DE AT H OF A P R I N C E S S
Just after midnight on Sunday August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, were killed in a car crash in Paris. Ken Lennox, picture editor of was at home getting ready for bed when he received the most dramatic phone call of his life…
What was the biggest decision you had to make as a picture editor?
The biggest night of my career I was at home. Just after midnight, I got a phone call from a French agency saying Diana had been injured in a car crash. Dodi might be dead, Diana was fine – she was talking to a doctor at the scene – and they had photographs. Well, I left in my sleeping T-shirt, slippers on my feet. I got into the office, saw the photos and a friend who’s an editor at ITN phoned and said, “What do you make of this?”
I said, “I’ve got the pictures in front of me. Have you seen anything?” He said, “No, I haven’t.” “Well,” I said, “they’re quite sensational. She’s being tended by a doctor, she looks unmarked but she’s sitting in the well of the car.” So, we agreed to keep in touch.
I got photographer in Paris to go to the scene. I phoned every photographer I could that night: “Arthur, get to Paris,” all this kind of stuff. I phoned the editor and told him what I had. I said, “I’m quite happy to be here tonight, I want someone to come in to man the phones. She’s fine. I don’t know what her injuries are like but apparently she was talking to the doctor.”
The girl came in to answer the phones and she couldn’t stop crying, so I’m answering the phones and people are phoning in from all over the shop and I’m trying to phone the agency and I can’t raise them, but I’ve got the photographs.
I get a call from ITN saying, “We’ve heard she’s in a bad way. They’ve stopped the ambulance at the mouth of the tunnel and resuscitated her.”
I said, “Well I’ve got later news than that. She’s actually at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital and the photographer has just phoned me to say he thinks it’s very serious because he’s just seen the first or second secretary of the (British) Embassy come out of a room with another bloke and slump down a wall onto his backside.” I told him that and said, “You need to be prepared for something dreadful to happen.”
At about three in the morning, we heard that someone from the Foreign Office was preparing a statement. So I phoned the chairman and said, “I’ve got word that Diana could die, or is dying, or might even be dead, and the Foreign Office are preparing a statement for the press.”
He appeared ten minutes later, and I said “Just in case, I don’t know what the have got, but if Phil Hall (who was the editor at the time) publishes a photograph from the crash and Diana dies, we will be in so much trouble.”
The and the same floor, so he ran into the
and came back a few minutes later saying, “Ken, I don’t think he’s got pictures but I’ve told him under no circumstances must we use any.”
were on But you’d paid £300,000 for those pictures!
That’s what they asked for. It was a million francs. I said I would pay it there and then, and initially they would be available for 24 hours and then sold again. If I wanted to use them after that I would need to pay whatever the going rate was. How did the agency arrive at that figure?
It was just a figure he pulled from the top of his head. A million francs, and I just said yes.
I was called to give evidence at Diana’s inquest in London and I was quizzed closely about who I had been in contact with. The judge said to me, “Mr Lennox, I find that to be a huge amount of money, how can you justify £300,000?” I said, “I thought it was a bargain, my lord.” “Oh, expand on that please, Mr Lennox!” “When Posh Spice married David Beckham, that was a pop singer and a footballer, and I think that was £1.2 million. I thought that the mother of the future King of England being injured in a car crash – I never thought for a minute when he sold them to me that she was dead – when he asked for £300,000, I couldn’t believe my luck.” “And only one use?” “Yes.”
Inspecting the light dragoons The Princess performs her role as Colonel-in-Chief