I was Princess Diana’s “Rambo” bodyguard – she would still be here if I had been on duty the night she died in Paris

HE is the bodyguard nicknamed Rambo by Princess Diana and with whom she had several heart-to-heart conversations, during which her greatest fears and future plans were revealed.

And 25 years after her death, Lee Sansum says he firmly believes that if he had been with her the night she died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997, she would still be alive today.

Twenty-five years after Princess Diana's death, her bodyguard Lee Sansum opens up

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Twenty-five years after Princess Diana’s death, her bodyguard Lee Sansum opens upPhoto credit: AP:Associated Press
Lee says she would still be alive today if he had been with her on that tragic night in Paris in 1997, here Lee with the Princess and Trevor Rees-Jones

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Lee says she would still be alive today if he had been with her on that tragic night in Paris in 1997, here Lee with the Princess and Trevor Rees-JonesCredit: B960
Lee, named by Di Rambo, recounts how security forces pulled straws to escort bodyguard Trevor in the car and he lost

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Lee, named by Di Rambo, recounts how security forces pulled straws to escort bodyguard Trevor in the car and he lostPhoto credit: Getty – Contributor

In an exclusive interview, Lee has opened up about how security forces pulled straws to escort bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones in the car and he lost.

He also reveals the fun bets he had with a young prince and how he cherishes a letter from Diana thanking him for making her recent sun holiday in St Tropez ‘magical’ – and her fear to be murdered.

Lee, now 60, said: “I could have been in that car.

“We drew straws to see who would be joining Trevor this weekend. I drew a match and it was a long one.

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“When I learned they weren’t wearing their seat belts in the accident, I understood why they didn’t survive. That should not have happened.

“It was customary for the family to wear seat belts. It was an order from the boss, Dodi’s father, Mohamed Fayed. Dodi in particular hated wearing seat belts and I always insisted.”

Working with Mohamed Al-Fayed – owner of the Hôtel Ritz Paris and former department store Harrods and Fulham FC – Lee also protected Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sylvester Stallone and footballer Pele.

Burnley-born Lee, who has detailed his incredible career in bodyguard in a new book, was tasked with looking after Dodi and Diana, then 36, when they were staying at his boss’s 30-bedroom villa in St Tropez in the south of France resided in July 1997.

Every day Diana woke up at 7 a.m. and talked to the bodyguard. He said: “She had been happy on this holiday.

“But I also saw her in tears when she found out about the murder of her boyfriend, the fashion designer Gianni Versace. She confided in me her own fears that one day she might be murdered.

“She asked if I think his murder outside his home was a professional homicide.

“I thought it was. Then she said something I’ll always remember – ‘Do you think they’re going to do this to me?’ She was shaking, and it was clear from her tone that she really thought they might, whoever “they” might be.

“I spent some time reassuring her that no one was going to try to kill her and that she was safe with us, but she definitely thought there was a risk that she might one day be murdered.”

Diana also told Lee that she wanted to live in the States with Dodi.

She definitely thought there was a risk of being murdered one day.

He added: “I actually signed up to join Diana and Dodi in America. She would definitely go, and that was it. She told me she would go there.

“She didn’t want to, but that was the only place she felt like people weren’t attacking her. It was probably her way of staying sane to get a break.”

Lee immediately took a liking to young Princes William and Harry, who he says were down-to-earth and kind, like their mother. William was 15 when Diana died and Harry was 12.

Lee believes Diana’s plan to move to the US influenced Harry’s move with Meghan.

He said: “This trauma happened when the building blocks for life were being formulated. His mother saw America as a haven. From then on he will fall back on his experience.”

Lee, a martial arts expert, tried to teach William and Harry how to kickbox, but they were too worried. He said: “I set up a punching bag in the garage.

“One day I said to the princes, ‘Come on, I’ll teach you some kickboxing.’

“When I showed William and Harry how to do it, they seemed a bit in awe because they were watching me kick the sack so hard and weren’t keen on trying it themselves in front of me. “

But Harry challenged him to jump off the top deck of Al-Fayed’s yacht for money.

When Lee said he would do it for £200, Diana joined in the encouragement, telling Lee they had his money.

We were generally followed by MI5 but this was the first time we saw a Special Forces guy.

Lee said: “It was a hell of a big yacht and a decent drop into the water from her highest point. A bet is a bet, after all, and it was made by a real princess by royal command.

“So I jumped out of the boat, hit the water with a big splash and they all loved it, especially Harry.”

Lee – who also served in the military police, worked undercover for the armed forces in Northern Ireland and in Somalia and Libya at the height of the unrest – does not believe Diana was murdered.

But he reveals the presence of intelligence agencies that followed her just weeks before the crash may have been a factor.

On a counter-surveillance drive near the Al Fayed home in Surrey, just before they all left for St Tropez, one of Lee’s colleagues saw someone from the Special Reconnaissance Unit working at a construction site. He knew him because they had both been in the SAS.

Lee said: “We were generally followed by MI5 but this was the first time we’ve seen a Special Forces guy. We thought, “They’ve upped their game.”

‘Magic Time’

“A witness who was driving a car traveling in front of the Mercedes in Paris on the night of the accident told the inquest that just seconds before the accident he saw a high-powered motorcycle overtaking the car.

“Another witness, driving in the opposite direction, saw a second motorcycle swerve to avoid smoke and debris and then exited the tunnel without stopping. The riders of these bikes were never found – and that’s no coincidence.

“I believe that security officers who were following Diana, possibly British or a combined British-French team, either accidentally caused the accident or were in close proximity to the car when it happened.

“Had they known MI6 agents were right next to the Mercedes at the critical moment, a lot of people would have blamed them and that would have been a huge scandal.”

Lee will never know the truth. But he will always cherish the letter he received from the Princess 25 years ago.

He said: “I received a lovely letter from Diana, signed by her and the two young princes.

“She told me she wanted to thank me for looking after them all so well at St Tropez. That blew my mind. She assured me that she and her boys had a “magical” time there and that it would not have been possible without my help.

“I couldn’t believe that a woman as famous and in demand as Diana had taken the time to write to me like this.

“It showed the empathy she was rightly famous for.

“Diana was almost always able to empathize, which is one of the reasons she was so highly regarded.

“She said goodbye with her heartfelt thanks. I still have that letter and will always cherish it.”

  • The Bodyguard by Lee Sansum (Seven Dials) is out September 1 for £9.99.

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“When I found out they weren’t wearing their seat belts in the accident, I understood why they didn’t survive,” says LeeCredit: Rex Features
Lee Sansum's The Bodyguard will be released on September 1st

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Lee Sansum’s The Bodyguard will be released on September 1st

https://www.the-sun.com/lifestyle/5994054/princess-diana-lee-sansum-bodyguard-paris/ I was Princess Diana’s “Rambo” bodyguard – she would still be here if I had been on duty the night she died in Paris

Jessica MacLeish

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