(Mail Online, Luanda) Pictured 16 years on: The brave girl who won Diana's heart after losing leg in an Angolan landmine blast.
She was 13 and about to receive a prosthetic leg when Princess Diana visited her.
Poignant images of Sandra Tigica’s 1997 meeting with the Princess of Wales were beamed around the globe, highlighting the appalling problems in Angola, which had the world’s highest rate of death and disability caused by landmines.
Sandra’s left leg had been blown off by a landmine three years earlier as she fled from fighting in her country’s civil war. Diana, who died in a Paris car crash later that year, was in the Angolan capital, Luanda, to publicize her support for the Red Cross campaign for an end to the use of landmines.
Now Sandra is a married mother of three – and dreams that one day Prince William’s wife will carry on his mother’s good work.
She said: ‘Princess Diana helped our country. It is a much safer place thanks to her. I would like to meet “Princess Kate”. I have heard that she is doing a lot of charity work and I think she must continue what Princess Diana started. She should come to Angola.’ Sandra, who watched Kate’s wedding to Prince William on the internet and was delighted by news of her pregnancy, added: ‘I cried a lot, for many hours, when Diana died.
‘She brought hope to Angola. With the humanitarian support from foreign countries, the mines are disappearing little by little. But since she’s been gone, people have started to forget.’
According to the latest figures, 89 casualties from mine or explosive remnants of war devices were reported in Angola in 2011 – at least six of which were children. Total casualty estimates over the years range from 23,000 to 80,000.
It was on January 14, 1997, that Sandra chatted to Diana as they sat on a dusty wall at the Neves Bendinha Orthopaedic Workshop on the outskirts of Luanda.
Sandra recalled: ‘She stroked my face and told me lots of nice things including how she was looking forward to improving conditions in my country.’
Sandra got a prosthetic leg, but she shuns her current one – choosing instead to use crutches. ‘The legs made here are too heavy and I can’t move properly,’ she said.
She earns £130 a month writing letters for the local government, while her husband is in the military. They live in a 20ft x 40ft hut with a corrugated iron roof in Angola’s rural Lunda Sul province with their three children, aged four, six and eight, and Sandra’s 13-year-old sister.
Inside, the photograph of Sandra and Diana takes pride of place on a wall. It is also used in schoolbooks in Angola, and Sandra is recognized wherever she goes because of it. She is looking forward to seeing the meeting recreated in the forthcoming film about Diana’s final years, starring Naomi Watts.
‘I can’t believe I will feature in a big film – I will be played by an actress!’ Sandra said. ‘I don’t have a TV so cannot watch it. But I would like to come to the UK and see it.’ (www.dailymail.co.uk)