Page last updated at 08:50 GMT, Tuesday, 8 April 2008 09:50 UK

'I'm going down in history for this'

John Loughrey
John Loughrey was the only member of the public to attend every day

By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

You've packed in your job and got up at 5am for the last six months to attend the Diana inquest. Now that it's all over, what do you do?

Having cost several million pounds and taken more than half a year, it's safe to say the inquest into the 1997 crash that killed Diana, Dodi Al Fayed and chauffeur Henri Paul has been something of a marathon.

Diana, Princess of Wales
Diana died in 1997

But while those on the courtroom floor will have been paid to attend - quite handsomely in the case of the barristers - a small group of devotees in the public gallery of the Royal Courts of Justice in London haven't received a penny.

Their dedication has cost them time and money over the last six months, even the comfort of their own home in one case. The most obsessive even gave up his job so he could follow the proceedings each day.

But what led them to put their lives on hold for the hearing? And now the inquest, which has concluded the deaths were the result of unlawful killing, has finished, what are their next steps? Here, three devotees of the hearing have their say.

JOHN LOUGHREY

"I'm going down in history for this," says John Loughrey. "It wouldn't surprise me if there wasn't a portrait of me hanging in Kensington Palace in 100 years time."

The 53-year-old chef is serious; he always is when it comes to the Diana inquest. Covered in fake tan with her name written in shaky blue letters across his forehead and Dodi on his cheeks, he's been a constant - and very conspicuous - presence in the public gallery.

He gave up his job to attend every day and is the only member of the public who has. He got up at 5am every morning and even slept outside the Royal Courts of Justice for three days to secure a seat on the first day.

"Everyone knows me here, they all talk to me and say hello," he says. "I've been here so long I notice when people have had a hair cut. I've become part of the fixtures and fittings."

He even got a mention in the coroner's summing up to the jury. "No one except you and I and, I think, the gentleman in the public gallery with Diana and Dodi painted on his forehead has sat through every word of evidence," said Lord Justice Scott Baker.

John Loughrey at the Diana memorial fountain
John Loughrey is a Diana superfan

That pleased the Diana fan and ardent royalist, who decided to attend the inquest after receiving "a sign" outside Kensington Palace on the anniversary of Diana's death last year. He felt four fingers rest on his left shoulder but no one was near him.

He's funded the whole thing by renting out his flat in south London and moving in with his sister in Enfield, north London.

He backs the "no murder" verdict and is dismissive of those who think it was some sort of conspiracy, saying there's "lots of paranoia" among Diana fans.

For him it's been about tying up loose ends and putting Diana's memory to rest. Despite the fact he has made the inquest his life for six months, he is very nonchalant about it ending.

"It's fine, I move on very quickly from things," he says. "I have plans, firstly I'm going to go on holiday with my sister. Then I'll think about getting another job."

And the Diana and Dodi written on his face?

"I just I woke up one day and decided to do it, I don't know when I'll wake up and decide to stop doing it," he says.

ANNABELLE DRUMMOND-REECE

"What I've seen over the last six months is British justice at its best," says Annabelle Drummond-Reece.

The retired doctor from Harrow, north London, got "hooked" on the Diana inquest after popping in one day after she'd visited the Citizens' Advice Bureau at the Royal Courts of Justice.

"I went in once out of curiosity and I enjoyed it so I went back the next week," she says. "Then it went from once a week to twice a week, and then four times a week.

For me the inquest has been escapism and a chance to forget the misery of one's own life

"It's been fascinating seeing the legal process close up like this and watching some of the finest legal minds at work. Observing how the barristers questioned and cross-examined witnesses, how the judge oversaw it all and learning about organisations like MI6.

"It's all been so impressive, really first class. There's been much seriousness but there's also been a lot of humour. I thoroughly enjoyed it all, especially working out which witnesses were lying. Much better than watching the television."

An ardent royalist, Ms Drummond-Reece also believes Diana and Dodi's deaths were an accident and dismisses conspiracy theories as "nonsense". She says the inquest was very thorough and hopes the verdict will end such speculation.

But she has regrets about it coming to an end. Involved in a lengthy legal case of her own, it has provided her with some welcome relief from the problems in her own life.

"For me the inquest has been escapism and a chance to forget the misery of one's own life," she says.

"Now it is back to normal and I'm not looking forward to that."

JOHN HOWSAM

"I read between the lines, I always do and there's a lot of reading between the lines to be done in this case," says John Howsam.

