Princess Diana’s former bodyguard has spoken of how she was left fearing for her life following the murder of her friend, the fashion designer Gianni Versace, on the 25th anniversary of her death.
Lee Sansum, an ex-Royal Military Police officer, private military contractor and expert in close protection, told GMB how Diana was left ‘in tears’ after Versace was shot dead outside his Miami mansion on July 15, 1997, weeks before her own death .
Sansum had been assigned to look after Diana, and her sons William and Harry, during their stay at Al-Fayad’s 30-bedroom villa in St Tropez that summer.
He has penned a book about his experiences that will be published tomorrow.
Princess Diana’s former bodyguard has spoken of how she was left fearing for her life following the murder of her friend, the fashion designer Gianni Versace (pictured together in 1985)
Lee Sansum, pictured, an ex-Royal Military Police officer, private military contractor and expert in close protection, told GMB how Diana was left ‘in tears’ after Versace was shot dead outside his Miami mansion on July 15, 1997, weeks before her own death
‘It was when Versace, when he was murdered,’ Sansum said. ‘At that time everybody thought it was some kind of assassination.
‘She was saying to me that she was upset. She was visibly upset, she had been crying a lot. I just bumped into her on the yacht and she asked me, really earnestly: “Are they going to do that to me?”
‘I was a bit shocked at the whole scene at that time. We were quite close… I just assured her that we were a very professional team and that we were going to look after her and her boys to the best of our ability.’
Weeks later, on August 31, 1997, Diana died in a car crash alongside Dodi Al-Fayed and their driver, Henri Paul.
At the time of Diana’s death, Sansum was a part of Mohamed Al-Fayed’s protection team, the owner of Hôtel Ritz Paris and formerly Harrods department store and Fulham FC.
In his book, he says he formed a close bond with Diana and the young princes, particularly Harry.
Lee Sansum (in sunglasses) with Diana when she was on holiday in St Tropez, France, in 1997
Burnley-born Lee said Diana would wake up at 7am every day and chat to him. He said she worried about her own life after the murder of her friend fashion designer Gianni Versace, who had been fatally shot outside his Miami Beach mansion in July 1997.
Lee also remembers Diana telling him she wanted to live with Dodi in America as it was the only place she felt people weren’t going to have a go at her.
The martial arts expert said he took an instant shine to young William and Harry, who were down to earth and friendly, like their mother.
He remembers he tried to teach the two some kickboxing but they were too ‘apprehensive’.
Lee grew up in a tough part of Greater Manchester, and believed that to survive you need to stand up to bullies and be harder than your opponent.
The letter Diana sent Lee after the trip in St Tropez, thank him for his service, which Lee now treasures dearly
He had a career in the Royal Military Police which took him to the ‘Bandit Country’ of South Armagh, where he pulled an AWOL squaddie out of a honey trap moments before an IRA active service unit arrived to kill him.
He also worked undercover in Northern Ireland and joined the SIB, the Army’s own internal affairs unit, before entering the world of private security, operating in the world’s hotspots, such as Libya and the breakaway state of Somaliland.
Lee added: ‘I believe security officers following Diana, possibly British or a combined British–French team, may have either inadvertently caused the crash or were in close proximity to the car when it happened.’
Lee, who now often does public speaking events, has a letter he received from the princess 25 years ago after that summer get-away, which he says he will always treasure.
The letter says: ‘Dear Lee. William, Harry and I very much wanted to write to thank you for taking such good care of us during our stay in St Tropez. We realize that our presence, along with that of the media, made your job enormously difficult, and for that we apologise! However, we all had a magical ten days – which would not have been possible without your invaluable contribution and for that, we all send our warmest possible thanks.’
The Bodyguard (Seven Dials), by Lee Sansum, will be out on September 1, at £9.99.