Teenage son, 19, of Princess Diana’s lady-in-waiting was found 98ft down on seabed after drowning while free-diving at exclusive Greek resort where he worked as a water sports instructor, inquest hears
- Harry Byatt, 19, died while free-diving at a luxury resort off the Zakynthos coast
- He dived into the Ionian Sea using a monofin and snorkel but did not come up
- Mr Byatt had been working as a watersports instructor at the Peligoni club
- His mother Alexandra took on the role of Diana’s lady-in-waiting until 1997
The teenage son of Princess Diana‘s lady-in-waiting drowned while free diving at an exclusive Greek resort, an inquest heard today.
Henry Byatt, 19, died while working as a water sports instructor in the Peligoni club on the island of Zakynthos on 6 August 2017.
His mother Alexandra took on the role of lady-in-waiting from 1991 until 1997 for the princess as they were childhood friends.
She attended her son’s inquest today along with other family members including her senior civil servant husband Duncan, who works in the Cabinet Office.
Henry, known to family and friends as Harry, had been working for the Peligoni Club when he decided to free-dive at around 11.30am with some friends.
Henry Byatt (pictured) died while working as a water sports instructor in the Peligoni club on the island of Zakynthos on 6 August 2017
The teenager was later found at a depth of 98ft on the seabed of the Ionian Sea, Westminster Coroner’s Court heard.
He was using a monofin but not wearing a life jacket, which free divers do not use as the floating aid stops them from immersing themselves in deep water.
His father Mr Byatt read a moving tribute to the Oxford Brookes University student with a passion for sailing and a ‘mischievous grin’.
Harry, who was a good student despite struggling with dyslexia, was a positive person who ‘lived lived life to the fullest’, the court heard.
‘There is also the thoughtful and caring young man, deeply devoted to his family, not just to Alexa and Duncan and of course his sister, but also his larger family and grandparents,’ said Mr Byatt.
Henry’s mother, Alexandra, was a childhood friend of Diana and acted as her lady-in-waiting. Above: The pair at the British Fashion Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in 1989
Map above shows the location of the Peligoni Club in relation to the rest of Greece
‘Whilst we all fervently wish that the reason we are here today had never arisen we should try to take comfort from the fact that Harry was doing what he loved most, mucking around on the water and living life to the full.’
Asked when he last saw his son Mr Byatt said: ‘We had visited him the week before and he spent a day and a half with us on the boat we were on.
‘We went to go and see what is called Shipwreck Bay on the north end of island.’
Mr Byatt added that his son went to check on the anchor of their boat snorkelling using a monofin, a flipper linking to both of a diver’s feet.
‘I watched very carefully to see if he was confident with that and saw that he was confident with it,’ said Mr Byatt.
‘I remember saying to him ‘be careful when using those, they are more powerful than normal flippers’.
Dr Wilcox asked him: ‘Whilst I understand he a had a lot of qualifications in terms of sailing, what about deep water diving?’
‘I do not think he had been formally trained,’ replied Mr Byatt.
Mr Byatt said he and his wife had noticed Harry looking ‘tired’ with ‘bags under his eyes’.
Senior Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox asked Detective Sergeant Jack Lyle, who investigated Harry’s death: ‘It is my understanding that the local Greek authority, the port authority, did undertake an investigation into his death.’
‘That is correct,’ said DS Lyle.
But the authority concluded that because Harry had been on a break from work, it was not a health and safety matter.
A post-mortem conducted on the island concluded that Harry’s cause of death was ‘drowning in sea water’.
Before the accident, Harry had been swimming in the sea with his friends who also worked at the resort, Emily Lloyd and Will Robson.
Ms Lloyd told the court the group went into the water because they was ‘nothing going on at the time’.
‘We went to have some fun, do do some filming and swimming,’ she said. ‘Harry was diving, I remember him picking up things on the bottom of the sea.’
She said she eventually left the other two and went onshore to look for a missing ring. She said that Mr Robson came out and asked her whether she had seen Will.
Former RAF doctor tried to save his life
A former RAF doctor told how he tried to save the life of Princess Diana’s lady in waiting’s teenage son following a diving accident.
Dr Martin McGrath slammed ‘unhelpful’ Greek paramedics who took 40 minutes to arrive at the scene and showed ‘no interest’ in helping resuscitate tragic 19-year-old Henry Byatt.
Henry, known to friends and family as Harry, was working as a scuba diving instructor at the Peligoni Club on the Greek island of Zakynthos when he died while ‘free diving’ in August 2017.
His mother, Alexandra, was a childhood friend of Diana and acted as her lady-in-waiting from 1991 until 1997.
