Accident or assassination?: Diana: a bluffer's guide

Too busy to attend the two and a half months of hearings at the Diana inquest? Then let David Randall guide you through the sometimes extraordinary revelations that have emerged so far


The issue

Dodi and Di's relationship

The official account

They'd only recently met, and it was, at the time of their death, just a summer romance. The Stevens report a year ago said: "She was not about to get engaged."

The Fayed version

They were deeply in love, were about to announce their engagement, and she was pregnant with his child.

What the inquest has been told

She sent Dodi her beloved late father's cufflinks, and, after their cruise, wrote to him: "This comes with all the love in the world and as always a million heart-felt thanks at bringing such joy into this particular chick's life." CCTV footage shows the couple cuddling at the Ritz just before leaving on the fatal journey. Diana's stepmother Countess Spencer (a Harrods director) said the Princess was "deeply and blissfully" in love with Dodi, but Rosa Monckton, a Diana confidante, doubted this. Frank Klein, Ritz president, said Dodi called him two weeks before the crash and said he was going to get engaged. The jury has been shown a receipt for an 11,600 ring from the Alberto Repossi store, which contains the words "engagement ring". There has been no evidence that Diana was party to the purchase. Ten days ago, Claude Roulet, former assistant president of the Ritz, said Mr Repossi's account was an invention. He added that when he questioned Mr Repossi's version, Mr Klein told him to "shut up". Dr Robert Chapman, who carried out Diana's post-mortem examination, said there was no evidence that she was pregnant. Ms Monckton said that only 10 days before her death, Diana had had a period.

Our verdict...

Their true feelings will never be known, but Diana's track record with lovers suggests a certain lack of constancy. There is not the remotest chance that she was pregnant.

The issue

The 'threats' to Di

The official account

Widespread stories, instigated by Diana, that she feared an "accident" would be arranged, have been put down to her volatile mental state, verging on paranoia.

The Fayed version

He believes she felt threatened. The Royal Family was so determined to stop the mother of a future king giving birth to the child of a Muslim that it was prepared to kill her.

What the inquest has been told

There has been no direct evidence of any threats to Diana. A friend, Simone Simmons, said that Diana had asked her to listen in to a phone call made in February 1997, and she heard a voice resembling that of then armed forces minister and former equerry to Prince Charles, Nicholas Soames, warn Diana that "accidents can happen". Last week, Mr Soames described the claim as "grotesque". The Princess seemed an avid collector of conspiracies. The jury was told that Diana once informed her lawyer she was convinced the Queen would abdicate and Charles would abandon Camilla Parker Bowles and make royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke his consort. Michael Gibbins, her former private secretary, said that in the months before her death, Diana changed her phone number because she was convinced her calls were monitored. Asked about the Princess's attitude to seatbelts, Mr Gibbins said she always wore one. Asked whether there was royal disapproval of her lovers, Mr Gibbins said, "Not directly... but, by inference, certainly." These gentlemen were named last month as James Hewitt, James "Squidgygate" Gilbey, art dealer Oliver Hoare, Will Carling and bodyguard Barry Mannakee.

Our verdict...

Monitored calls have a certain ring of truth, but threats are more likely the product of a fevered imagination. And, if she feared an arranged "accident", why did she not wear a seatbelt?

The issue

Henri Paul

The official account

His alcohol intake (three times over the drink-drive limit, said police) and reckless driving caused the fatal accident.

The Fayed version

Paul, as acting head of security at the Paris Ritz, had been a trusted Fayed employee, but was in the pay of British and French intelligence.

What the inquest has been told

The coroner said right at the start that it was unclear if Paul was unfit to drive through drink or drugs, and also, if such evidence did exist, whether it had been concocted. Sbastien Trotte, former barman at the Ritz, said that he served Paul with two 4cl measures of Ricard, an aniseed spirit drink of 45 per cent proof. He added that the acting security head, who was sitting with bodyguards waiting for Dodi and Diana to be ready to leave, did not seem "in any sense drunk". However, he had other opportunities to drink that night and was entitled to think for most of that time that he was off duty and would not be further required. The jury also heard that this "modestly paid" man had 170,000 in his bank account, and, on the night he died, 1,200 in his pocket.

