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On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales died as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident in the Pont de l'Almamarker road tunnel in Parismarker, Francemarker. Her companion, Dodi Fayed and driver, Henri Paul, were also pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Fayed's bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was the only survivor. An eighteen-month French judicial investigation concluded in 1999 that the car crash that killed Diana was caused by Paul, who lost control of the car at high speed while intoxicated and under the influence of antidepressants.

Since February 1998, Dodi's father, Mohamed Al-Fayed (the owner of the Hôtel Ritzmarker, for which Paul worked) has claimed that the crash was a result of a conspiracy, and later contended that the crash was orchestrated by MI6marker on the instructions of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His claims that the crash was a result of a conspiracy were dismissed by a French judicial investigation, and Operation Paget, a Metropolitan police inquiry that concluded in 2006.

An inquest headed by Lord Justice Scott Baker into the deaths of Diana and Dodi began at the Royal Courts of Justicemarker, London on 2 October 2007 and was a continuation of the original inquest that began in 2004. A jury decided on 7 April 2008 that Diana had been unlawfully killed by the grossly negligent driving of chauffeur Henri Paul and paparazzi photographers.

Circumstances

On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales arrived in Parismarker with Emad El-Din Mohamed Al Fayed (Dodi Fayed), the son of Mohamed al-Fayed. They had stopped there en route to Londonmarker, having spent the preceding nine days together on board Mohamed Fayed’s yacht, the ‘Jonikal’, on the Frenchmarker and Italian Riviera. They had intended to stay overnight. Mohamed Fayed was and is the owner of the Hôtel Ritzmarker in Place Vendômemarker, Parismarker. He also owned an apartment in rue Arsène Houssaye, a short distance from the hotel and located just off the Avenue des Champs Elyséesmarker.

Henri Paul, the Acting Head of Security at the Ritz Hotel, had a plan to elude the paparazzi. A decoy vehicle left the Ritz first, attracting a throng of photographers. The Princess and Dodi Fayed would then depart from the hotel's rear entrance.

At around 12:20 a.m. on 31 August 1997, the Princess and Dodi Fayed left the Ritz to return to the apartment in rue Arsène Houssaye. They were the rear passengers in a Mercedes-Benz S280 W140, registration number "688LTV75", driven by Paul. Trevor Rees-Jones, a member of the Fayed family's personal protection team, was in the front passenger seat.They left from the rear of the hotel, the Rue Cambon exit. After crossing the Place de la Concorde they drove along Cours la Reine and Cours Albert 1er (the embankment road running parallel to the River Seine) into the Place de l’Alma underpass. At around 12:23 a.m. at the entrance to the tunnel, their driver lost control; the car swerved to the left of the two-lane carriageway before colliding head-on with the thirteenth pillar supporting the roof at an estimated speed of 105 km/h (65 mph). It then spun and hit the stone wall of the tunnel backwards, finally coming to a stop. The impact of the crash reduced the car to a pile of wreckage. There was no guard rail between the pillars to prevent this.

As the casualties lay seriously injured or dead in their wrecked car, the photographers continued to take pictures. The critically injured Diana was reported to repeatedly murmur the words, "oh my God", and after the photographers were pushed away by emergency teams, the words "leave me alone".

Dodi Fayed had been sitting in the left rear passenger seat and appeared to be dead. Nevertheless, fire officers were still trying to resuscitate him when he was pronounced dead by a doctor at 1:32 a.m. Henri Paul was declared dead on removal from the wreckage. Both were taken directly to the Institut Médico-Légal (IML), the Paris mortuary, not to a hospital. Autopsy examination concluded that Henri Paul and Dodi Fayed had both suffered a rupture in the isthmus of the aorta and a fractured spine, with, in the case of Henri Paul, a medullar section in the dorsal region and in the case of Dodi Fayed a medullar section in the cervical region.

Trevor Rees-Jones was still conscious and had suffered multiple serious injuries to the face. The two forward passengers' airbags had functioned normally. None of the car's occupants were wearing seat belts, according to several reports, although some reports later claimed that Rees-Jones had worn his.

