The death of Princess Diana in a Paris car crash 20 years ago this week came as a profound shock to one IRA bomb victim who admired her devotion to comforting the afflicted.
Mina Jadeja suffered serious psychological and physical injuries when the Provos bombed Harrods of London in December 1983.
She was comforted in hospital by the princess in the days after the attack which also injured three other family members.
Earlier this year, Ms Jadeja became the first person based in Great Britain to sit on the Northern Ireland Victims and Survivors Forum.
Ms Jadeja had been shopping with her sister, Vilas Parmar, and two nephews Rajan and Roni Parmar, at the luxury department store when a bomb placed in car outside exploded killing three police officers and three civilians.
The boys had just handed their Christmas lists to the store’s Santa Claus and they were all exiting on to Hans Crescent when the 30lb device sprayed glass and metal all around the area.
A vague warning had been phoned to the central London branch of the Samaritans charity giving the car’s registration plate. However, according to police, the caller did not give any other description of the vehicle and the area had not been cleared before the blast.
“When I woke up I had vague memories of being taken into an operating theatre,” Ms Jadeja recalled.
“Shrapnel had gone into my elbow and it was shattered, half of my arm was missing, and there was shrapnel in my neck.”
She said the compassion shown by Princess Diana in the aftermath of the carnage gave survivors a much-needed morale boost.
“I was in a very bad state but suddenly we were told on one of the days that we were going to have a Royal visitor. We had no idea who it was but there seemed to be a lot of excitement in the main ward.
“I was in a [side] ward with my sister and two nephews so we had a ward to ourselves.
“As injured and in the terrible state that we were, we still got caught up in the excitement.
“I was the least aware of what was going on because I had a lot of treatments going on, but as I was coming around, in walked Prince Charles and Princess Diana. It was unbelievable really.”
Ms Jadeja said the princess showed great kindness and immediately put everyone at ease.
“The first person to come to my bed was Diana. I noticed she was wearing a little brooch with Lord Krishna, one of our gods – a Hindu god, so I commented on it. She joked ‘you’re not as bad as you look if you’ve noticed that’,” Ms Jadeja said.
“She was just so pleasant to talk to and she was lovely. There was definitely a lot of empathy. Almost feeling our pain, and our hurt and our disappointment.
“And also our anger and our pain – it was all there in her facial expressions and her body language. She was very much into children and wanted to spend time with my two nephews who were aged five and 10.”
Ms Jadeja said she was shocked and saddened when she heard of Diana’s death, and stunned by the loss of someone who provided invaluable support to victims and other disadvantaged people.
“Diana’s support made a lot of difference,” she said.
“Because somebody so important came to see little old us, that nobody has heard of, that nobody knows, and the caring nature that she had towards those who had just come through so much, it made us feel very nice. She was a very special person.”
Speaking two days after the blast, Home Secretary Leon Brittan said the Samaritans had received a telephone message “that the IRA had placed a car bomb outside Harrods and that there were two bombs inside Harrods”.
He said the call was made by a man with an Irish accent, using “a code word previously unknown to the police,” and added: “In addition, the police had already received 22 other similar messages earlier that day ... which turned out to be false alarms.”
All four members of Ms Jadega’s family injured in the blast would later join the Northern Ireland-based victims’ support group the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF).
Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for umbrella group Innocent Victims United, paid his own tribute to Diana.
He said: “Princess Diana was viewed by many people as a very human and empathetic person.
“The gifts she possessed are also recognised by many innocent victims and survivors of terrorism with many bereaved and injured people able to fondly recount the supportive and understanding words and gestures the she and also Prince Charles contributed at a time of devastation within their lives.”