Our verdict...

It has not yet been proved that Henri Paul was drunk, but more evidence may emerge. If he was part of a plot, why did he not wear a seatbelt? And where did all his cash come from?

The issue

The crash

The official account

The black Mercedes S280 driven by Henri Paul was going too fast (60-63mph at impact), and Paul lost control.

The Fayed version

Henri Paul was not drunk, and the blood tests that "proved" this had been switched or tampered with by MI6. The crash had been plotted by the British establishment.

What the inquest has been told

Accident expert Tony Read told the court that the crash was probably caused by Henri Paul's "overreaction" in trying to avoid a white car, presumed to be a Fiat Uno. He said Paul swerved left, right, then left again at between 60 and 70mph. Mr Read said that tyre marks left on the road showed that the Merc and white car had glancing contact just outside the tunnel. It was not clear if the white car had been ahead of the Mercedes or was emerging from a slip road when the two vehicles touched. Mr Read dismissed suggestions that the accident was planned, and also the idea from Mr Fayed that there was a bright "flash" in the tunnel which fleetingly blinded or distracted Paul. In his view, the factors were: Paul's alcohol intake, the high speed at which he was driving, the distraction of the paparazzi and the high adrenalin situation. Asked if Dodi and Diana would be alive today if they had been wearing seatbelts, Mr Read replied: "I think we can almost guarantee it would be survivable."

Our verdict...

It seems certain that at least one other vehicle was involved. It is highly unlikely that Paul had drunk enough to be swerving all over the road without some external cause.

The issue

The Fiat Uno

The official account

Widely believed to be mythical, but this vehicle was said by Lord Stevens to have been in contact with the Mercedes just before entering the underpass.

The Fayed version

The Fiat, driven by paparazzo James Andanson, in the pay of MI6, was part of the ambush. His Fiat Uno and another car forced the Mercedes to lose control.

What the inquest has been told

Two witnesses said they saw a "light-coloured hatchback" driving slowly into the tunnel. One of them, Nathalie Blanchard, said it was "something like an Austin Mini or Fiat Uno". One witness, James Huth, who had lived by the tunnel for 20 years, said: "I cannot think why a car driving that fast would have to brake at that point unless there was something in its way." Georges Dauzonne told the court that he saw a white Fiat Uno coming out of the tunnel, driven slowly by someone looking in his rear-view mirror apparently "bothered" by something behind him. He said the car stopped by the side of the road before pulling away again. Shown photographs of possible drivers of the Uno, Mr Dauzonne and his wife both picked out French security guard Le Van Thanh, who has refused to testify at the inquest. Mr Fayed believes that the driver was French photographer James Andanson, who he says was part of the plot to kill Diana. The Stevens report concluded that Mr Andanson, who committed suicide in 2000, was at home with his wife at the time the crash took place.

Our verdict...

The Uno seems a major contributory cause of the crash. But who was driving it? Some hesitant unknown? A secret agent? Or someone linked to the paparazzi? Best guess: Mr Van Thanh was at the wheel.

The issue

Di's hospital treatment

The official account

Lord Stevens said: "The surgeons did everything humanly possible" to save the lives of those involved.

The Fayed version

The medical treatment of the Princess, both at the scene and in hospital, was flawed, and she was embalmed to disguise signs of her pregnancy.

