Dr Hasnat Khan, the late Princess Diana’s ‘Mr Wonderful’, was not consulted by producers of the film Diana, which purportedly documents their romance. He explains why the money spent making it should have gone to charity instead.
Heart surgeon Hasnat Khan has revealed he is still struggling to come to terms with the death of Princess Diana – 16 years after the horrific Paris car smash that claimed her life.
The 54-year-old, hailed by friends as the love of Diana’s life, shared a secret two-year affair with the royal that ended just weeks before she died in 1997, aged just 36.
He described them as being “inseparable” during their romance – which began with a chance meeting in 1995 – and says he can still sense the caring princess guiding him now as he works with needy children.
As he prepared to fly home to the UK from the Ethiopian heart hospital where he has been performing surgery on poverty-stricken youngsters, Dr Khan said, “It’s been difficult for me to get my head around Diana’s death or talk about it.
“After she died things were difficult, very difficult. We all have our own traumas and get on with it – but when it’s there in your face year in, year out, it’s hard.
“Part of the problem is that I work in an environment where there is a constant changeover of staff, patients and relatives. It’s like being reintroduced to the reality over and over again.”
Dr Khan, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospital in Essex, is doing his best to get on with his life despite a new barrage of publicity surrounding the release of big-budget movie Diana – parts of which he has branded a “betrayal” of the couple’s romance.
The much-criticised film – starring Naomi Watts and Naveen Andrews – claims to chart the story of his relationship with the princess. Yet Dr Khan was never consulted by producers and his anger is palpable – not least over suggestions that his family disapproved of the affair. He says, “I can see a lot of humour in a lot of bad things, but in this one I can’t. I haven’t seen the film and I haven’t met anyone who has seen it, but I can tell you for sure that it’s based on a superficial idea. I have kept things very discreet, but now this film is trying to open things up again.” The movie is based on Kate Snell’s 2001 book
Diana: Her Last Love – and both the author and
film-makers were anxious to win Dr Khan’s endorsement to boost box-office ratings. They will not get it.
Particularly painful for him is the way his beloved family is portrayed. One scene recreates an alleged meeting between the surgeon and an uncle from Pakistan who urges him to choose between Diana and his family.
Dr Khan – dubbed ‘MrWonderful’ by the princess – dismisses the thought, saying, “One thing I will say is that the idea that my parents didn’t agree with my relationship with Diana is rubbish. Only myself and my closest friends knew what really went on in our relationship.
“Both my parents, grandmother and all close relatives who met Diana liked her very much and my parents and grandmother never objected to our relationship.
“They were very much happy for us to make a decision ourselves and made it clear they would support it 100 per cent. We both had their blessing. This amounts to the film projecting a betrayal of our relationship and my relationship with my immediate family. The material in this film has come from people who met people who only knew us through association. It’s all based on presumptions.”
Dr Khan – who remains single after his 2006 arranged marriage to a woman from an Afghan noble family ended in divorce after 18 months – recently took a break from his British National Health Service (NHS) work to lead a life-saving surgical mission to Ethiopia for the charity Chain of Hope. Yet the
‘If the film producers want to go some way to making amends to my family and me, they should donate some of the proceeds to Chain of Hope’
furore surrounding the big-budget movie jars painfully with his mission to make a difference in the poor African country.
He says, “I was driving through London and I saw posters of the film on billboards. People were talking about it on the radio and I even saw it advertised on a bus.
“I was thinking, ‘I’m going to Ethiopia to treat these kids in a poor country and all the focus in my country is on a film being made by strangers.
“I thought of the money it was probably making and how it could be spent on medical missions. What can I do? Nothing. I just keep going… The film-makers might be good people who do good things for others – I don’t know. But at the end of the day, their job has been to pick up a few stories from relatives and friends and sell a movie.
“If the film producers want to go some way to making amends to my family and me, they should donate some of the proceeds to Chain of Hope.”
Along with skilled cardiac colleagues from Basildon, Harefield and Brompton Hospitals, Dr Khan has set up surgery in the Cardiac Centre of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa. He says,
“Sometimes when I do a job like this I do have these very strong feelings that Diana is still with me somehow.
“Not in a spiritual sense, but in the way you feel when you’ve known someone really well in your life and instinctively know how they’d react in a given situation. The past few weeks have been tough and I know Diana would be saying, ‘Stay focused and keep getting on with your life. Help these children. Be happy’.
“I also know she would be proud of the sort of work we’re doing here in Ethiopia. She was a great humanitarian and that’s how she should always be remembered.”
Dr Khan’s affair with Princess Diana began on August 31, 1995, after Diana received a frantic phone call from her long-time friend Oonagh Toffolo. Her husband Joe was critically ill following a triple heart bypass at London’s Royal Brompton Hospital.
Oonagh called Diana who raced to the hospital and met the handsome and unflappable surgeon who had performed the operation – Dr Khan. Diana was soon won over by the affable and easy-going surgeon’s lack of airs and graces and it wasn’t long before romance blossomed.
However, after two years the affair ended following a meeting between the pair in South London’s Battersea Park shortly before Diana died. Dr Khan said he thought the princess had met someone else after she returned from a holiday with millionaire businessman Mohammad Al Fayed and his family – because she was “not her normal self”.
Only when he heard news broadcasts did he learn of Diana’s relationship with Al Fayed’s son Dodi, who died alongside her in Paris.
Dr Khan says, “Many things have been said about Diana as a person. Some have been right but many have been completely wrong.
“One thing’s for sure. When you are inseparable from someone for two years, it’s a long time and you get to know if someone is coming from the heart or not.
“Diana’s charity work came from the inside – the bottom of her heart – and that’s how she should always be remembered. No one teaches people to care like she did. Doctors can tell how genuine someone is by the way they approach patients.
“Diana didn’t need publicity in that way. She could have gone to fashion shows or galas and had a much bigger stage. I don’t mind being known as Diana’s ex-partner because you can’t change history.
“But everyone wants spicy details and I’ll never reveal them. How I’d really like to be known is as a good surgeon working in a team to get on with the job of saving lives.”
leaving the Royal Brompton
Hospital in Chelsea, London
after seeing Dr Hasnat Khan
Dr Khan insists his parents had no
objection to his relationship with the princess, despite what the film Diana implies
Diana has been widely panned
by critics, but if producers are hoping for support from Dr Khan
(seen on this page played by Naveen Andrews opposite Naomi Watts as the princess), they will