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Royal bodyguard recalls ‘surreal’ period after Princess Diana’s death

Sunday - 27/08/2017 18:24
SINCE May, a half-dozen TV documentaries have commemorated the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana in a horrific Paris car crash that also killed companion Dodi Fayed on Aug. 31, 1997.
Prince William and Prince Harry bow their heads as their mother's coffin is taken out of Westminster Abbey, following her funeral service. Source: AFP/Adam Butler
Prince William and Prince Harry bow their heads as their mother's coffin is taken out of Westminster Abbey, following her funeral service. Source: AFP/Adam Butler

One such documentary is the BBC’s Diana, 7 Days, which includes the first-ever interview with Graham Craker, a Metropolitan Police officer who served as a bodyguard for young Prince William and Prince Harry for 15 years until retiring in 2001.

Craker, 70, recently spoke by phone with The NY Post from his home in Ware, Hertfordshire, north of London.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO TAKE PART IN THE FILM?

Lots of people have been jumping on the bandwagon, writing books and giving interviews basically for their own egos and to make money. It was clear that this [film] was going to be a very balanced program. I have respect for William and Harry and feel it adds a fine stripe to their documentary.

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN DIANA DIED?

It was so difficult to take in. It takes a while to absorb and then you feel the need to make sure what you’re hearing is true — and that didn’t take long to establish. From there on, it’s the policeman’s instinct to assess the situation and carry on.

Diana’s death sent shockwaves around the world. Photo: AFP/Jamal A. Wilson
Diana’s death sent shockwaves around the world. Photo: AFP/Jamal A. WilsonSource:AFP

YOU WERE WITH THE ROYAL FAMILY IN SCOTLAND WHEN DIANA DIED. DID YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT TO EXPECT ONCE YOU RETURNED TO LONDON?

My colleagues there were saying they’d never seen anything like it before. There was a cloud over London. It was like slow motion … Everybody could feel the sadness.

WERE YOU ABLE TO COMFORT PRINCE WILLIAM AND PRINCE HARRY?

Not really. That was obviously the duty of the parents, family and everybody else they thought could help. When we did meet, it was quite a sombre atmosphere.

The Prince of Wales, Prince William and Prince Harry look at floral tributes to Diana outside Kensington Palace on September 5, 1997 in London, England. Photo: Anwar Hussein/WireImage
The Prince of Wales, Prince William and Prince Harry look at floral tributes to Diana outside Kensington Palace on September 5, 1997 in London, England. Photo: Anwar Hussein/WireImageSource:Getty Images

WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART OF THE WEEK?

Perhaps the most emotional was seeing William the morning after [the car crash]. I saw William walking his dog outside, and I walked up to him and said, “I’m very, very sorry to hear your bad news.” William very sadly said, “Thank you.” Not wishing to encroach upon his grief, I then walked on and William continued walking his dog.

YOU TRAVELLED WITH DIANA’S COFFIN IN THE HEARSE AFTER THE FUNERAL. THERE’S A HEARTBREAKING CLIP OF WILLIAM WATCHING AS IT WAS LOADED INTO THE CAR. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THAT MOMENT?

I was standing at the rear of the hearse and William looked up and acknowledged me. I looked toward him and nodded. William was comforted that I was with his mum on her final journey.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE WITH MORE THAN A MILLION PEOPLE LINING THE STREETS?

There were people in tears, on their knees crossing themselves, throwing flowers at the hearse. The bit that amazed me is when we got on the northbound M1 [highway], even the southbound traffic had stopped and people got out of their cars and bowed in respect.

Do you often think back to what happened?

Especially now, I do … It comes on TV and I see myself in the hearse and think, “Is that really me?” That’s how surreal it was.

This story originally appeared in the NY Post and is republished here with permission.

Source: News Corp Australia Network:

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