As Diana continued to visit Joseph on a regular basis at the hospital, she and Hasnat struck up a friendship. Hasnat then plucked up the courage to ask her out—on an unlikely date for a princess.
“I mentioned that I needed to go to my uncle’s house in Stratford-upon-Avon to pick up some books,” he told police in 2004, during the inquest into Diana's death. "I did not think for one minute that she would say yes, but I asked her if she would like to come with me. I was very surprised when she said she would."
What followed was a “very good relationship," recalled Hasnat. " The only problem we did have was with the media and the only place we could have any real privacy was at Kensington Palace as they could not get to us there.”
Through Hasnat, the "People's Princess" enjoyed experiencing how the other half lived. “We once went to the pub together and Diana asked if she could order the drinks because she had never done so before,” said Hasnat. “She really enjoyed the experience and chatted away happily to the barman. On another occasion we had to queue to get into Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. She later said she loved queuing as you get to meet so many people.”
According to Hasnat, the couple talked about marriage, but the doctor worried about what such a marriage would do to his life. “I knew I would not be able to live a normal life,” he said. “I did not want that sort of lifestyle.”
Still, the princess asked her butler, Paul Burrell, to make inquiries with a priest about getting married in secret.
“When you think of the kind of men Diana must have met or been with or seen—here is a man who is completely and totally selfless,” an unnamed friend told Vanity Fair. “She said she’d never met anybody like him.”
In the end, there were too many obstacles for the couple to have a lasting future together, including the fact that Hasnat’s family expected him to marry someone from a similar Pashtun background.
In June 1997, Diana, now officially divorced from Charles, accepted an invitation from Harrod’s owner and billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed to spend a week at his villa in St. Tropez on the French Riveria. She took William and Harry and spent time both at the villa and on board the Al-Fayed family’s $US30million yacht, Jonikal, with Mohamed’s son, Dodi, who was then engaged to model Kelly Fisher.
When Diana returned to London, she ended the relationship with Hasnat. And in the following months it became clear through paparazzi photos she was in a relationship with Dodi. But those closest to her believed the "fling” was an attempt to make Hasnat jealous.
“I suppose it is possible that Diana was trying to make me jealous, but I do not believe that was the entire reason she was doing it,” said Hasnat.
“I think that when she had gone away on the boat she had felt protected and thought she would wait and see what happened with Dodi.”
By August she was back on the Jonikal with Dodi, before the couple took a private plane to Paris. On the August 31 night of the fatal crash in the Alma Tunnel in Paris, which claimed the lives of Diana, Dodi and Diana’s driver Henri Paul, Hasnat tried to reach the princess. “I tried to ring Diana the night she died, but could not get through to her,” said Hasnat, who attended Diana’s funeral. “I later found out that she had changed her number.”
These days, Hasnat still lives in England and continues to work as a heart surgeon. He has been engaged twice since Diana’s death, and in 2006 wed Hadia Sher Alu, 28, in Pakistan in an arranged marriage. They divorced two years later.
“I think that if Diana were alive today, we would have remained very good friends, whatever she did and whomever she was with,” Hasnat told police in the inquest.
“I do not know what Diana was like in other relationships but she protected me very well, not just from the media but also from a lot of information. Perhaps she protected me because she thought we had a future together.”