Peo­ple

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.

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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.”

Princess Diana

leav­ing the Royal Bromp­ton

Hos­pi­tal in Chelsea, Lon­don

af­ter see­ing Dr Has­nat Khan

in 1996

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

be dis­ap­pointed

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