The Princess, who had been sitting in the rear right passenger seat, was still conscious. It was first reported that she was crouched on the floor of the vehicle with her back to the road. It was also first reported that a paparazzo who saw Diana described her as bleeding from the nose and ears with her head rested on the back of the front passenger's seat; he tried to remove her from the car but her feet were stuck. Then he told her that help was on the way and to stay awake; there was no answer from the princess, just blinking.

In June 2007 the Channel 4 documentary Diana: The Witnesses in the Tunnel claimed that the first person to touch Diana was Dr. Maillez, who chanced upon the scene. He reported that Diana had no visible injuries but was in shock and he supplied her with oxygen.

When the police arrived, the seven paparazzi on the scene were arrested. Diana was taken by ambulance to Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospitalmarker, but the ambulance stopped for almost one hour in the street, just hundreds of metres from the hospital as they attempted to stabilize her, arriving there shortly after 2:00 a.m. Despite attempts to save her, her internal injuries were too extensive: her heart had been displaced from the left to the right side of the chest, which tore the pulmonary vein and the pericardium. Despite surgery, the damage was irreparable. Two hours later, at 4:00 that morning, the doctors pronounced her dead. At 5:30, her death was announced at a press conference held by a hospital doctor, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, France's Interior Minister, and Sir Michael Jay, Britain's ambassador to France.

Many have speculated that if Diana had worn a seat belt, her injuries would have been less severe. This speculation was likely fueled by early media reports stating that Trevor Rees-Jones was the only car occupant to have worn a seat belt. However, these reports proved incorrect: both the French and the British investigations concluded that none of the occupants of the car was wearing a seat belt at the time of the impact. Trevor Rees-Jones was taken to the same hospital as the Princess of Wales for emergency treatment.

Later that morning, Chevènement, together with Lionel Jospin (the French Prime Minister), Bernadette Chirac (the wife of the then French President, Jacques Chirac) and Bernard Kouchner (French Health Minister), visited the hospital room where Diana's body lay and paid their last respects. After their visits, the Anglican Archdeacon of France, Father Martin Draper, said commendatory prayers from the Book of Common Prayer.

At around 2:00 p.m., Prince Charles and Diana's two older sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, arrived in Paris; they left with her body ninety minutes later.

Subsequent events

Initial media reports stated Diana's car had collided with the pillar at 190 km/h (120mph), and that the speedometer's needle had jammed at that position. It was later announced the car's actual speed on collision was about 95–110 km/h (60–70 mph), and that the speedometer had no needle as it was digital; this conflicts with the list of available equipment and features of the Mercedes-Benz W140 S-Class, which used a computer-controlled analogue speedometer, with no digital readout for speed. The car was certainly travelling much faster than the legal speed limit of 50 km/h (30 mph), and faster than was prudent for the Alma underpass. In 1999, a French investigation concluded the Mercedes had come into contact with another vehicle (a white Fiat Uno) in the tunnel. The driver of that vehicle has never come forward, and the vehicle itself has not been found.

The investigators concluded that the crash was an accident brought on by an intoxicated driver attempting to elude pursuing paparazzi at high speed.

In October 2003, the Daily Mirror published a letter from Diana in which, ten months before her death, she wrote about a possible plot to kill her by tampering with the brakes of her car. “This particular phase in my life is the most dangerous.” She said “my husband is planning ‘an accident’ in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry”.

On 6 January 2004, six years after her death, an inquest into the deaths of Diana and Dodi Al Fayed opened in London held by Michael Burgess, the coroner of The Queen's Household. The coroner asked the then Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens (now Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington), to make inquiries, in response to speculation (see below) that the deaths were not an accident. The Metropolitan Police investigation reported their findings in Operation Paget in December 2006 (see below).

Later in 2004, US TV network CBS showed pictures of the crash scene showing an intact rear side and an intact centre section of the Mercedes, including one of an unbloodied Diana with no outward injuries, crouched on the rear floor of the vehicle with her back to the right passenger seat — the right rear car door is completely opened. The release of these pictures caused uproar in the UK, where it was widely felt that the privacy of Diana was being infringed, and spurred another lawsuit by Mohammed Fayed.

