The family of Diana, Princess of Wales, was “shocked and sickened” tonight after images of a dying Diana were broadcast on American television.
Earl Spencer led the condemnation of the grainy pictures which showed his sister slumped in a car and being treated by a doctor after the Paris crash which claimed her life.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair branded the use of the photographs on an American network “distasteful”, while friends of the Princess described it as “absolutely revolting”.
Princes William and Harry, who were unlikely to have seen the footage, were expected be left distraught at the decision to show the images.
It follows more than six years of spiralling conspiracy theories, programmes, videos from ‘beyond the grave’ and revelations about the world’s most photographed woman.
The Princess’s death will even be the subject of a new French film, focusing on a fictionalised account of the driver of the mysterious Fiat Uno believed to have clipped Diana’s Mercedes moments before the crash.
Last night, US TV network CBS used black and white photocopies of photographs from a French investigation report for its 48 Hours Investigates ‘Diana’s Secrets’ programme.
They showed the Princess being treated as she lay in the back of the car in which she died with boyfriend Dodi Fayed.
The eerie pictures, which were confiscated by police from photographers at the scene, were shown for 10 seconds and viewers saw Diana with her eyes closed.
It was the first time that the images – taken just moments after the 1997 tragedy – had been shown in public.
A brief statement released by the Althorp estate on behalf on Diana’s brother Charles Spencer read: “Lord Spencer and his family are shocked and sickened by CBS’s actions.”
Mr Blair told reporters at his monthly press conference: “I think everyone finds it distasteful that there are pictures that can cause distress to the family.”
Meanwhile, Lord St John of Fawsley said the Prince of Wales, like his sons, was also likely to be also be distraught at the latest developments.
“They both get deeply upset and so does Prince Charles and so do all Princess Diana’s friends,” he said.
The constitutional expert and friend of the royals added: “I think it’s absolutely revolting and disgusting.”
Former Buckingham Palace spokesman Dickie Arbiter said the broadcast of the images as “bad taste” and that it would be “painful” for William and Harry.
Clarence House has declined to comment on the matter.
Diana’s former protection officer Ken Wharfe, who was interviewed on the show, aired at 3am BST, was among those who voiced their concern.
“I was invited along with others in the belief this was a documentary to tell the positive side of Diana, rather than the negative that we have now being seen on American television,” he told GMTV.
He blamed competition for viewers for the decision to broadcast the pictures, adding: “It is regrettable that we have to see this.
“I do not think it is good journalism and it is certainly not going to demonstrate any more than we know already.”
Anger was also expressed by Dodi’s father, Mohamed al Fayed, who accused the television station of cashing in on the tragedy.
He said: “This was a crime – the murder of two innocent people.
“CBS obviously don’t care about the appalling effect of showing images of murder victims.
“They simply want to cash in on the tragedy. It is disgraceful and insensitive of them to do this.”
Lawyers for the Harrods boss sent a letter to CBS begging them not to show the pictures, saying they would have a “substantial and grievous emotional impact”.
Mr al Fayed has staged a lengthy legal battle against paparazzi photographers who were following Diana and Dodi that night of August 31, 1997, for invasion of privacy.
He also claims that Diana and his son were deliberately murdered, alleging that British intelligence agents were involved.
In a statement, CBS said the photographs were photocopied, and included in the French investigation report.
The network said: “A one-hour report from 48 Hours Investigates on Princess Diana’s death will include photocopied images, none of them remotely graphic, that had previously not been seen and are part of a 4,000-page French government report the broadcast recently obtained.”
But a spokeswoman from the Diana Memorial Fund said it had “very strong reservations” about the justifications, while Tory party co-chairman Liam Fox said the use of the images was “truly obscene”.
The Princess died from internal injuries hours after the car slammed into the 13th pillar of the tunnel while being followed by the paparazzi.
The CBS report appeared to dispel many of the conspiracy theories and concluded that chauffeur Henri Paul was high on drink and drugs and that the crash was an accident.
It did reveal, however, that Mr Paul had received tens of thousands of pounds in unexplained payments in the nine months before the accident.
Despite a search of his home and office, and the questioning of his friends and associates, the French investigators were unable to find the source of the payments.
The doctor seen in one of the pictures attending to Diana, Frederic Mailliez, told the programme: “As I approached the tunnel I saw smoke in the middle of the tunnel.
“I went to the wreckage to see what was going on inside.”
Describing Diana’s condition, he said: “I can tell you that her face was still beautiful. She didn’t have any injuries on her face.
“She was unconscious. She didn’t speak at all.”