In the early 1990s, I was walking around the grounds of the All England Croquet Club in Wimbledon, London, when I saw a car pull up. As I approached, I realized it was Princess Diana. I couldn’t believe how beautiful she was. She had the most beautiful smile and her eyes were like blue diamonds.
I didn’t want to call her because I didn’t want to invade her privacy. I thought that was the wrong thing to do. I couldn’t believe I had seen her in person, it was surreal to think she really existed. I would have liked to meet her personally.
When Princess Diana was introduced to the British public in March 1981, I immediately knew she had something remarkable. This lady who married Prince Charles had so much warmth, she spoke so calmly. I knew instantly that she was special.
Throughout her years of public service, I felt that Diana always went out of her way for people. I believe she has always been there to help people in need; whether children or adults, she showed love to everyone.
For me, one of her most extraordinary moments was in February 1989, when at the height of the AIDS pandemic, the Princess hugged a seven-year-old boy with the disease at Harlem Hospital during of a visit to New York.
It was such a moving moment. Most people in the world were terrified of the disease, many people would refuse to touch people with AIDS, but Diana would. She showed love to the most vulnerable, she engaged with them and put them at ease. This is what you call the work of the Lord.
So when I heard the news of Diana’s death on August 31, 1997, I was devastated. My late wife’s birthday had been earlier in the week, but we had decided to wait until Saturday to celebrate, as we only drank once a week.
The night before we had gone for a meal and a few drinks and planned to celebrate with champagne after we got home. But before we could open the bottle, we learned that Diana had been injured in Paris. We put the champagne back in the fridge and waited for more news.
In the morning, when we learned that she had died, we both cried. We were absolutely sorry. The next day I rode my bike to St James’s Palace in London, where his coffin was kept to lay flowers. I got so close that I could see the candles inside the window.
Now I pray for her every Sunday at Westminster Abbey and have done so for 25 years. But when I read in the papers that her death was being investigated, I said, “Diana, I won’t let you down, I’ll go to that inquest every day.” The inquests into the deaths of Diana and Dodi Fayed were opened on January 8, 2007. In the early years of her death there were so many conspiracy theories that I felt the need to get to the truth.
I didn’t know what I was getting into, the investigation was a marathon. I quit my job working in a kitchen so I could attend every day for six months. The first four days I camped out, but the rest of the week I arrived at the Royal Courts of Justice in London at 6.30am with Diana’s name written all over my face. The coroner even mentioned me in his official summary to the jury.
It was very difficult to know the truth about what happened to Princess Diana. I heard a lot of testimonies and I took notes in my head every day. After hearing so many conspiracy theories, I made my own decision and came to the conclusion that this was a very tragic accident.
Now me and a group of friends celebrate the anniversary of his death every year. On the 25th anniversary of her death, we put up banners and balloons, and ordered a specially designed cake with one of our favorite images of Diana on it. We spend the day discussing how amazing his life was.
We are all very proud of Princess Diana. In my eyes, she was a treasure and one of the angels of the Lord. I think she was born with two hearts, one for serving herself and one for everyone.
John Loughry is a keen Royal observer of South London.
All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
As told to Monica Greep.