In January 2006, Lord Stevens explained in an interview on GMTV that the case is substantially more complex than once thought. The Sunday Times wrote on 29 January 2006 that agents of the British secret service were cross-examined, because they were in Paris at the time of the accident. It was suggested in many journals that these agents might have exchanged the blood test of the driver with another blood sample (although no evidence for this has ever been forthcoming).

On 13 July 2006, the Italian magazine Chi published a photograph showing Diana in her "last moments" despite an unofficial blackout on such photographs being published. The photograph was taken shortly after the crash, and shows the Princess slumped in the back seat while a paramedic attempts to fit an oxygen mask over her face. This photograph was also published in other Italian and Spanish magazines and newspapers.

The editor of Chi defended his decision by saying he published the photographs for the "simple reason that they haven't been seen before" and that he felt the images do not disrespect the memory of the former Princess.

These photographs were taken from the French investigation dossier.

Funeral and reaction

Diana's death was met with extraordinary public expressions of grief, and her funeral at Westminster Abbeymarker on 6 September drew an estimated 3 million mourners and onlookers in London, as well as worldwide television coverage, which overshadowed the news of the death the previous day of Mother Teresa in Calcuttamarker.

Members of the public were invited to sign a book of condolence at St James Palacemarker. Throughout the night members of the Women's Royal Voluntary Service and the Salvation Army combined to provide support for people queuing along the Mall. More than one million bouquets were left at her Londonmarker home, Kensington Palacemarker, while at her family's estate of Althorpmarker the public was asked to stop bringing flowers, as the volume of people and flowers in the surrounding roads was said to be causing a threat to public safety.

By 10 September, the pile of flowers outside Kensington Gardens was five feet deep in places and the bottom layer had started to compost. The same day, Fabio Piras, a Sardinian tourist, was given a one week prison sentence for having taken a teddy bear that a member of the public had put down among the flowers at St James's Palace as a tribute to Diana (this was later reduced to a £100 fine, a reduction that led to him being punched in the face by a member of the public when he left the court.) The next day, Maria Rigociova, a 54-year-old secondary school teacher, and Agnesa Sihelska, a 50-year-old communications technician, were each given a 28-day jail sentence for having taken eleven teddy bears and a number of flowers from the pile outside St. James' Palace. This, too was later reduced to a fine (of £200 each) after they had spent two nights in jail.

Some criticised the reaction to Diana's death at the time as being "hysterical" and "irrational", criticisms that were repeated on the 10th anniversary, where Jonathan Freedland expressed the opinion that "It has become an embarrassing memory, like a mawkish, self-pitying teenage entry in a diary,... we cringe to think about it."

Royal reaction

The reaction of the British Royal Family to the death of Diana caused unprecedented resentment and outcry. The Queen was in residence at Balmoral Castlemarker. Her initial decision not to return to Londonmarker or to mourn more publicly was much criticised at the time.
The Royal Family's rigid adherence to protocol, and their concern to care for the Princess's grieving sons, was interpreted by some as a lack of compassion.

In particular, the refusal of Buckingham Palacemarker to fly the Royal Standard at half-mast provoked angry headlines in newspapers. "Where is our Queen? Where is her Flag?" asked The Sun.

The Palace's stance was one of royal protocol: no flag could fly over Buckingham Palace, as the Royal Standard is only flown when the Queen is in residence, and the Queen was then in Scotland. Furthermore, the Royal Standard never flies at half-mast as it is the Sovereign's flag and there is never a dead Sovereign (the new monarch immediately succeeds his or her predecessor).

Finally, as a compromise, the Union Flag was flown instead, at half-mast, as the Queen left for Westminster Abbey on the day of Diana's funeral. This set a precedent, and Buckingham Palace has subsequently flown the Union Flag when the Queen is not in residence.

The Queen, who returned to London from Balmoral Castlemarker, agreed to a television broadcast to the nation.

Public reactions

Over a million people lined the four-mile route from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbeymarker. Outside the Abbey and in Hyde Parkmarker crowds watched and listened to proceedings on giant outdoor screens and huge speakers as guests filed in, including representatives of the many charities of which Diana was patron. Notable attendants included Hillary Rodham Clinton, future Secretary of State and the wife of U.S. President Bill Clinton, Bernadette Chirac, wife of the French President, Jacques Chirac, and other celebrities, including Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, singer George Michael and Elton John (who performed a rewritten version of his song, "Candle in the Wind", changed to "Goodbye England's Rose"). The service was televised live throughout the world.

