How could Channel 4 show a picture of her death? - 29 May 2007

That hunt, of course, ended with her tragic death in Paris, a death which those of us who loved her naively assumed would at least allow her to rest in some sort of dignified peace. How very wrong we were.

In all those ten years, barely a week has gone by without Diana's image staring out at us from newspaper and television screens, to such an extent that two years after she died my daughter - then aged six - once asked whether it was God who was now taking pictures of Diana.

She simply couldn't understand where all the photographs were coming from.
The image of Diana is still one of the most recognised in the entire world. Given the way she lived and indeed the way she died, that's perhaps inevitable.

But there have to be limits and Channel 4's plans to show a picture of Diana's last moments, as she lay dying in the back of Dodi Fayed's car, are so far past those limits that it is really no exaggeration to describe them as sickening.
The sheer inhumanity of what they are planning to do - supposedly in the name of journalistic endeavour - simply beggars belief. It's an insult to her two bereaved sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, both of whom are said to be disgusted by Channel 4's plans.

But it's also an insult to Diana, who at the very least deserves to be shown the same dignity and respect that the media extends to nearly all those who are victims of accidents and disaster.

There is, after all, absolutely nothing of news value in the photograph that Channel 4 is planning to use.

On the night Princess Diana died - and indeed the day that followed - British newspaper editors were having to make instant decisions about which pictures of the accident were appropriate to use and which were not.

It must have been a gruesome job but it's not a particularly unusual one for experienced journalists - they do this regularly and know where the boundaries of taste and common decency lie.

By and large, that means no pictures of dead bodies, particularly if they are identifiable, no pictures of the moment of death and no pictures of mortally injured victims as they approach death.

It was into that last category that poor Diana fell, as she lay dying in the back of that car.

Amid the confusion of the early hours after the accident - particularly the report that Diana had been badly injured rather than killed - I perhaps wouldn't have blamed a newspaper or TV news editor if they had used that picture.

But the moment it was announced that the Princess had died, I would have expected it to be withdrawn and never shown again, just as so much of the photos and footage of 9/11 were withdrawn once we all realised what a tragedy we were actually watching.

And yet, on the night Diana died, not a single British newspaper or television channel came anywhere close to making that sort of slip.

They all had the photographs but none of them chose to use them.

But now, ten years later, Channel 4 has decided that one of these pictures should be used - and it's not difficult to see why.

How else are they likely to get people to watch yet another documentary, surely the umpteenth, about the events leading up to Diana's death?
For just as one generation of documentary makers pored endlessly over the events of President Kennedy's assassination, so a new generation have examined the events leading up to Diana's death in minute detail.

Combine that with the exhaustive French inquiry into the accident, Lord Stevens's report, the coroner's inquest and you have a subject that has been so heavily trawled over that it is impossible to come up with anything new.
It has become the most discussed and dissected accident in history.
That's precisely why Channel 4 has taken the desperate, cynical and wickedly exploitative decision it has, to include one of these new "unseen" images and to ignore the very good reasons why they have remained unseen.

Channel 4 is using this grotesque footage as a ghoulish marketing tool. It appeals to our very worst instincts in the same way drivers slow down to look at accidents that happen on a motorway - "Roll up, roll up" Channel 4 seem to be saying. "Take a look at the dying Princess."

Nor can I understand how a mainstream British television channel can simply ignore the well-articulated objections of Princes William and Harry.
After all, these images have been used before in European magazines and, at the time, the Princes made it quite clear how upsetting they found them and asked for some privacy to be shown to their mother.

Is there anyone in Britain - Channel 4 executives apart - who doesn't appreciate how they feel and, indeed sympathise with them?

Indeed, if any of our family was killed in a car crash, would we expect to see newspaper pictures of our relative lying dead in the wreckage?

William and Harry may be royal princes but, on this particular score, they are just two boys who lost their mother in a terrible accident and they deserve to be treated in the same way the media endeavours to treat all those who have experienced such a loss - with dignity, sensitivity and respect.

Channel 4 is conspicuously failing to demonstrate a single one of these qualities.

Diana was my friend - a good friend, Godmother to my younger daughter - and it sickens me to see her memory being exploited in this way.

But what alarms me even more is how our obsession with the manner of her death is detracting from all the really good things she did in her life.

Diana achieved a lot in her all-too-short life, a lot she should be remembered for and of which her boys can be rightly proud. But, unless we change the ghoulish focus of media interest, much of that good work is in danger of being forgotten.

When she was on official duty as the "Princess of Wales" Diana accepted she was fair game for the cameras. But she could never accept the paparazzis' right to follow her when she was "off-duty". She was definitely off-duty on the night she died.

Diana spent a lot of time with the sick and the terminally ill, and I remember a conversation I had with her after she had sat at the bedside of a mutual friend who was dying. She talked about the peace and also the importance of dignity in those precious last minutes of life.

Surely, the very least we can do is to respect her own last moments and give her the privacy in death that she so lacked in life.