The jury at the inquests into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed continued its tour of the Paris locations that Mohamed Al Fayed has alleged were central to an MI6 plot to murder the couple on the orders of Prince Philip.
Yesterday morning, jurors visited the Ritz hotel where Diana and Dodi spent their last hours before leaving in a car driven by Henri Paul. The first port of call was the Ritz's luxury Bar Vendôme which, the jury has been told, was twice visited by Mr Paul before taking the wheel of the Mercedes. The coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, welcomed the jurors and said the court would visit key points of interest relating to the inquest which is due to resume in London today.
The judge said this would include travelling three possible alternative routes the couple could have taken when they left the Ritz at around 12.20am on 31 August 1997 as they intended to visit Dodi Fayed's flat near the Arc de Triomphe.
The jury, coroner, lawyers and reporters made their way up the stairs to the three-roomed Imperial Suite where Diana and Dodi spent their last evening. The coroner pointed out the place outside the suite where the two bodyguards had been sitting while the couple were dining.
The party then visited the service lifts used by Diana and Dodi to travel to the rear of the hotel to evade the waiting paparazzi. He told them: "We shan't be going down for the obvious reason that it won't take all of us... but we shall be going down by the stairs." Jurors were then taken to the service exit at the back of the hotel where the couple waited for their Mercedes, holding hands and sharing a last few intimate moments before leaving.
Then, for the eighth time during their visit to Paris, the court party travelled through the Pont d'Alma tunnel, the site of the crash, and from there to Dodi's flat. After exploring two alternative routes Mr Paul could have used to go directly to the apartment, Lord Justice Scott Baker adjourned the inquiry. He told the jurors: "That is the conclusion of the view. We will be separating. You will be making your way back to England and I look forward to seeing you in Court 73 at 1.30pm tomorrow. I hope you haven't found it too inconvenient."
Their departure is likely to be greeted with a Gallic shrug by many Parisians. Ever since the jury arrived in France on Monday morning, French television has continued to cover its progress with increasing bewilderment while the serious French newspapers have given the inquests very little space.
Timothée Boutry, who has been assigned to cover the story for Le Parisien, said very few people in France were interested in the Diana story. "We can't understand what can be achieved by this process of going over these events again so long after the crash," said M. Boutry.
In the bars and cafes close to the Ritz hotel, diners were expressing similar scepticism about such as wide-ranging and expensive inquiry. Nicole Boutin, the founder of a French charity for injured children, said she had "absolutely no interest". But her friend, Catherine Barker, a lawyer at an English law firm in Paris, was more enthusiastic. "I have read the book by her butler and I think the story is fascinating," she said.Reuse content