Belfast Telegraph

Warrington bomb victim's dad tells of touching call from Princess Diana

By Leona O'Neill

As the world gets ready to pay tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, on the 20th anniversary of her death next month, the parents of a schoolboy killed in an IRA bombing will remember her quietly as the kind and gentle mother who reached out to them in their darkest hour.

Colin Parry's son Tim died after being caught up in the blast in Warrington town centre on March 20, 1993.

Three-year-old Johnathan Ball was also killed in the attack, which left 56 people injured.

As Colin and his wife Wendy prepared to lay their son to rest a phone call came through to the couple's Warrington home. It was Diana, who wanted, as a mother of two boys, to express her heartbreak over the loss of Tim.

"We were cooking dinner at home the night before the memorial service for Tim," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"The phone rang and my wife Wendy picked it up, said 'hello' and remained silent for a long time. Then I heard her say: 'Is this you Kim?' Kim is her life-long friend. She thought she had been putting on a posh accent and was playing a practical joke, pretending to be Princess Diana. And then I heard her say: 'It's not.' I wondered who was on the other side of the phone.

"It was clearly not an ordinary phone call. Wendy was almost standing to attention and they chatted away, and then she handed the phone to me. I asked her who was on the phone and she said it was the Princess of Wales. I said out loud: 'Get out of here!' But Wendy insisted it was.

"I held the phone to my ear and I immediately recognised her voice. She was calling, basically, apart from sending us her condolences, to say that she was so sorry she couldn't come up to the memorial service that was due to be held the next day at Warrington Parish Church.

"She said she had wanted to come up but she made it pretty clear that she had been blocked by other members of the royal family. She said that Prince Philip would be going instead of her.

"She said that she was extremely saddened about what had happened to us. She said that she had really wanted to meet with us and talk to us in person, to pass on her sympathies face to face.

"But without being too graphic about it, she wasn't being allowed to.

"So, needless to say, we were extremely disappointed, not having realised that she was planning on coming, that we wouldn't get the chance to meet her.

"It was just such a shock for her to ring the house when we were doing nothing more exciting than cooking our dinner. You're standing in your kitchen one minute peeling potatoes and the next you're talking to the Princess of Wales on the phone.

"It meant an awful lot to us. It was really quite remarkable and unexpected that she rang us at home. I can only assume that she got our number from the police.

"I recall she had also written to us before that, but then we had got letters from so many other notable people at the time - Prince Charles, the Prime Minister, the Irish Prime Minister - but for the phone call to come through in such an ordinary way, it was special.

"It was very good of her to do that. We did feel particularly proud that she had rung us."

Colin and Wendy didn't ever meet Diana. She died four years later on August 31, 1997, after the car she was travelling in crashed inside the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris.

She suffered terrible injuries in the crash and died shortly afterwards at the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital. Her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul also died in the accident.

Colin remembers the devastation of hearing the news. "The shock of her death was enormous, it was absolutely overwhelming," he recalled.

"We would have imagined that she would have outlived us. It was such an awful tragedy.

"I remember we went to a women's hospital in Liverpool after she died, because she had once visited there and they invited us to go down and share our experience with people who had also met and spoke with her.

"The overwhelming view of everyone who had met her was that she was just a really delightful, good-natured, kind woman.

"I didn't hear a bad word about her. Everyone was universally complimentary about her. She was a 'Princess of Hearts', that's what everyone called her."

Colin and Wendy set up the Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace in 2000 and continue to campaign for peace through the work of the organisation set up in memory of their precious son.

Colin says that on the 20th anniversary of the Princess's death he will think of her as a woman who reached out to them in the darkest hours of their lives.

"Wendy and I will remember Princess Diana on the anniversary of her death," he added.

"We will reflect on the very strange, very unexpected and pleasant phone call we received from her. We remember her fondly, always."

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