Lynley Bilby

Lynley Bilby is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Diana's secret sanctuary revealed

The pool at the Milford property used as bolthole by Diana. Photo / Jason Dorday
The pool at the Milford property used as bolthole by Diana. Photo / Jason Dorday

Hans Gitmans had just emptied his pool for end-of-summer maintenance when he got a phone call from Government House.

"They rang and asked if we would mind Princess Diana coming over and having a swim.

"What do you say when the most famous, wonderful woman in the world wants to swim at your place?"

It was April 1983. Prince Charles had returned to New Zealand to introduce his beautiful new bride and adorable baby son Prince William to the nation. The seasonal repairs were scrapped and taps turned on to fill the inground pool, heated to 23C, in time for the royal guest to take a dip at the Gitmans' Milford clifftop property.

"My wife Pauline and I just waited and sure enough the black limo comes up the driveway and out steps Princess Diana." The retired company director said the young Diana was a beautiful person who relished time in the water.

The princess and her lady-in-waiting had visited his Spanish-style villa for about three swims during her stay in Auckland. They spent 20 to 45 minutes swimming laps.

Each time Diana would be casually dressed in knickerbockers and would leave with her damp hair wrapped in a towel turban.

The princess had given the family a signed photograph framed in leather as a thank-you memento.

He said the special visits meant he was sworn to secrecy - and that meant keeping tight-lipped to extended family and neighbours.

The only time a security breach threatened was when Gitmans' young son, Michael, told a teacher Princess Diana came to his house to swim. "Fortunately the teacher reprimanded him for telling tales."

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 25 Oct 2014 12:55:20 Processing Time: 594ms