Princess Diana’s former lover Hasnat Khan has spoken of his fury after being told by police his phone may have been hacked in the months before her inquest.
The 53-year-old heart surgeon – whom the Princess called her ‘Mr Wonderful’ – said the disclosure left him feeling ‘robbed’.
Detectives told Dr Khan that his name and mobile phone number were found in paperwork uncovered during the Operation Weeting phone hacking inquiry.He used the phone until late 2007, when media speculation over whether he would ‘tell all’ at her belated inquest in March the following year was at its most intense. ‘To know that someone has been listening to your private messages is awful,’ Dr Khan said. ‘It is absolutely terrible. It feels as if you have been robbed. We live in the UK. We are supposed to have civil liberties. I feel really, really violated. I am very angry.’
In a rare interview, Dr Khan, a discreet figure who has resolutely avoided the limelight, also spoke of his dismay at royal author Penny Junor’s controversial new biography of Prince William, in which Diana is bluntly cast as manipulative and mentally ill.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday in his home town of Jhelum in Pakistan, he said it was his belief that Miss Junor was ‘rewriting history’. And in a fierce defence of the Princess, he declared: ‘There is no way at all that Diana was mentally unstable. There is nothing wrong with expecting your husband to be faithful and being angry when he isn’t.’
In particular, Dr Khan said he was angered by Miss Junor’s assertion that Prince Charles resumed his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles only after his marriage foundered irrevocably. ‘Diana had every reason to believe that Charles and Camilla never stopped seeing each other,’ he said.
‘There was no doubt about it in her mind at all.’And revealing for the first time details of an extraordinary encounter between the Princess and Camilla, he said: ‘Camilla came up to her and said, “Charles is going to propose to you.” ‘She told Diana before Charles proposed to her. Afterwards, Diana thought, “Why did this woman know before me?” Obviously they were confiding.
‘This is 100 per cent what Diana told me. She thought it was very odd. I would be very surprised if I was going to marry someone and my fiancee’s ex-boyfriend came to me and said that.’
Although Dr Khan refused to give direct evidence to the Diana inquest, the jury heard the full statement he had given to British police four years earlier. He didn’t expect to hear from Scotland Yard again, but in January this year he received a letter from officers at the Specialist Crime Directorate asking him to contact them.
He was told that his mobile number had been found and that he may have been hacked. Further details were not forthcoming, but he was asked if he wanted police to investigate further. He was also given a phone number for an office set up by News Corporation – publishers of the News of the World – for victims of phone hacking. Officers from Operation Weeting have contacted hundreds of phone hacking victims or likely targets after finding their names in notebooks seized from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who worked for the now-defunct tabloid.
Now awaiting the outcome of the investigation, Dr Khan said he would donate any compensation he might receive to a heart unit he is setting up to treat impoverished children in Pakistan, which is expected to open near Jhelum later this year. ‘I will seek the maximum compensation I can get and I will give it towards the hospital we are building here,’ he said.
It was this hospital that he and Diana dreamed of building together and now, 15 years after her death, their plans are finally coming to fruition. ‘Diana was one of those people who didn’t just talk about things,’ he said. ‘She was proactive. She would go out and get it done. I think this hospital would be ten years old by now if she was alive. She did good things because she wanted to, not because of her status. She had an inner desire. It genuinely came from within her.
‘You could tell. She didn’t want anything back. ‘I have no doubt that Diana would have been involved in this. It wouldn’t have mattered whether we were together or not.’
Dr Khan spoke warmly of their two-year relationship, recalling how they had seriously considered beginning a new life in Pakistan before ultimately deciding it would be impractical. ‘She couldn’t have lived in Pakistan at that time – her children were too young,’ he said. ‘She couldn’t live in two places at the same time, spending a month here or a week there. But I think now William is married and Harry is grown up, she wouldn’t have a problem with it.
‘But at the time, that [William and Harry] was the main issue. Obviously you don’t expect her to leave the boys behind, and the boys couldn’t have left the UK anyway. ‘In retrospect, there are one hundred could-have-beens. You never know. She could be living very happily and married and having more kids, with me or with someone else. It could have led in that direction [for us]. I try not to think about these things. I can’t change anything now.
‘I think mainly the problem was that even after two years, the relationship wasn’t leading to a meaningful progression or conclusion, and that was the main stress on both of us. Everyone wants a relationship to be going somewhere.’
Just weeks before her death in 1997, Dr Khan met Diana for the final, bittersweet time, at Battersea Park in South London. It was at this meeting that she ended their relationship. He tried to telephone the Princess on August 30, the night before she died, but she had changed her telephone number and they would never speak again.Of that painful last meeting he will say only, with strong understatement: ‘It was not at all happy. But that is all forgotten now. I think my mind has blanked a few things out.’
Dr Khan has always eschewed big-money offers for the full story of his royal love affair – and always will.
He has also turned down a request to act as script consultant on the upcoming film Caught In Flight, with British actress Naomi Watts as Diana.
