless to worthless” when she died later in hospital and no newspaper would contemplate printing them.
And perhaps the most haunting picture of all is a grainy black and white photo of Diana in the back of the car as she was whisked away from the back entrance of the Ritz Hotel in a last vain bid to shake off the pursuing paparazzi.