On August 31, 1997, Trevor Rees-Jones was the only passenger to survive the horrific car accident that killed Britain’s Princess Diana, her boyfriend, movie producer Dodi Fayed, and driver Henri Paul. The four had just left the Hotel Ritz in Paris, and were headed to a nearby luxury apartment owned by Fayed, when their 1994 black Mercedes-Benz W140 slammed into a pillar in the Pont De l’Alma tunnel at approximately 65 miles per hour.
Fayed and Paul died immediately while Diana succumbed to her injuries shortly after being rushed to a hospital. Rees-Jones, who now just goes by the surname Rees, was severely injured and remained in a coma for 10 days. The 29-year-old security guard suffered brain trauma, all his facial bones were crushed, his lung was punctured and his wrist was broken. One-hundred-fifty pieces of titanium were required to rebuild his face.
Investigators later determined that Paul, who was found to be three times over the French legal limit for drunk driving, was speeding in an attempt to elude paparazzi. Numerous conspiracy theories developed after the accident, claiming that Diana and Fayed had been murdered. In 2008, an inquest put the rumors to rest when it determined Diana and her boyfriend had been unlawfully killed, and Rees had been injured, due to Paul’s drunk driving and excessive speed.
Since the accident, the twice-divorced Rees has worked as a private security consultant, performed security work in Iraq, and cared for his mother in the English town of Oswestry, where he was raised.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Trevor Rees Was Hired as a Bodyguard by Dodi Fayed’s Father Mohamed Al-Fayed
Trevor Rees was born in 1968 to British Army Surgeon Colin Rees and wife Gill, a nurse, in Rinteln, Germany. In 1987, Rees enlisted in the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment and was awarded the General Service Medal for his tour of duty in Northern Ireland.
After leaving the military, Rees was hired in 1994 as a bodyguard by Dodi Fayed’s father, billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed. Working for Al-Fayed was considered a lucrative career. The former owner of the famed London department store Harrods and Ritz Hotel in Paris paid his bodyguards approximately $80,000 per year.
2. Rees Was Separated From His Colleague on the Night of the Accident
Before the crash, Diana and Fayed were upset by the number of paparazzi who’d been stalking their every move. Rees and colleague Kez Wingfield had been working 18-hour shifts to protect the couple and keep the paparazzi at bay but were rebuffed by Mohamed al-Fayed when he refused their request to send additional bodyguards to beef up their security detail.
Paul, who was the deputy security head at the Ritz, came up with a plan approved by Fayed to throw the paparazzi off their trail. Diana, Fayed, Rees, and Paul would depart from the hotel’s back entrance while the two cars the couple had been previously used would serve as decoys and leave from the front of the hotel with Wingfield.
“I wasn’t happy as it meant Dodi would be splitting the security officers, but I went along with it,” Rees said. “I advised Dodi that we could leave from the front of the hotel in two vehicles, as the crowd and the press would be pushed back across the road at the front of the hotel. Initially, I had been told that Dodi and Diana would travel without security and I said this would not happen, that I would travel in the vehicle with them.”
3. Rees Can’t Remember What Happened Just Before the Accident
Rees, Diana, Fayed, and Paul had been in the car about five minutes before the crash, but Rees can only recall the first minute of the drive.
“I have a memory of stopping at traffic lights and seeing a motorcycle on the right-hand side of the car,” he said at the inquest into Diana’s death. “I’m not sure about the other vehicles but I can remember this motorcycle very clearly. My memory then is of total confusion. I don’t remember the pain but in my head, there was a lot of confusion,” he said.
Rees has said that if only he knew what happened, he’d be able to put various conspiracy theories to rest. “I’m the only person who can tell people for real, and I can’t remember. It will be so easy if I do remember. I can tell people and all this c**p will finish,” he said.
4. Rees Wrote a Book About the Accident
In 2000, Rees published the book “The Bodyguard’s Story: Diana, the Crash and the Sole Survivor.” Using a ghostwriter, Rees gave his account of what transpired on the night of the accident.
In a 2000 interview on CNN, Rees said he wrote the book to tell his side of the story after Mohamed Al-Fayed criticized him and Kez Wingfield. “He accused us of unprofessionalism that caused the accident. I believe everyone deserves the right to reply. And this is our way of doing it,” Rees told interviewer Greta Van Susteren.
Rees’ story received mostly positive reviews. “This book illustrates how the simplest explanation, of which the author provides evidence, is often the most difficult to accept,” one reviewer wrote.
5. Diana’s Former Bodyguard Said the Accident Could Have Been Prevented With Scotland Yard’s Security Officers
Diana’s former bodyguard, Ken Wharfe, told the Daily Mail in 2016 that Rees’ military training hadn’t been suitable for handling Diana’s security needs. “Rees-Jones was a former soldier who had not received the training necessary to protect a member of the royal family. When he was first appointed by the Fayed family to guard Diana in France, Scotland Yard could have informally provided Rees-Jones with a briefing,” he said.
Rees disagrees with Wharfe’s assessment of his work. “I’ve had many, many ‘what ifs,’ but I’ve discussed it with Kez and I think we did as much as anyone could have done in that situation, given the circumstance as they were. And I’m happy to stand by what we did,” he said.
Wharfe, who’d been Diana’s personal protection officer for many years, said he was “angry beyond words” that Rees and Wingfield had let harm fall on the woman known as the “People’s Princess.”
The former royal bodyguard admitted that the series of errors which led to the crash could have been prevented had Diana accepted Queen Elizabeth’s offer to keep her round-the-clock protection by Scotland Yard after her divorce from Prince Charles.