The 66-year-old has travelled from Northampton regularly over the last six months to attend the Diana inquest.

Along with a carrier bag containing sandwiches and photocopied newspaper articles about the princess, he also brought a seven-foot placard with him each time which asserted that Diana and Dodi were "assassinated".

"The truth is not being revealed inside the Royal Courts of Justice, the inquest was all about getting a happy ending for the establishment," he says.

John Howsam
John Howsam 'wants people to think'

The former joiner says attending the inquest is more about seizing a very public moment to try to make people think, rather than about Diana.

"I did like the princess, but not obsessively," he says. "I just believe something has gone on here that is being covered up and I think millions of people agree with me.

"My aim in going was always to make people think, to make the public understand they don't have to believe what they are told by the government. It was about being counted, about truth and justice."

He enjoyed watching the inquest but treated it much like a theatre performance, calling it "well orchestrated". But despite giving up his time and money, he won't continue his campaign for "the truth" now the inquest has finished.

"It has finalised things in the eyes of the establishment," he says. "There will be nothing anyone can do now.

"It was my final chance to make people think. We live in a democracy and I am allowed to say what I believe to be true and I was doing just that.

"It was enjoyable but it's back to normal life for me now, although I will always read between the lines of events that happen."


Below is a selection of your comments:

"You've packed in your job and got up at 5am for the last six months to attend the Diana inquest. Now that it's all over, what do you do?" You get a life mate! She died 11 years ago, get over it, move on. I'm sick of hearing about it.
Eddie, Leicester

Should you be running stories about some of these people? They clearly have personal issues and your article is just the sort of voyeurism that feeds their addiction. Being "connected to Diana" makes them feel important, but their obsession is destroying their lives. By running this article you are offering their sad lives up as entertainment. The BBC should be ashamed.
Roger Craven, Southampton, UK

I'm with John Howsam on this. I don't believe the story put over by the establishment if they had found the white Uno it would have been more credible but they didn't. I still think they were murdered. However that's the end of it as John says for the Establishment but it makes you think why did they feel the need to have the inquest when the French police had already investigated. I think it was purely to try and draw a line under their murder and to stop the theories. It won't. People will decide for themselves.
Karin, Glasgow

Although Diana was a highly regarded public figure, I fail to understand the apparently genuine and long lasting sympathy displayed by these 'fans'. The fact of the matter is, people die every day, to attach oneself to the event for years to follow isn't unhealthy, but when it is someone you neither had direct contact or a mutual relationship with, it makes me question their sanity... God forbid these people lose anyone close to them!
Matt, Herefordshire, England

He should consider therapy after writing "Diana" on his forehead and spending the last 94 days at her inquest. The only thing he should go down in history for is for being the biggest idiot that ever lived. It's one thing to be passionate about a cause, it's another to be psychotic about it.
Antony Bartlett, Exeter

British eccentrics at their best. We need (not quite clinically - possibly) mad people like this to keep the rest of us with smiles on our faces. Obviously, if they are (clinically) mad, then we shouldn't laugh.
Mike Tomlinson, Salisbury

I would have liked to have heard more about why the people mentioned in this article thought the way they did. None of them appeared to have changed their thoughts following the inquest, and none of them address questions such as the cameras in the tunnels.
Zain,

I don't know what's worse; quitting your job to watch a very public, widely-covered trial. Or perhaps becoming known for regularly carrying a mis-spelt 7ft baseless allegation.
Paul M, Manchester

Frankly that level of obsession scares me. She was a member of the Royal Family, not his own family. I think he's got serious problems and should seek counselling and possibly medical treatment.
Steve Harris, Telford, Shropshire

From your description it is clear that John Loughrey is a troubled man. But even he clearly sees there was no conspiracy to murder. That says a lot about the mental state of those worldwide who believed in a conspiracy. It is unambiguously clear who holds ultimate moral responsibility for the deaths and injuries that night. He who, as Shakespeare said, "doth protesteth too much".
Jim, London, England

John Howsam might want to think about his spelling of assassinated.
Some of these people seem to be mentally unwell. I have to say that I feel poor Mr Al Fayed himself appears to be in need of grief counselling. Mr Al-Fayed convinced nobody of his beliefs because his beliefs held no substance. If I had employed a man as a driver who was a drunk and that man killed my son through reckless driving, I might not want to face it either. However, perhaps the poor man needs to look at the responsibility which lay with his own staff rather than continuing to project responsibility outwards onto others.
Phil Ince, London



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