Dr McGrath, who was holidaying at a nearby villa, told Westminster Coroner’s Court the cause of Harry’s death was probably ‘shallow water drowning or cramps’.
But he added: ‘It’s just speculation – I don’t believe there’s any way of knowing.’
He told of how he was ready and waiting with three other medics for Harry to be brought ashore.
Dr McGrath said: ‘My understanding was that he had been down for about 15 minutes at that point, so we knew there was no signs of life.
‘But I didn’t want to put anybody off.’
He said they went straight into CPR but there was ‘never’ any signs of life.
Asked how long an ambulance took to arrive, he said: ‘I think it was about 40 minutes – it was a long time.
‘Oxygen was the only thing they did have, it was very rudimentary.
‘The ambulance crew was unhelpful in terms of their ability to communicate and the equipment they had.
‘They had no interest in helping us with resuscitation.’
‘I was fairly detached from the situation at the time,’ added Ms Lloyd. ‘I was thinking he must have come to lunch.’
Several young resort workers swam out into the sea to look for him but Mr Robson was horrified to spot Harry’s body at the bottom of the sea bed.
Fellow instructor Will Robson told the inquest he believed another member of the beach team, Edward Cobb, had been manning the watchtower at the time Harry disappeared.
But Mr Cobb, when asked by senior coroner Fiona Wilcox ‘was it likely that there was no one in the watchtower when you arrived at 12 or 12.30?’, said: ‘Yeah, it’s likely that’s the case – but I couldn’t say that definitely.’
He added: ‘If there wasn’t someone there would be because either there was no one in the water or because just human error maybe.
‘Sometimes, not often at all, but there were occasions when there was no-one up in the watchtower.
‘I was I believe at this villa retrieving a car from a ditch at about 12pm to 12.30pm. As I walked down to the beach I couldn’t tell you [who was in the watch tower].
‘When Will told me we hadn’t spotted Harry, I immediately ran to the tower. My mind wasn’t jumping to the worst, my mind was thinking I’ll find Harry.’
Mr Cobb said it was between 15 and 20 minutes between WIll shouting ‘Harry has been lost’ and his body being taken out of the water.
He added: ‘It was definitely long enough for us to know it was serious, but not too long for us to have lost hope as a team.’
He replied ‘correct’ when asked if he took turns in assisting with giving Harry CPR.
Diver Louis Gorridge told the inquest that he tried everything he could to save Harry.
He told Westminster Coroner’s Court how he risked his own safety as he tried to save Harry’s life after he found him 32 metres below the sea surface.
Mr Gorridge, who was the club’s most experienced free diver and the ‘head beach boy and team coordinator’, said: ‘He would ask to come with me. I’m not claiming to be a professional or anything, but I have done if for a while.
‘I was aware that he did go alone, but the first rule I told him is never go alone – but if you do want to try it out just do small distances where you are capable to come back to the surface.
Henry, known to family and friends as Harry, had been working for the Peligoni Club when he decided to free-dive at around 11:30am with some friends
‘He had used the monofin because he asked to have a go. He was still a beginner, but he was good with it.’
He said they went 15 metres ‘at the absolute maximum’ with Harry.
Senior Coroner Fiona Wilcox said Harry was found 32 metres down and asked him ‘how does that sound to you?’
He said: ‘I don’t think I’ve ever done a 32 metres – 32 metres is quite an advanced depth. I would never ever go that alone.’
Mr Gorridge said it was around 11 or 12 minutes between him being told Harry had been found and him recovering his body in scuba gear.
He said: ‘I shouted at someone to get me an anchor and a line and dived in. Another beach boy picked me up in a rib. Obviously I didn’t have my gear, Harry had my gear.
‘I looked down and as I put my head in the water I could see Harry was the size of a thumbnail. I knew it was Harry because I could see my fin and the colour of his shorts.
‘I held on to the anchor and told the boys with me on it to see how far I could go. I think I probably got about halfway.
‘I hadn’t prepared myself and I had a lot of adrenaline. I knew if I carried on there would be another incident. I was probably the most confident free diver there. Even with preparation, it’s still a substantial dive.
‘I jumped straight back into the rib and told Han (Alexander Hanbury) to go back to the port as soon as possible.’
He said his advanced scuba diving qualification allowed him to dive to depths of 25 metres.
He added: ‘I remember collecting Harry and my mask was about three metres to the right of him. I should have come up slower than my bubbles to be safe.
‘I don’t think there was much other we could have done to make it any quicker.’
He said Harry showed no signs of consciousness nore ‘any signs of life’ after his body was recovered from the sea.
The inquest continues.