Death of Diana was accident, team says

Investigation finds no murder conspiracy

December 15, 2006|By Tom Hundley | Tom Hundley,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

LONDON -- The 1997 Paris car crash that killed Princess Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, was an accident, not a murder plot hatched by the royal family, according to a British police investigation made public yesterday.

"There was no conspiracy to murder any of the occupants of the car. This was a tragic accident," said John Stevens, former chief of the Metropolitan Police who led the three-year investigation.

The inquiry's 832-page report also concluded that Princess Diana was not pregnant at the time of her death, nor did she have any intention of marrying Fayed even though he had purchased an engagement ring on the day of their death.

The inquiry confirmed the previous findings of the French investigation into the cause of the crash: The couple's chauffeur, Henri Paul, was drunk and driving at twice the legal speed limit in an attempt to elude a posse of paparazzi when he lost control of the car and crashed. Paul also was killed.

Fayed's father, Mohammed Fayed, criticized the inquiry's findings, calling the report "garbage" and a "cover-up."

Fayed, the wealthy owner of Harrods department store in London, has long insisted that Diana and his son were the victims of a plot initiated by members of the royal family intent on preventing Princess Diana, who was then divorced from Prince Charles, from marrying a Muslim.

According to Fayed, the fatal crash was a carefully executed murder carried out by British intelligence agents at the behest of Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.

The British police inquiry, which was commissioned in January 2004 to address Fayed's allegations, interviewed more than 300 witnesses, including Prince Philip and Prince Charles, and examined about 600 exhibits.

Stevens said investigators used computer modeling and high-tech forensic photography to collect data from 186 million points and reproduce the scene of the crash and surrounding area to within an accuracy of one centimeter.

He also said that he and two senior investigators were given "unprecedented access" to the files of MI5 and MI6, Britain's domestic and international intelligence agencies, and that both the CIA and the U.S. National Security Agency cooperated in the investigation.

According to the report, NSA acknowledged that it had files from eavesdropping operations containing "short references" to Princess Diana but said these shed no light on the circumstances of her death.

"I am satisfied that no attempt has been made to hold back information," Stevens said.

The three-year investigation cost $7.2 million. Fayed also has spent lavishly on his own team of experts and says he will continue to challenge the official findings.

The completion of Stevens' investigation will allow the formal inquest into Princess Diana's death to proceed. Preliminary hearings, suspended in 2004, are scheduled for next month.

Fayed, at his own news conference yesterday, said Stevens' decision to go public with the inquiry's findings ahead of the formal inquest was "100 percent proof that this is a plan for a cover-up."

Stevens said he was not disturbed by Fayed's allegations: "He is a grieving parent, he's entitled to say what he has. I make no comment on it."

Tom Hundley writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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