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1997

Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales: Saturday 6 September 1997

January

01 – American folk singer Townes Van Zandt dies aged 52.

04 – Randy California, founding member of experimental West Coast rock band, Spirit, disappears after being sucked into the surf off the coast of Molokai, Hawaii.

09 – Yachtsman Tony Bullimore is found alive five days after his boat capsized in the freezing Southern Ocean, 2200 km off the coast of Australia.

10 James Brown is awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

17 – Comedian Bill Cosby‘s only son is murdered while changing a flat tyre on his Mercedes convertible in the early hours of the morning. The body of Ennis William Cosby (27) is found near the Santa Monica Mountains in California.

19Yasser Arafat returns to Hebron after more than 30 years, and joins celebrations over the handover of the last Israeli-controlled West Bank city.

20Bill Clinton is inaugurated for his second term as President of the United States.

21 – Colonel Tom Parker – former manager of Elvis Presley – suffers a stroke and dies in Valley Hospital, Las Vegas, aged 87.

22 – Madeleine Albright becomes the first female US Secretary of State.


February

04 – A Santa Monica civil jury finds OJ Simpson culpable in the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. The court awards the Goldman family $8.5 million in compensation.

04 – Two Israeli troop-transport helicopters en route to Lebanon collide, killing 73.

05 – Three of Switzerland’s biggest banks create a 100 million Swiss franc ($71 million) Holocaust Memorial Fund after years of international pressure.

06 – Diane Blood (32) wins the right to use her dead husband’s sperm to conceive a child in the UK.

09 – The Simpsons becomes the longest-running prime time animated series, overtaking The Flintstones which had previously held the record.

19 – A New York judge dismisses a $7 million lawsuit filed against Mötley Crüe for the hearing loss apparently suffered by a fan at one of their concerts.

19 – China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping dies at the age of 92. He has been suffering from failing health for several years and was last seen in public three years ago.

27 – Divorce becomes legal in the Republic of Ireland.

28 – Two robbers wearing kevlar body armour and armed with AK-47s containing armour-piercing bullets, injure 17 police officers and civilians in a gun battle in North Hollywood. The incident sparks debate on the appropriate firepower for US patrol officers to have available in similar situations in the future


March

05 – North Korea and South Korea meet for the first time in 25 years for peace talks.

09 – Rapper The Notorious B.I.G. is murdered in Los Angeles after attending the Soul Train Music Awards. He is gunned down leaving an after-party at the Petersen Automotive Museum. His murder remains unsolved.

11 Paul McCartney is knighted by Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II, for his services to popular music.

20 – The maker of Chesterfield cigarettes settles 22 state lawsuits by admitting the industry has marketed cigarettes to teenagers.

22 – The Hale-Bopp comet comes closest to the earth. Amateur astronomers Alan Hale in New Mexico and Thomas Bopp in Arizona separately discovered the comet on the same day in 1995. After this year’s appearance, it is calculated that the Hale-Bopp comet will disappear from sight again until the year 4397.

26 – 39 members of the “Heaven’s Gate” cult commit mass suicide at a million-dollar mansion outside San Diego, California, by drinking a deadly cocktail of vodka and barbiturates. The members believed that by killing themselves they would gain passage on a UFO trailing the Hale-Bopp comet, currently visible in the night sky. The bodies are found dressed in dark pants and Nikes and draped with purple shrouds.

San Diego: Victims of the Heaven’s Gate suicide cult.

30 – Channel 5 is launched on British television.


April

07 – Liam Gallagher of Oasis marries actress Patsy Kensit.

12 – 20 anti-tank mines are found under a bridge in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on the Pope’s planned route around the city. The devices are discovered the day before the Pope is due to arrive, but the visit goes ahead as planned.

12 – The UK’s Conservative party asks the BBC to ban the song Things Can Only Get Better by D:Ream because it is being used as the campaign song of their opposition, the Labour Party.

13 – Golfer Tiger Woods (21) becomes the youngest ever winner of the US Masters. He also becomes the first black golfer to win a major tournament, with a winning margin of 12 strokes.

21 – The ashes of 1960s LSD guru Timothy Leary and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry are blasted into space in the Earth’s first space funeral.

22 – A four-month siege at the Japanese embassy in Peru is brought to an end when security forces storm the building. All 12 of the Tupac Amaru rebels inside the embassy are killed, with all but one of the 72 hostages freed.

25 – The US Senate ratifies the global treaty banning the development, production, storage and use of chemical weapons.


May

03 – A group intent on gaining independence for Texas from the United States surrenders to the authorities ending an armed standoff in which two people have been held hostage.

03 – At Dublin’s Point Theatre, Katrina & The Waves win the 42nd Eurovision Song Contest with Love Shine A Light.