Protocol was disregarded when the guests applauded the speech by Diana's younger brother, Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, who strongly criticised the press and indirectly criticised the Royal Family for their treatment of her. The funeral is estimated to have been watched by 2.5 billion worldwide.

After the end of the ceremony, the coffin was driven to the family estate at Althorp in Northamptonshiremarker in a Daimler hearse, registration B626 MRK. Mourners cast flowers at the funeral procession for almost the entire length of its journey and vehicles even stopped on the opposite carriageway of the M1 motorway as the cars passed on the route to Althorpmarker. In a private ceremony, Diana was buried on the Althorp estate on an island in the middle of a lake. In her casket, she wears a black Catherine Walker dress and is clutching a rosary in her hands. A visitors' centre is open during summer months, allowing visitors to see an exhibition about her and to walk around the lake. All profits made are donated to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

During the four weeks following her funeral, the overall suicide rate in Englandmarker and Walesmarker rose by 17% and cases of deliberate self harm by 44.3%, compared with the average reported for that period in the four previous years. Researchers suggest that this was caused by the "identification" effect, as the greatest increase in suicides was by people most similar to Diana: women aged 25 to 44, whose suicide rate increased by over 45%.

In the years after her death, interest in the life of Diana has remained high. As a temporary memorial, the public co-opted the Flamme de Liberté (Flame of Libertymarker), a monument near the Alma Tunnel, and related to the Frenchmarker donation of the Statue of Libertymarker to the United Statesmarker. The messages of condolence have since been removed, and its use as a Diana memorial has discontinued, though visitors still leave messages at the site in her memory. A permanent memorial, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountainmarker was opened in Hyde Park in Londonmarker on 6 July 2004.

Diana was ranked third in the 2002 Great Britons poll sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the British public, just above Charles Darwin (4th), William Shakespeare (5th), and Isaac Newton (6th).

In 2003, Marvel Comics announced it was to publish a five-part series entitled Di Another Day (a reference to the James Bond film Die Another Day) featuring a resurrected Diana, Princess of Wales, as a mutant with superpowers, as part of Peter Milligan's satirical X-Statix title. Amidst considerable outcry, the idea was quickly dropped. Heliograph Incorporated produced a roleplaying game, Diana: Warrior Princess by Marcus L. Rowland about a fictionalised version of the twentieth century as it might be seen a thousand years from now. Artist Thomas Demand made a video, Tunnel, in 1999, that featured a trip through a cardboard mock-up of the tunnel in which Diana died.

After her death, the actor Kevin Costner, who had been introduced to the Princess by her former sister-in-law, Sarah, Duchess of York, claimed he had been in negotiations with the divorced Princess to co-star in a sequel to the thriller film The Bodyguard, which starred Costner and Whitney Houston. Buckingham Palace dismissed Costner's claims as unfounded.

Actor George Clooney publicly lambasted several tabloids and paparazzi agencies following Diana's death. A few of the tabloids boycotted Clooney following the outburst, stating that he "owed a fair portion of his celebrity" to the tabloids and photo agencies in question.

Conspiracy theories

Although the initial French investigation found Diana, Princess of Wales had died as a result of an accident, the conspiracy theories persistently raised by Mohammed Fayed and the Daily Express suggested that she was assassinated. In 2004 a special Metropolitan Police inquiry team, Operation Paget, headed by the then Commissioner Lord Stevens was established to investigate the conspiracy theories.

A report with the findings of the criminal investigation was published on 14 December 2006. The inquiry was wound-up following the conclusion of the British Inquest into the deaths in April 2008.

2007 inquest

An inquest into the deaths of Lady Diana and Dodi started on 8 January 2007 under Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, largely prompted by theories of conspiracy and involvement of the British Royal Family and the SISmarker promulgated by the Al Fayed family and supposed inadequacies in the original French inquest.

