Diana 1961-1997: The tragedy - A bunch of red roses swung gently over the tunnel mouth

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The Independent Online
A bunch of red roses hung by a length of string from the top of the tunnel mouth, twisting gently in the slipstream from the cars once again speeding below.

By mid-day, there were scores of bunches of flowers all over the Place d'Alma: some piled up on either side of the tunnel in which Diana was fatally injured; some propped up against the statue of the Flame of Liberty in the square above. Most had messages in French: some in English. "May you rest in peace, Diana. We will not forget you, Queen of Hearts"; "Thank you for all that you have given us. So sorry that it has ended this way"; and: "Diana, I hope you will rest now a little. We are all with you forever".

Crowds came and went: many well-wishers, others just curious, unsuspecting tourists, attracted by the fuss, and astonished to discover what had happened.

Diana and Dodi's car, accelerating to avoid snoopers, crashed in the epicentre of tourist Paris. "Lady Diana was killed here? you're kidding me," one American was saying as a French passer-by tried to break the news to him in broken English: "Diana and her lover," he said. "They being chased by the photographers ... "

In the trampled garden above the tunnel mouth, two middle-aged men were having an argument in front of a TV camera. Witnesses? No, just theorists. "Have you ever had motor-cycle lights pursuing you in the dark. That could have caused the accident alone," said one. "You know nothing. They must have been driving too fast. There is a sharp bend in the tunnel ..."

The shallow underpass, with concrete pillars dividing the carriageways, is part of a network of fast routes built along the banks of the Seine in the 1970s. One middle-aged woman was leaning over the barrier, staring down at the road into the tunnel. "I came as soon as I heard the news on the radio, said Yvette Guilleux. "I wanted to be with Diana. She was beautiful, generous, intelligent. She was a wonderful representative of her country, of the Royal Family and of women. I am so sorry for her children."

Leone Demasnes, 53, had placed a bunch of white daisies by the Flamme de Liberte in the square. "As soon as I heard," she said. "I thought of another princess, whom they would not leave alone and who died in a car crash, of Princess Grace. Diana was loved in France. She was, to us, a true princess, a princess of dreams. It is a tragedy. But they could not leave her alone, could they, they could not leave her with any privacy?"

A crowd of about 100 gathered outside the Ritz Hotel, in the Place Vendome, from which Diana's party had fled just before the accident. One French- man in his 20's said he had come "out of curiosity" and to pay his respects. "I think it is a tragic that a woman and two men have died and two children have been left without a mother, just for the sake of a photo."