December 15, 2006 in Nation/World

Diana report: No murder plot, no pregnancy

Matthew Schofield McClatchy
 

LONDON – Princess Diana wasn’t engaged, wasn’t pregnant, wasn’t murdered and probably would’ve survived the spectacular Paris car crash that claimed her life had she been wearing her seat belt, according to an 833-page report released Thursday.

The report, more than nine years after Diana’s death, was the result of almost three years of investigation into allegations that the princess was murdered by British secret agents after they learned she was pregnant and engaged to Dodi al Fayed, the son of the millionaire owner of the famed Harrod’s department store.

But the report, which devoted 80 pages alone to the relationship between Diana and al Fayed, said no evidence supports those claims and much debunks them. A close friend of Diana told investigators that Diana never considered al Fayed, who also died in the crash, more than a summer fling.

Still, the report was immediately denounced by Mohamed al Fayed, who has spent millions on a private investigation into the deaths of his son and Diana and remains convinced that they weren’t accidents. On Thursday he said he would continue to investigate the deaths until he finally found “the terrorists, the gangsters, who have taken away my son from me, terrorists with power in high places, power in the royal family.”

Diana died after the car she was riding in crashed in a Paris tunnel during a chase with photographers on Aug. 31, 1997. The continuing controversy over the death of the most popular princess in modern history is testament to Diana’s grip on an adoring public.

In the days after her death, millions of Britons turned out to mourn – an outpouring that became a crisis of confidence in a royal family from whom the princess, divorced from Prince Charles, was estranged. Only after days of growing outcry did Queen Elizabeth return to London from vacation and order the flag flown at half-staff above Buckingham Palace.

The elder al Fayed repeated his accusations that his son and the princess were killed to stop them from marrying and to stop his son, a Muslim, from becoming the stepfather of the future king of England.

He claimed that the French driver of the car in which his son and the princess were riding, Henri Paul, was in the employ of the British intelligence services MI5 and MI6. Paul, al Fayed said, had met with his “handlers” before the accident to hear the plan in which he would “drive into a planned tunnel where he can carry out his horrendous murders.” Paul also died in the crash.

Al Fayed also said that he believes Lord John Stevens, the former London police chief who headed the inquiry, intended to do a thorough investigation, but was forced by British security forces to produce a whitewash.

Stevens said that he understood al Fayed’s reaction and that he didn’t expect the three-year inquiry to stop questions about the deaths. The inquiry cost $7.5 million and isn’t the final step – a coroner’s inquest will be held sometime in January.

“I have no doubt that speculation as to what happened that night will continue, and that there are some matters, as in many investigations, about which we may never find a definitive answer,” he said.

But he added: “On all the evidence available at this time, there was no conspiracy to murder any of the occupants of the car. This was a tragic accident.”


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