The Official Story
THE DEATH OF DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES
(August 31, 1997 – Paris, France)
In the early hours of 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, died from injuries sustained earlier that day in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, France. Dodi Fayed, Diana’s partner, and Henri Paul, the driver of the Mercedes-Benz W140 S-Class, were pronounced dead at the scene. Her bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was severely injured, but survived the crash.
Some media claimed the erratic behaviour of the paparazzi following the car, as reported by the BBC, had contributed to the crash. In 1999, a French investigation found that Paul, who lost control of the vehicle at high speed while intoxicated by alcohol and under the effects of prescription drugs, was solely responsible for the crash. He was the deputy head of security at the Hôtel Ritz and had earlier goaded paparazzi waiting for Diana and Fayed outside the hotel. Anti-depressants and traces of an anti-psychotic in his blood may have worsened Paul’s inebriation. In 2008, the jury at a British inquest, Operation Paget, returned a verdict of unlawful killing through grossly negligent driving by Paul and the following paparazzi vehicles. Some media reports claimed Rees-Jones survived because he was wearing a seat belt, but other investigations revealed that none of the occupants of the car were wearing them.
Diana was 36 years old when she died. Her death caused an unprecedented outpouring of public grief in the United Kingdom and worldwide, and her funeral was watched by an estimated 2.5 billion people. The royal family were criticised in the press for their reaction to Diana’s death. Public interest in Diana has remained high and she has retained regular press coverage in the years after her death.
Conspiracy theories about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales
After 1998, it was theorised that there was an orchestrated criminal conspiracy surrounding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Official investigations in both Britain and France found that Diana died in a manner consistent with media reports following the fatal car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997. In 1999, a French investigation concluded that Diana died as the result of a crash. The French investigator, Judge Hervé Stephan, concluded that the paparazzi were some distance from the Mercedes S280 when it crashed and were not responsible. After hearing evidence at the British inquest, a jury in 2008 returned a verdict of “unlawful killing” by driver Henri Paul and the paparazzi pursuing the car. The jury’s verdict also stated: “In addition, the death of the deceased was caused or contributed to by the fact that the deceased were not wearing a seat belt and by the fact that the Mercedes struck the pillar in the Alma Tunnel rather than colliding with something else”.
Active in disputing the official version of events were the British tabloid newspaper, the Daily Express, and Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed, whose son, Dodi, was Diana’s partner at the time and also died in the crash. In 2003, Diana’s butler Paul Burrell published a note that he claimed had been written by Diana in October 1993, in which there were allegations that her husband was “planning ‘an accident’ in [Diana’s] car, brake failure and serious head injury” so that he could marry again. She had allegedly expressed similar concerns in October 1995 to Lord Mishcon, her solicitor, that “reliable sources” had told her “that she and Camilla would be put aside” for Charles to marry Tiggy Legge-Bourke. A special Metropolitan Police inquiry team was established in 2004, Operation Paget, headed by Commissioner John Stevens to investigate the various conspiracy theories which led up to the British inquest. This investigation looked into 175 conspiracy claims that had been made by Fayed. In 2005, Prince Charles, as a witness, told Stevens that he did not know about his former wife’s note from 1995 and could not understand why she had these feelings. Fayed has persistently propounded what were found to be conspiracy theories at the inquest and has repeatedly claimed that he believes his son was murdered with Diana.