What the inquest has been told

One of the first witnesses to reach the scene said the Princess was trapped in the car's footwell and partly obscured by Dodi's body. She appeared to have been sitting sideways on to Dodi at impact. Witnesses said she was agitated, and said "Oh my God" several times. She resisted treatment at the scene, pulling a drip from her arm. At 1am, as she was taken out of the wreck, her heart stopped, but was started again by cardiac massage. The ambulance went at only a modest speed because of her condition. A short distance from the hospital, her heart stopped again, and the ambulance halted to allow her heart to be again restarted. Once in hospital, a tube was inserted in her throat to allow her to breathe, but constant cardiac massage was need to keep her alive as doctors tried to clamp a ruptured blood vessel near her heart. Her chest was opened up and she was given repeated electric shocks, but she died. A dissenting voice on her treatment came from British surgeon Professor Thomas Treasure, who told jurors that "opportunities were lost" because of the lengthy time that Diana was treated at the scene and in the slow journey to hospital. The court heard that the embalming (normally carried out only when a body reaches Britain) was done because of the heat, and because "security" meant Diana could not be transferred to a refrigerated mortuary. The embalmers referred to her as "Patricia".

Our verdict...

One surgeon told the court there are only four or five cases of someone with Diana's injuries surviving. Yet the "security" excuse in relation to the refrigerated mortuary is not convincing.

The issue

The Duke of Edinburgh and an MI6 plot

The official account

It is inconceivable that such a plot would exist. Diana, and the stories she inspired, was an irritant, rather than any threat to the Royal Family.

The Fayed version

So determined were the royals to remove Diana and her unborn Muslim child that Prince Philip orchestrated British intelligence in killing her and her lover by forcing their car to crash.

What the inquest has been told

Frank Klein of the Ritz said Mohamed al-Fayed's first reaction was to claim the crash had been arranged. In a call 20 minutes after the crash, Mr Fayed said: "Frank, this is not an accident. This is a plot or assassination." One witness, Franois Levistre, gave evidence that will be seized upon by conspiracists. He said he was driving in front of the Mercedes, which was overtaken by a motorbike. He said a bright flash was aimed at the Mercedes, and he then saw, in his rear-view mirror, the Merc veer from side to side, crash, and the motorbike passenger get off, look inside the Mercedes, gesture to his driver, and speed off. Mr Levistre said he stopped, but did not want to get out of his car. "I thought they were hit-men," he added. Another witness, Svrine Peyret, said she heard the crash, and then a motorbike sped past at "great speed". A third said he also saw a flash. The then number two at the British embassy, Keith Moss, said he believed British intelligence had a base in Paris. This was for counterterrorism and organised crime duties. Mr Moss said the embassy had not known Diana was in Paris that day.

Our verdict...

Mr Fayed made up his mind before any detail was known. There is no evidence of intelligence involvement, and at least some of Prince Philip's correspondence with Diana suggests affection, rather than homicidal rage.

The issue

The paparazzi

The official account

These were not nice people, and they were harassing Dodi and Di that night, but they were not the direct cause of the accident.

The Fayed version

At least one of the paparazzi was in the pay of MI6, but the photographers were not to blame for the crash.

What the inquest has been told

The paparazzi were hyper that night as rumour spread among them that Diana was about to announce her pregnancy or engagement. One witness said the Mercedes was "hindered" before the crash by paparazzi on motorbikes. Several witnesses say photographers stood outside the car and even on it taking pictures before opening the door to offer help. Another, Olivier Partouche, said that as he stood on the approach to the tunnel he saw a dark car trying to slow down the Mercedes so paparazzi, just behind on the motorbikes, could remain in photographic range. He described the dark saloon as "a blocking car". Another, Gaëlle Lhostis, also saw a dark car, possibly a Renault Clio, being driven slowly and "hindering" the Merc. One paparazzo, Romuald Rat (pronounced to rhyme with "car"), offered pictures of the injured Princess inside the crashed Merc for 300,000. 'The Sun' said yes "in principle". Some of the pictures of the dying Princess were shown to the jury, but will not be released to the public.

Our verdict...

If there had been no paparazzi, and Paul had not overreacted to them and the other vehicle in the tunnel, there would almost certainly have been no crash.

... and there's still four months to go!

To have your say on this or any other issue visit www.independent.co.uk/IoSblogs

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