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Journalist recalls weekly landing world exclusive after Diana’s death

Susan PerryA weekly newspaper journalist has recalled landing the “story of the decade” after discovering the only survivor of the car crash which killed Princess Diana was from her patch.

Twenty years on from the 31 August 1997 crash, Susan Perry, left, has written about the exclusive which came about after she realised there was a local link to the tragedy.

A few weeks prior to the crash, the Oswestry & Border Counties Advertizer had carried an advertisement feature on a new hardware shop which had been opened in the Shropshire town by Susan and Trevor Rees-Jones.

After waking up to the news of Diana’s death on that Sunday morning, Susan, who was then the Advertizer’s chief reporter, began wondering whether Mr Rees-Jones, who had told the paper he was an “ex-paratrooper now employed as a bodyguard”, was the same bodyguard who had been the sole survivor of the crash.

In a piece for this week’s Advertizer recalling what happened next, Susan wrote: “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. When the paper hit the streets we had the scoop, the story of the decade.”

Suzy, now associate editor for Advertizer owner NWN Media, said after the scoop “the real madness began” as national and international press descended on Oswestry and American TV network NBC even requested an interview with her.

She later went on to interview Mr Rees-Jones before he published a book about the events of the fateful night in Paris.

Former Advertizer deputy editor Peter Danby said: “The death of the princess was obviously world news and the basic facts were fairly well documented but to live in the same town as the bodyguard, well that was gold for any journalist.

“Some of our contacts were more helpful and forthcoming than others, but together Su and I put together messages of support and good wishes from those close to Trevor Rees-Jones, who it was now clear had suffered catastrophic injuries having broken nearly every bone in his face which needed substantial reconstructive surgery.

“We compiled the story just ahead of the national media which descended on the town in force.”

In October 1997, Mr Rees-Jones himself published a message in the Advertizer thanking readers for their support.