Tony Blair in landslide Labour victory.

04 – The Labour Party wins a landslide victory in the UK general election ending 18 years of Conservative government. Tony Blair will be the new prime minister – at 43, the youngest British PM for nearly 200 years.

11 – IBM’s ‘Deep Blue’ computer defeats World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov in the deciding game of a rematch of the February 1996 match, after Kasparov makes a mistake in the opening.

25 Bob Dylan is admitted to St John’s Hospital, Santa Monica, California, suffering from the potentially fatal heart condition pericarditis, which impairs breathing. He leaves five days later.

29 – Singer Jeff Buckley drowns in the Mississippi while in Memphis, Tennessee, to record his second album. He had taken an impromptu midnight swim fully clothed, only to be sucked under by the wash from a passing barge. His body was washed up a week later. He was 30 years old.

31 – The 13-kilometer Confederation Bridge, the world’s longest bridge spanning ice-covered waters, opens between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, Canada.


June

02 – Timothy McVeigh is convicted on 15 counts of murder and conspiracy for his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168.

04 – Former Small Faces bassist Ronnie Lane dies at his home in Trinidad, Colorado, aged 51, following a long struggle with Multiple Sclerosis.

07/08 – The Tibetan Freedom Concert takes place at Downing Stadium, Randall’s Island, New York. Performers include Foo Fighters, Patti Smith, Noel Gallagher of Oasis, Radiohead, Blur, Bjork and Alanis Morissette

13 – A jury in Denver, Colorado, sentences Timothy McVeigh to death for his part in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

15Khmer Rouge defence chief, Son Sen and 13 of his family members are murdered on orders from Pol Pot. The news does not reach outside Cambodia for three days.

20 – Lawrence Payton, a founding member of The Four Tops, dies of liver cancer at his Detroit home.

20 – William Hague becomes the youngest leader of Britain’s Conservative party in nearly 200 years.

25 – An unmanned Russian Progress spacecraft collides with the Russian space station Mir.

30 – London publisher Bloomsbury issues the first of J K Rowling’s novels for children, entitled Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone. The series of books subsequently sells over 400 million copies.


July

01 – British governor Chris Patten transfers control of Hong Kong back to the Chinese authorities after more than 150 years of British rule.

01 – Actor Robert Mitchum dies in Santa Barbara, USA.

02 – Screen legend James Stewart dies in Los Angeles.

03President Clinton makes his first formal response to accusations of sexual harassment by Paula Jones. He denies all the charges and asks that the judge dismiss the case.

04 – The US Pathfinder probe, launched on 4 December 1996, lands on Mars and sends back pictures of a rocky landscape. Argument rages over whether or not to send humans next time.

A panorama from a camera aboard NASA’s Mars Pathfinder shows the Sojourner rover.

09 – Mike Tyson is banned from boxing for biting Evander Holyfield’s ear.

10 – Scientists in London discover DNA from a Neanderthal skeleton which supports the theory that all humanity descended from a single woman, dubbed “African Eve”, between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago.

10 – Spanish politician Miguel Ángel Blanco is kidnapped in Ermua, Spain and murdered by the ETA.

13 – The body of Che Guevara is returned to Cuba for burial alongside some of his comrades. Guevara and his comrades were executed on 9 October 1967 in Bolivia.

15 – Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace is shot dead on the steps of his Miami Beach residence by gay serial killer Andrew Cunanan, who kills himself in a nearby houseboat on 23 July. The FBI was seeking Cunanan in connection with four other murders.

17 – In America, the FW Woolworth Company closes after 117 years in business.

25 – KR Narayanan is sworn in as India’s 10th president and the first member of the Dalit caste to hold this office.

30 – 18 people are killed in a landslide at the Snowy Mountains resort of Thredbo in Australia.

31 – Police in New York City intercept five bombs believed to be intended for use in terrorist attacks on city subways.


August

06Apple Computers and Microsoft agree to share technology in a deal that gives Microsoft a $150 million stake in Apple’s survival.

06 – Korean Air Flight 801 crash lands west of Guam International Airport, resulting in the deaths of 228 people.

20 – The Governor of Alabama joins the mayors of Montgomery and Georgina to dedicate a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 65 to Hank Williams, renaming it the ‘Hank Williams Memorial Lost Highway’.

21 – In the largest food recall in US history, Hudson Foods Inc closes a Nebraska plant after recalling 25 million pounds of ground beef potentially contaminated with E Coli bacteria.

25 – A court in Berlin sentences former East German leader Egon Krenz to six years in prison for the shoot-to-kill policy employed by border guards against people trying to flee East Germany.

