Coroner under pressure to ask about Diana pregnancy

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The coroner conducting the inquest into the death of the Princess of Wales is likely to come under pressure to examine whether she was pregnant when she died after fresh claims she was carrying Dodi Fayed's baby.

A senior police source in France, who claims to have had access to the 6,000 pages of the official report on the car crash in August 1997, told The Independent on Sunday: "I can tell you she was pregnant.'' The source also said: "There was a cover-up of sorts".

Although the claim has not been verified, it will be seized upon by conspiracy theorists who claim there has been a cover up and that the couple were killed in a plot hatched by intelligence agencies on behalf of the Royal family who were supposedly angered at her relationship with a Muslim.

The report is certain to be welcomed by Mohammed al-Fayed, the father of Dodi, as support for his claim after the accident that the Princess was pregnant by his son. He is still campaigning for a public inquiry.

A spokesman for Mr Fayed said yesterday that he was glad that there appeared to be support for his belief.

Most of the report by the French examining magistrate, Herve Stephan - which concluded that the crash in the Alma tunnel in Paris was the result of the chauffeur, Henri Paul, driving too fast after taking a cocktail of drink and drugs - has not been made public.

That report will be passed to Michael Burgess, the coroner to the Royal Household, who announced last week that the inquests into the Princess and her companion are to be opened on 6 January in readiness for full hearings later in the year. He has not yet decided what evidence he will consider or if witnesses will be called.

Mr Burgess is under no obligation to make the report public, but has the option to disclose some or all of it to the lawyers representing interested parties. Mr Fayed will be represented at the hearing into his son's death, but not that of the Princess, so his lawyers may only be entitled to those sections which relate to his son. It remains undecided whether the Prince of Wales or the Spencer family will be represented at the full hearing.

The Princess's family and friends, including her butler, Paul Burrell, and Rosa Monkton, who was with her on holiday a few days before her death, have always denied she was pregnant. It was also reported that the post-mortem examination conducted in Britain did not find any evidence of pregnancy.

A spokeswoman for the Prince of Wales said that it was not a matter Clarence House would comment on.

Like all coroners, Mr Burgess has considerable powers over the way in which inquests are conducted and may confine the hearings to the strict facts of the deaths and decide not to call evidence in person, relying on the statements to the French inquiry by paramedics and doctors. Only if he believes they are lacking in some way would he be likely to call extra evidence, but he has no powers to subpoena witnesses from abroad.

The inquests have been delayed until the completion of all legal proceedings in France and it was believed that these had been exhausted with the collapse last month of a civil action by Mr Fayed against three photographers who were pursuing the car on the night. However, it was announced on Friday that the Paris prosecutor is to support an appeal by Mr Fayed, which is now likely to prolong proceedings there and it remains unclear how that will affect the date of the full inquests in Britain.