Diana 1961-1997: The tributes - Blood on their hands, says brother

Anthony Bevins
Monday 01 September 1997 00:02 BST

The most bitter condemnation of the media's alleged role in Princess Diana's death came from her brother Earl Spencer outside Tarrystone House, his palatial home in Constantia, one of Cape Town most opulent suburbs.

"I always believed the press would kill her in the end," he said. "But not even I could believe they would take such a direct hand in her death as seems to be the case.

"It would appear that every proprietor and every editor of every publication that has paid for intrusive and exploitative photographs of her, encouraging greedy and ruthless individuals to risk everything in pursuit of Diana's image, has blood on his hands today."

A long-time critic of press invasion of privacy, he did not conceal his contempt for those to whom he had just spoken. The break-up of his own marriage came under intense press scrutiny after he moved to the Cape. And when Princess Diana visited him in Cape Town last year she found there was no escape from the paparazzi.

But while the princess's death inevitably raised the issue of new curbs on the media and privacy legislation, senior Government sources cast doubt on the prospect of such changes.

The issue was first raised by Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, who said in an early morning statement from Singapore that after the immediate shock of grief, "longer term, serious questions will have to be asked as to whether the aggressive intrusion into her privacy has contributed to this tragedy."

The Prime Minister himself has always taken the view that questions of privacy and taste are best left to the self-regulation of the newspaper industry.

But Lord Wakeham, chairman of the self-regulatory Press Complaints Commission, said that the immediate aftermath of the tragedy was not the right moment to make a judgement.

Having recently warned that a privacy law could actually worsen the problem of intrusion, Lord Wakeham said: "I shall be watching the situation and have to think what to do."

It is expected that the Commons National Heritage Select Committee will undertake an inquiry into privacy, but Government sources said a number of questions would need to be taken into consideration, not least how effective the law could be.

There is a French law of privacy, but that did not stop the Paris paparazzi pursuing the princess - nor would it stop the international media publishing the product, or the public buying newspapers that gave such pictures prominence.

Yesterday Mark Saunders, a paparazzo who had followed Diana for five years, until six months ago, said: " A privacy law is simply not going to work, this took place in France where they have got quite strict laws.

"But frankly with Diana gone I can see the papers easing off because there is simply no one else like her around".

An official report on privacy, chaired by David Calcutt QC, said in 1990 that if the press "failed to demonstrate that non-statutory self-regulation could be made to work effectively, a statutory press tribunal for handling complaints should be introduced."

Following a review of self-regulation, Sir David reported in 1993 that he had, with regret, reached the conclusion "that the Press Complaints Commission, as set up by the press, has not proved itself to be an effective regulator."

He recommended a statutory regime.

David Mellor, a former heritage secretary who was himself a victim of intrusion, with the bugging of a conversation between himself and Antonia de Sancha, once famously warned that the press had been given one more chance to clean up its act - it was drinking at the "Last Chance Saloon".

Yesterday, Mr Mellor said the life of the princess had been lost because of her hatred and fear of press photographers.

"This has to be a defining moment in our society," he said, "when we recognise that we have come to the end of a chapter and have to start a new one in civilised behaviour. The world cannot be the same again after this tragedy."

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in