Princess Diana lay on her deathbed with no dignity as French officials queued up to see her body and people looked in from rooftops, her former driver claims.
Recalling the hours following the Princess of Wales’ death, Colin Tebbutt said he and butler Paul Burrell flew to Paris to collect her belongings and make sure everything was being taken care of.
But he says she was denied privacy and dignity as people were “going in and out” of the room where Diana’s body lay in a Paris hospital.
Mr Tebbutt said he demanded that the room be kept “totally clear” and blankets be strung up across the windows to block the view of ghouls trying to catch a glimpse of her body from nearby rooftops.
The disturbing scenes unfolded after Diana, 36, her boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed and driver Henri Paul died in a car crash in the Alma tunnel while being chased by paparazzi.
Bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, who was in the front passenger seat, was the lone survivor of the tragedy in the early hours of August 31, 1997.
Mr Tebbutt told the Daily Mail that he and Mr Burrell worked trough their grief to protect the Princess of Wales as news of her death spread round the world and crowds gathered outside the hospital.
Mr Tebbutt had worked as a driver-minder for Diana after serving in the 45 Commando Royal Marines and retiring as a former detective inspector in royal protection.
After securing her home and her belongings at her London home, he and Mr Burrell flew to Paris at 6.30am on a plane packed with British journalists.
They attended a meeting at the British Embassy and set off for the Ritz hotel, where Diana had been staying with Mr Al Fayed, to collect her luggage and belongings.
From there, they went to the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in south-east Paris with a black, woollen cocktail dress and a pair of black shoes, from the wardrobe of Lady Jay.
Mr Tebbutt said the scene outside the hospital was “total chaos” like a “football match”.
Inside, he was taken to Diana’s room, where Bernadette Chirac, the wife of then-President Jacques Chirac, asked him to pray with her, as she and her husband paid their respects.
At Mrs Chirac’s request, he “stood guard over Diana until the end”.
But Mr Tebbutt was horrified by the fact that people kept going in and out of the room where the princess’ body lay to pay respects.
He said: “I walked into that room and there is a guy bowing at the end of a bed. And people [like that] were just walking in to pay their respects. And, bang, there was the boss, in an ordinary bed, covered by a sheet up to her chin looking like she was asleep.
“‘She had a slight mark on the right of her face and her hair was a little dishevelled. It was a shocking moment. But I had to pull myself together and I said, ‘I don’t think people should be coming in and out of her room. It should be kept totally clear. Could you tell me what is supposed to be happening [to her]?'”
He was also disturbed to see people on nearby rooftops looking through the room’s windows.
He added: “I couldn’t believe it. I don’t think they knew exactly where we were because it was a big hospital, but they were trying to get photos and there weren’t any curtains in the windows.”
Mr Tebbutt ordered staff to put up blankets across the windows and secure her room so that access was limited while they waited for Leverton & Sons, the royal undertakers, to arrive in the afternoon.
Worried about the preservation of her body, he was told her body could not be moved to a mortuary until the undertakers arrived, and he asked for portable air-conditioning units to be moved into the room because it was a hot summer day.
Mr Tebbutt said: “So they brought them to me on tall stands. But when I plugged them in and turned them [to point at the bed] I thought, just for a second, that the Princess was still alive. Because her hair was moving and her eyelids too. And just for a fraction of a second my heart stopped and I had to turn away to the wall, and Paul did too.”
It was probably the worst moment of his life apart from the deaths of his own mother and father, he added.
Later, a photo of Diana’s sons, William and Harry, which was in her handbag, was placed in her hands along with rosary beads given to her by Mother Teresa.
That day, her ex-husband Prince Charles and sisters Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes arrived to see her body.
Yves-Marie Clochard-Bossuet, a local Catholic priest who had been keeping vigil over Diana’s body, told how he prayed with Charles, Diana’s sisters and an Anglican priest next to the princess for about 15 minutes.
Afterwards, said Mr Clochard-Bossuet, Charles thanked him and had tears in his eyes.