A month after her 36th birthday, on 31 August 1997, Diana and Dodi were in a fatal car crash in the Pont de l'Alma underpass tunnel in Paris. They were en route back to Britain, after spending time on his yacht. On 30 August, Diana and Dodi had enjoyed a romantic dinner at the Hotel Ritz Place Vendome, Paris. The couple left the hotel via the rear entrance shortly after midnight, accompanied by bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, and French driver Henri Paul.
During her life, the Princess was known for her high profile charity work, starting with her support of AIDS charities campaigns in 1987. Diana was the first celebrity to be photographed touching a person with the HIV virus. She did this knowingly and willingly. In an instant, the photographs of her compassionate gesture went a long way to helping shift public awareness of AIDS. Diana often made unannounced visits to terminally ill patients in hospital but with the request that she remain out of the media on these occasions.
She also supported the International Campaign for a Ban on Landmines. Possibly best remembered was her International Red Cross VIP volunteer visit to Angola in January 1997, with the poignant photograph of her in a helmet with a visor, wearing a simple top and jeans, touring a minefield. She also visited Bosnia in August 1997, which was to be her last trip as 'Queen of Hearts', with the Landmine Survivors Network. Her special interest was in how the children are affected and often injured by buried landmines, long after the conflict has abated. She was actively involved in the Red Cross.
In a legacy to her unending support of children, the Diana Memorial Award was created. It is granted to young people who have unselfishly devoted themselves to causes the Princess herself defended. Mohamed Al-Fayed contributed £3 million to the foundation of The New School at West Heath, as a tribute to the late Princess Diana. The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is located in Hyde Park, London. It was designed by American landscape artist, Kathryn Gustafson, with children in mind and was opened by the Queen on 6 July 2004.
An inquest into Diana's death opened and adjourned in January 2004. Former Metropolitan Police force chief Lord John Stevens was then asked to undertake an official Scotland Yard inquiry into whether or not Diana and Dodi Fayed were murdered. After nearly three years, the report by Lord Stevens was released in December 2006. It concluded that the allegations of murder were unfounded and the car crash that killed the pair in Paris on 31 August 1997 was a tragic accident. Stevens also confirmed that Diana had not been pregnant and was not engaged or about to be engaged at the time of her death.
A princess taken in her prime, who came into the royal family and the public spotlight as a shy young woman and grew into one of the most popular and copied women in the world. She brought an unexpected breath of fresh air into the Windsor household and helped to change public perception of monarchy. She reached out and touched so many people's hearts, whilst hers was often breaking. Diana did have her antagonists and she was maligned for having an unclassified mental illness and for manipulating the media for her own gain. For all her faults, however, she always did what she thought best and her children came first above all. Her two sons have grown into fine young men, with much of their mother's feisty spirit. Diana's memory will continue to live on, as she truly became a legend in her own time and stamped an indelible mark on history.
Continuing her charitable efforts is the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. Established after her death, the fund provides grants to numerous organizations and supports initiatives to provide care to the sick in Africa, help refugees, and stop the use of landmines.
Fuelled perhaps by the beliefs of establishment persecution Diana had suffered with the 'Squidgygate' affair in 1992, speculation of conspiracy was once again rife, with many believing that the car crash was an assassination rather than an accident, notable amongst them was Mohamed Al-Fayed. It later emerged that Diana had written a letter to her butler, Paul Burrell, in October 1996, the year before she died. In it, she claimed there was a plot to kill her and she feared that the brakes of her car would be tampered with to cause 'an accident' resulting in serious head injury. She believed this would be to get her out of the way in order for Charles to marry Camilla. Following the French investigation into the crash, it was ruled an accident, caused by driver Henri Paul being under the influence of alcohol and driving at high speed. British police are currently undertaking an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Diana's death and the report is expected in 2007.