With a wry smile, he said simply: ‘I just filed the letters. It is a thick file – bigger than my PhD thesis.’ By the time the phone hacking scandal reached boiling point, Dr Khan had already long stopped reading the newspapers. He moved briefly to Malaysia, where he engrossed himself in his work as head of a cardiac hospital and spent weekends fishing and walking in the mango groves. ‘I just completely blanked it out,’ he says. ‘It isn’t just now. It was very soon after [Diana’s death]. I read a few things initially. Some were completely untrue. Some were a third person speculating.‘I thought, a person has just died, for God’s sake. Leave a little more time for people to get over the grieving and everything else.
I found it quite distressing so I stopped reading anything.’
From the very beginning, Dr Khan was disinterested in the spotlight. Famously, he found no allure in Princess Diana, the starry, jet-setting celebrity. But Diana, the altruistic, caring woman, unafraid to dirty her hands for her charitable causes, was another matter.
Their paths first crossed in Sydney, Australia, in 1989 but they grew close when they met by chance six years later at the Royal Brompton Hospital in West London, where Diana was visiting a sick friend.
‘She didn’t want anything back. I don’t believe she ever did things like the landmines campaign to get media attention for herself,’ he said. ‘She didn’t need to. She would get attention anywhere, all she had to do was wear a nice frock or get a new hair-do. It was the same with the patients and the hospitals she visited.’
Clearly frustrated, he added: ‘When people write about someone like Nelson Mandela, for instance, they keep details of his private relationships to a minimum. Instead, they look at the good work he has done.
‘There are so many other aspects to her, good and bad – like me. Everyone is like that. It was a genuine desire to make a difference – there’s no doubt about it.’
During their relationship, Diana visited Dr Khan in Pakistan and studied the Koran. She talked about them moving to Pakistan together and discussed in detail the complexities of her marriage. Since her death, the surgeon has been widely portrayed as the love of her life and the man who – had she lived – could have saved her from her personal demons by marrying her once her fling with Dodi Fayed fizzled out.
When I presented this image to Dr Khan and asked him if he felt it was a heavy psychological burden to be thought of in this way, he replied: ‘It is – of course it is. But at the time, we didn’t know what was going to happen. We couldn’t see the future.’
Fifteen years on, his ardent admiration of Diana is impossible to disguise. Since her death in 1997, he has had two relationships. Neither lasted.
The first was an arranged marriage with 29-year-old Hadia Sher Ali, the daughter of a noble Afghan family.
Shortly after it ended in 2008, he told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Sometimes I feel like screaming. There have been very bad times. I have moved on, but it keeps coming back.’
He later fell in love with Alexandra Panagoulas, a Greek heart doctor 21 years his junior. The pair enjoyed a long-distance relationship, with Alexandra training in Scotland and Dr Khan working in London. He was determined to finally put his past behind him. ‘We tried to see each other at weekends but then I would be on call and couldn’t come up,’ he says. ‘Slowly, the distance took a strain on the relationship. It was a disappointment, of course, because there were no personal problems there. ‘She took up a training post and we slowly just drifted apart. It was purely because we were at two different stages of our professional life. She is quite ambitious and that’s fair enough. ‘I can’t sit down and say, “Don’t pursue your career,” because I was like that. It would be hypocritical.’
Aside from brief spells in Malaysia and Dublin, Dr Khan has worked in Britain for the past 20 years, previously at the Royal Brompton Hospital and more recently at Basildon Hospital in Essex.
He now plans to leave Britain on a long sabbatical to oversee construction of the Abdul Razzaq Medical Trust hospital with fellow cardiologist Dr Azhar Kayani, the Pakistani president’s personal physician. If it is a success, he will leave Britain for good.
‘I definitely still hope to marry. I don’t know if it will happen when I go back to Pakistan. We will see what happens but I would love to have a family and kids. It would be great. ‘People say you never grow up unless you become a father – that’s what I’ve heard.’
Today, though, his ‘baby’ is turning the tentative plans he made with Diana into a reality. Twenty miles from the nearest town, the hospital will house Pakistan’s first charity-run cardiology unit, where children from the desperately poor surrounding villages will receive life-saving surgery. ‘[Diana and I thought] in the future it would be great to set up a hospital in Pakistan, and also provide support services for women,’ he says.
‘She had first-hand knowledge of what was going on in the country. ‘She was particularly keen to work for women’s rights and to help rape victims. My side was to build a hospital.’He firmly believes that, were Diana still alive today, she would have been at his side for the opening – and perhaps on a more long-term basis.
Asked if he has any regrets, however, he replied: ‘No – none whatsoever.’ After a pause, he added thoughtfully: ‘The only thing is that it is different when you are with people, and when they are suddenly not around.
‘All of a sudden, they disappear and you know you will never see them again. That is very difficult.’
Details of the charitable trust that will fund Dr Khan’s heart unit are available at www.arwt.org
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