Princess Diana 20 years on: When the world's media engulfed Oswestry for Advertizer scoop

Reporter:

Susan Perry

Susan Perry, now associate editor with NWN Media Ltd, publishers of the Advertizer, was chief reporter on the Tizer in August 1997 when the best story of the decade broke...

WHEN your phone rings at 7am on a Sunday, you know it must be something major. It was.

My sister Clare was on the other end of the line telling me to turn on my television.

I did – and that was when August 31, 1997 became one of the most memorable days of my journalistic life.

It was all over the news. Diana, Princess of Wales had died in a car crash in Paris.

The information coming through at first was sparse. It was not apparent what had happened and how many were involved – but what was clear was that the most photographed and written about woman in the world and the former wife of our future King had been killed.

Then news filtered through there was a sole survivor of the crash.

A bodyguard employed by Mohammed Al Fayed, father of Dodi who Diana had recently begun a relationship with and who, too, had been killed along with the driver Henri Paul.

That was when the journalist in me woke up and kicked into action.

Could there be an Oswestry link?

Susan Perry, former chief reporter at the Advertizer, and now associate editor of NWN Media Ltd

Just weeks before we had carried an advertisement feature in the Advertizer about a new homeware shop that had opened in Cross Street called Watling and Brompton, run by a married couple, Susan and Trevor Rees-Jones.

But why did I remember this now? Because the husband, Trevor, had told us he was an ex-paratrooper now employed as a bodyguard.

I wondered...

I hit the telephone and started ringing around my contacts. I called anyone and everyone. Could it really be him?

Within an hour I had it confirmed. It was Oswestry man Trevor Rees-Jones.

Even though it was a Sunday and the office was closed I decided to go and see what else I could find out.

I was not alone. Soon all my colleagues were there as news spread it was a local lad who had survived the crash that had killed Princess Diana.

By the time we went to press the next day, we had exclusive pictures of Trevor in his new shop that we had used in the advertisement feature and comments and quotes from friends who knew him well.

Trevor Rees-Jones

When the paper hit the streets we had THE scoop, the story of the decade.

But that was when the real madness began. As news spread, we had national and international press on the phones and at the office asking for our story and pictures. American news network NBC even wanted to interview me!

The world simply could not get enough of the Diana tragedy and our town’s link with it.

Oswestry was engulfed by the world’s press, all wanting to know every possible detail about Trevor Rees-Jones and his family and the town of Oswestry itself. You could not turn a corner of a town centre street without a news crew being there.

The world, as was the town of Oswestry, was in shock. It carried on for a few years after that. Every anniversary the news teams would descend again, but getting fewer in number as the years passed.

They certainly were strange times and some time later I was fortunate to interview Trevor, who went on to publish a book in 2000 about the events of that night in the Parisian underpass.

I spoke to him because he was helping a friend promote the opening of a gym based in the town centre.

It was a miracle how Trevor managed to survive that crash and the scars from that fateful night were still apparent.

Just like he said in his book, he remembered nothing of those historic events that saw an unprecedented outpouring of grief never witnessed before. Like he said, he was just there doing his job.

It was certainly a period of my life I will never forget.

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  • SEvans

    00:12, 06 September 2017

    Horrible tone to this article... Poor man couldn't do anything in his home town without being harassed after what must have been a hideously traumatic experience and this "reporter" is gloating? Humility would go a long, long way in this situation.

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  • gibbo1976

    20:08, 31 August 2017

    best day of your life !!!!!!the princess of wales dieing are you sick..?..think you need to give your job up dont you

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