On 24 April 2007, she stepped down, saying she lacked the experience required to deal with an inquest with a jury. The role of coroner for the inquests was to be transferred to Lord Justice Scott Baker. Lord Justice Scott Baker formally took up the role on 11 June.

On 27 July 2007, Lord Justice Scott Baker, following representations for the lawyers of the interested parties, issued a list of issues likely to be raised at the Inquest, many of which have been dealt with in great detail by Operation Paget.

The issues identified were:

The Inquests officially began on 2 October 2007 with the swearing of a jury of six women and five men. Lord Justice Scott Baker delivered a lengthy opening statement giving general instructions to the jury and introducing the evidence. The BBC reported that Mohammed Fayed, having earlier reiterated his claim that his son and Diana were murdered by the Royal Family, immediately criticised the opening statement as biased.

The inquest heard evidence from people connected with Diana and the events leading to her death, including Paul Burrell, Mohamed Al-Fayed, her stepmother, the survivor of the crash, and the former head of MI5marker.

Lord Justice Scott Baker began his summing up to the jury on 31 March 2008. He stated there was "not a shred of evidence" that the Duke of Edinburgh ordered the death of Diana, Princess of Wales or that the security services organised it. Lord Justice Scott Baker concluded his summing up on Wednesday 2 April 2008. After summing up, the jury retired to consider five verdicts, namely unlawful killing by the negligence of either or both the following vehicles or Henri Paul; accidental death or an open verdict. The jury decided on 7 April 2008 that Diana had been unlawfully killed by the grossly negligent driving of chauffeur Henri Paul and following vehicles.

The cost of the death inquiry exceeded £12.5 million, with the coroner's inquest at £4.5 million, and a further £8 million spent on the Metropolitan Police investigation. It lasted 6 months and heard 250 witnesses, with the cost heavily criticised in the media.

See also



Further reading



Notes

  1. scottbaker-inquests.gov.uk
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/world/international-britain-diana.html
  3. PDF, Operation Paget, page 417
  4. channel4.com
  5. page 1
  6. Operation Paget Report, chapter six, page 421: "Operation Paget’s view is that none of the seat belts were being worn at the time of the impact, including that of Trevor Rees-Jones. From the nature of marks found on his seat belt, it is considered unlikely that he was even in the process of attempting to put it on at all at the time of the crash."; see also: REES-JONES: "I think I've been told that I wasn't wearing a seatbelt. I assume that's been misreported, that the airbag must have saved me on the initial impact, but then my face and chest hit the dashboard when the car was pushed around.", in: Trevor Rees-Jones Tells `The Bodyguard's Story'
  7. Conspiracy Planet - Princess Diana: Murder-Coverup - Princess Diana Letter: 'Charles plans to kill me'
  8. http://www.coverups.com/diana/photos-2.htm see also photo No.5.
  9. Diana , Princess of Wales: The story so far, by LondonNet
  10. The Independent, 10 September 1997
  11. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/htmlContent.jhtml?html=/archive/1997/09/11/ndi411.html
  12. , The Independent, 12 September 1997
  13. http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070830/diana_grieving_070831/20070831/
  14. Flags at half mast for Di http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/138289.stm Retrieved 22/10/07
  15. On this day 6 September 1997 BBC, accessed 30/10/07
  16. Elton's re-written song http://www.bbc.co.uk/politics97/diana/lyrics.html Retrieved 22/10/07
  17. Sholto Byrnes, "Pandora", The Independent, 1 May 2003, p. 17.
  18. "The Funeral Service of Diana, Princess Wales". BBC. 6 September 1997.
  19. Hawton K, Harriss L, Simkin S, Juszczak E, Appleby L, McDonnell R, Amos T, Kiernan K, Parrott H. Effect of death of Diana, princess of Wales on suicide and deliberate self-harm. Br J Psychiatry. 2000 Nov;177:463-6. PMID 11060002
  20. Princess Diana, superhero http://www.guardian.co.uk/monarchy/story/0,2763,984675,00.html Retrieved 22/10/07
  21. Costner: Role to Di For http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,619348,00.html Retrieved 22/10/07
  22. Hey want some pix? http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101970915-138281,00.html Retrieved 22/10/07


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