A former bodyguard of Princess Diana, who she nicknamed ‘Rambo’ after the 80s action character, says he believes she would still be alive if he had been on duty the night she died.
Lee Sansum, now 60, opened up in an interview with The Sun about the night the royal, alongside Dodi Fayed, was killed in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997.
He discussed how no one in the vehicle was wearing seatbelts – something he says he always insisted on.
And 25 years on from the devastating night, the former Military Police Officer reveals how he could’ve been with the princess that weekend, and with them in the car.
He said: ‘It could have been me in that car. We drew straws to see who would be accompanying Trevor [Rees-Jones] that weekend. When I learned they were not wearing seatbelts in the crash I understood why they didn’t survive. I always insisted on it.’
On August 31, it will be 25 years since Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris while she was with Dodi Fayed, the son of former Harrod’s owner Mohamed Al-Fayed
Lee, ex-Royal Military Policeman, martial arts champion, private military contractor and expert in close protection, added that it was standard practice for the family to wear seatbelts, an order sent down from Mohamed Al-Fayed.
He made the comments while discussing his new book, ‘The Bodyguard’, about his life as an expert in close protection, calling it ‘the story of the real bodyguard’.
Over the course of his career, Lee worked with the rich and famous, such as Hollywood stars Tom and Nicole, Pele, and Sylvester Stallone, and in the book he gives a candid account of what it’s like to work in a job where lives are literally at stake.
At the time of Diana’s death, he was a part of Mohamed Al-Fayed’s protection team, the owner of Hôtel Ritz Paris and formerly Harrods department store and Fulham FC.
Lee Sansum, now 60, was nicknamed ‘Rambo’ by Diana and has since written a book about his experiences in personal protection
He 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 in 1997.
In his book, he says he formed a close bond with Diana and the young princes, particularly Harry.
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.
‘She’d been happy on that holiday,’ he said. ‘But I had seen her in tears too, she confided in me her own fears that she might one day be assassinated.
‘She said something that always stayed with me – ‘Do you think they’ll do that to me?’
Lee explained despite trying to reassure her, she was shaking and it was clear she really thought ‘they’ might.
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.
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.
Lee Sansum (in sunglasses) with Diana when she was on holiday in St Tropez, France, in 1997
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’s story is one of achieving personal goals while overcoming trauma, which he says was through the help of his wife, Kate and his twin sons, as well as his love of martial arts.
On his Instagram page @leesansum earlier this year he wrote: ‘Super excited about my book launch in April next year’.
On another post he also wrote: ‘Keep seeing new pics of me and the Princess @princess.diana.forever pop up in the National Media … and still the questions go on. I wish people would read the coroners inquest findings and start asking some very obvious questions.’
But Lee writes in his book he does not believe Diana was murdered, but the presence of intelligence services following her before the accident might have been a factor in the crash.
He said one of his colleagues recognised someone from the Special Reconnaissance Unit working on a nearby building site. They’d both worked together previously in the SAS.
The letter Diana sent Lee after the trip in St Tropez, thank him for his service, which Lee now treasures dearly
He also added that they’d always been followed by MI5 but that this was the first time they’d seen someone from the Special Forces.
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 realise 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.