THE gates open at Kensington Palace, and out quietly slips a battered grey Volvo saloon.
Concealed behind coats on hangers covering the side windows, Princess Diana lies hidden on the back seat. The plan is a success.
Photographers from the world’s press camped outside the princess’s home had been lured away from the Palace gates by two decoy cars that left moments earlier.
Once through the gates, Diana’s trusted driver Colin Tebbutt swings the Volvo through a series of twisting roads to check they are not being followed.
Certain that no cameramen are on their tail, he heads over the River Thames.
Diana, who has just returned to Britain that lunchtime after a holiday in Greece with her best friend Rosa Monckton, cannot wait to be reunited with her millionaire lover Dodi Fayed, son of Harrods owner Mohamed Fayed.
Dodi is whisking the princess away for a week’s holiday to his family’s £10million yacht in the Mediterranean.
The pair met only the previous month, when they were both holidaying in the South of France — Dodi with his American fiancée, Kelly Fisher, who quickly found herself dumped.
By now, Diana and Dodi have already spent a weekend together in Paris, followed by their first cruise aboard the yacht Jonikal — when their relationship hit the headlines.
But as the old Volvo arrives at Battersea Heliport in South West London for their flight back out to their love-nest yacht, there is no sign of Dodi or his bodyguards.
Retired royal protection officer Colin recalls: “It was a really old Volvo which people like princesses would not even go in.
“With a jacket on one window and another on the other, not a soul saw her lying on the back seat. There were paparazzi at the heliport as I drove in, but Dodi was late.
“I turned the car round and drove into a side street near a wood yard where we could watch the main road without Diana being seen.
“We were there nearly 20 minutes before Dodi swept by in a Range Rover, surrounded by his own security guards on motorbikes.
“I said, ‘They’ve just gone in, Ma’am — give them a couple of minutes.’ We went through the gate.
“I got out and spoke to one of the security guards who was short with me demanding to know why we were late?
“I said, ‘You were late. She is Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales. I will take her away. She’ll come with me and you won’t have a princess’. End of argument.
“Diana got out, climbed into the Harrods helicopter and the next time I saw her she was dead.”
Dodi’s inability to stick to a plan will ultimately play a part in both their deaths.
As he arrives at the heliport for the 40-mile flight to Stansted Airport in Essex, the man responsible for the princess’s safety — Dodi’s personal minder, ex-paratrooper Trevor Rees-Jones — is in a car travelling with the couple’s baggage.
He has been left off a flight with the princess once before, when Dodi changed plans and instead of flying to the Fayed mansion in Oxted, Surrey, they flew to see Diana’s psychic Rita Rogers.
That time, as the green and beige Harrods chopper landed near a housing estate in Derby- shire, crowds appeared with video cameras and the Princess’s secret visit was on the local news.
This time the helicopter lands at the private airfield next to Stansted Airport, where Colin Tebbutt is due to pick her up a week later.
The luggage is safely on board the Harrods Gulfsteam jet when Rees-Jones meets Dodi and Diana for the flight to Nice in the South of France.
Requests for more bodyguards to protect the Princess on the trip have been turned down by Fayed’s security team.
The 200ft-long superyacht Jonikal with its nine guest cabins and enough room for a crew of 12 lies off the port of St-Laurent-du-Var near Nice.
After their flight, as the lovers leave their armoured Mercedes and walk towards the boat that will take them out to the Jonikal, Dodi spots a photographer on the dockside and in front of Diana orders his bodyguard: “Kill that motherf***er!”
Friday, August 22
With Diana and Dodi in the Master Stateroom with its two twin cabins, the ship heads out to sea.
At 2am, Jonikal’s skipper Luigi Del Tevere drops anchor near St Tropez.
Just before 9.30 that morning the couple leave the yacht and set off for lunch at Fayed’s villa near Pampelonne Bay.
After a three-hour meal the couple return to the yacht, which heads out to sea with a flotilla of press boats following.
Saturday, August 23
8am: As she does every morning, Diana arrives on deck and checks how many photographers are following the Jonikal.
Alex “Kez” Wingfield — one of the two bodyguards looking after Dodi and Di — recalls: “You’d pass her the binoculars and she’d have a look. On occasions she was giggling and waving.
“One morning she arrived on deck looking absolutely stunning in a bathing suit, saw the number of photographers and went below.
“Then she came back in another bathing suit, still looking stunning. She made no effort to hide. You never saw her looking glum.”
3pm: Jonikal moors at St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, just off Monte Carlo.
That night, wearing baseball caps, Di and Dodi, with their bodyguards and a small entourage in tow, walk unnoticed through the steep streets of Monte Carlo and become lost.
After the crash, Dodi’s father Mohamed Fayed would claim that during this time the couple visited Alberto Repossi’s jewellery shop in the city to view an engagement ring.
Those who were with them that day say it never happened.
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