29 – Netflix is founded by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph in Scotts Valley, California.

31Diana, Princess of Wales, is involved in a car accident in an underpass off the Place de l’Alma in Paris. Her companion, Dodi Al-Fayed, and driver Henri Paul are killed, but Diana and her bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones are still alive. It takes two hours to cut Diana from the wreckage, and she is pronounced dead by doctors at Salpêtrière hospital at 04:00 local time.


September

01 – The French prosecutor’s office announces that the driver of the car in which Princess Diana was killed was over the legal alcohol limit.

05 – After a lifetime caring for the sick and needy, Mother Teresa (87) dies at the headquarters of the order she founded in Calcutta.

06 – More than one million people line the route of Diana’s funeral procession in London, and almost 2.5 billion watch it on television.

Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

09 – Sinn Fein – the political wing of the IRA – formally renounces violence and takes its place in talks on Northern Ireland’s future. They are joined shortly by Northern Ireland’s main Unionist party – the first time all the major players meet around one table.

09 – Veteran actor Burgess Meredith dies in Malibu.

12 – Six men rob the Dunbar Armored facility on Mateo Street in Downtown Los Angeles, California of US$18.9 million in the largest cash robbery in the United States.

12 – A referendum favouring devolution means that Scotland will have its own parliament for the first time in over 300 years.

18 – Wales votes in favour of devolution and the formation of a National Assembly for Wales.

19 – An Intercity 125 ploughs into a freight train in West London, killing six and injuring more than 150.

24 – Student Barry Loukaitis of Frontier Junior High, Moses Lake, Washington, is convicted of shooting dead two of his fellow students and one teacher. His lawyers claimed he committed the murders in emulation of the Pearl Jam video for their song Jeremy.

26 – A double earthquake in central Italy badly damages the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, killing four people and destroying a priceless set of frescoes by the medieval artist Cimabue. The church is restored at the cost of $50 million and reopens in 1999.


October

01 – Luke Woodham walks into Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi, and opens fire, killing two girls, after killing his mother earlier that morning.

04 – The second largest cash robbery in American history ($17.3 million mostly in small bills) takes place at the Charlotte, North Carolina office of Wells Fargo. An FBI investigation eventually results in 24 convictions and the recovery of approximately 95% of the stolen cash.

12John Denver dies at the age of 53 when the experimental Long-EZ aircraft he is flying crashes into Monterey Bay, California.

15 – NASA launches the Cassini–Huygens probe to Saturn.

16 – The first colour photograph appears on the front page of The New York Times.

17 – The remains of Che Guevara are laid to rest with full military honours in a specially built mausoleum in the city of Santa Clara, Cuba, where he had won the decisive battle of the Cuban Revolution 39 years before.

31 – A Boston (US) jury finds British au pair Louise Woodward (19) guilty of second-degree murder of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen, who died in her care. Woodward will later have her conviction reduced to manslaughter.


November

08 – Chinese engineers divert the Yangtze River to make way for building work on the Three Gorges Dam.

09 – BBC News 24 begins broadcasting.

13Saddam Hussein expels six UN arms inspectors from Iraq. Suspecting that the Iraqi leader is continuing to manufacture chemical weapons, Clinton weighs whether to attack him. Hussein eventually backs down and lets the inspectors get on with their business.

17 – 62 people are killed by 6 Islamic militants outside the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor, Egypt.

22 – INXS singer Michael Hutchence is found dead, hanging by a leather belt from the back of his hotel room door in the Ritz Carlton, Sydney, Australia. The coroner concludes he took his own life after consuming drugs and alcohol.


December

03 – In Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, representatives from 121 countries sign a treaty prohibiting the manufacture and deployment of anti-personnel land mines. However, the United States, the People’s Republic of China, Russia, South Korea and 32 other nations do not sign and/or ratify the treaty.

11 – Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams becomes the first political member of the IRA to meet a British leader in 76 years when he visits prime minister Tony Blair in London.

11 – More than 150 countries meet in Kyoto, Japan, and agree to control the Earth’s greenhouse gases.

17 – 122 governments sign the Ottawa Treaty, which bans antipersonnel land mines. Over 150 countries have now ratified the treaty, but superpowers such as Russia, China and the United States have not signed.

18 – In Australia, 20th Century Fox releases a feature-length film called The Wiggles Movie featuring a children’s group named The Wiggles.

27 – Ulster loyalist paramilitary leader Billy Wright is assassinated in Northern Ireland, inside Long Kesh prison.

31 – The Kennedy family suffer yet another tragedy when Michael Kennedy – 39-year old son of the late US Senator, Robert – is killed in an accident while skiing on Aspen Mountain in Colorado.


Also this year . . .

  • International Year for the Culture of Peace