The James Kettle Moment #18: Remembering Princess Diana — An Eyewitness Speaks
It’s hard to believe that it’s twenty years since the death of Princess Diana, but if you take half an hour with a pencil and paper working it out, the mathematics are hard to argue with. Diana’s death affected many different people in many different ways, but one man with a unique perspective on the tragedy — and who will never forget the events of 31st August 1997 — is British holidaymaker Gareth Tins. The James Kettle Moment met with Gareth for a voucher-funded luncheon at Brewers Fayre, to hear his account of an evening that changed the destiny of a nation.
TJKM: Gareth, for a lot of people, the first time they heard about the death of Diana was on the news that Sunday morning. But you, I think you were actually an eyewitness — is that right?
GT: That’s right, yes. We’d gone over to France for the weekend, on the ferry. Of course, these were in the days when we had the VW camper. Incredibly versatile. Looks very small on the outside, but when you get in, you’ll find they’re actually very roomy. Enough space to play a board game or prepare a delicious meal for all the family. My wife used to say it was like a Tardis! She’s always coming out with things like that.
TJKM: So tell me how you found yourself witnessing the tragic events of that evening.
GT: Well the first thing I want to say is that we’ve heard a lot about public enquiries and all that. But I think you have to put a big share of the blame on the paparazzi. We saw them, chasing her on those motorbikes, and I suspect that did a lot to cause the accident. They hounded her in life, and they hounded her to her death.
TJKM: Now explain to us how you came to see all this.
GT: Let me say first though, that I’ve never been one for conspiracy theories. That said, I think there were strange forces at work in that tunnel that night. She’d upset some very powerful people. And we don’t know everything that goes on, what people may have been ordered to do or whatever. The secret service and that. I think they had their part to play.
TJKM: But you yourself actually saw all this unfolding.
GT: That’s right, yes. We’d spent the day in Paris, and we were just on our way back to the campsite. Amazing things, VW campers, but you’re lost without nocturnal access to an electric hook-up. And so as fate would have it, just after midnight, there we were, passing into the Pont de l’Alma tunnel. And suddenly there, coming out of the dark towards us, were the headlamps of a black Mercedes. And I’ll never forget what my wife said, she said “Fucking Christ, Gareth, you should be driving on the right hand side of the road.”
GT: Very resilient vehicles, VW campers, we hardly had a scratch. So we pulled over, and within seconds the paparazzi were all over her car. Snapping away, you know. Like vultures. They’re the ones I blame for the whole thing, personally. They hounded her in life, and they hounded her –
TJKM: Yes, you’ve done that.
GT: And the royal family, they’re not as innocent as they seem. That’s what I reckon, anyway.
TJKM: Did you explain what had happened to the police at the scene, or –
GT: No, no. We don’t speak the lingo. But I think it’s fairly clear who was to blame.