Former head of MI6: We took no interest in what Diana was doing

Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, abandoned the service's customary vow of silence yesterday to deny outright that the intelligence service assassinated Diana, Princess of Wales.

The former spymaster made a highly unusual trip into the witness box to dismiss conspiracy theories over the role of secret agents in her death.

He said MI6 had no operation involving Diana or Dodi Fayed at the time of their death. He denied claims by Mohamed Al Fayed that Diana was killed by the agency and rejected as "absurd" allegations by the Harrods owner that the security services and the Duke of Edinburgh run the country.

MI6 and the other security services have for decades refused to confirm or deny any allegations about their operations.

But yesterday Sir Richard, who had previously given evidence to the Hutton inquiry into the death of the Government weapons expert Dr David Kelly, cast aside the rule because of the exceptional circumstances of the Diana inquest and emphatically denied that the service was involved in her death.

Next week the inquest at the High Court will take evidence from a string of serving Secret Intelligence Service agents, identified only by letters, who will speak to the inquest behind screens to protect their identities.

Yesterday the inquest heard Sir Richard insist it was "entirely fanciful" to suggest that the service took an interest in the Harrods owner. Asked about its attitude to Diana, he said: "Frankly we did not take any interest in what she was doing. It's not a national security issue."

He said the service did not use paparazzi photographers and said it did not hold a file on the chauffeur Henri Paul who was driving the Mercedes limousine in which the princess died in August 1997. Sir Richard also dismissed suggestions by a former agent, Richard Tomlinson, that a crash involving a blinding flash of light had been considered as an option for assassinating Slobodan Milosevic.

Ian Burnett QC, for the coroner, asked: "During the whole of your time in SIS, from 1966 to 2004, were you ever aware of the service assassinating anyone?"

Sir Richard replied: "No, I was not." Mr Burnett said: "No assassinations under your authority in any of those posts?" "No," said Sir Richard. He said it was "utterly ridiculous" to say that Prince Philip and Prince Charles were active members of MI6 and said that claims that MI6 could control a conspiracy involving the French police, emergency and forensic services was "a mischievous and fanciful allegation".

Mr Burnett told the inquest: "It is suggested that Prince Philip and the intelligence agencies really run this country and that we are not a parliamentary democracy." Sir Richard replied: "I do not want to be flippant. I'm tempted to say I'm flattered, but this is such an absurd allegation that it is difficult to deal with... It's completely off the map. I cannot think of any other way of saying it."

Mr Burnett said: "Was there any operation of any kind made against or in respect of the Princess of Wales or Dodi Fayed during that summer?" Sir Richard: "Absolutely not."

The former MI6 director said he knew of "all significant operational activities" when he was both director of operations and the head of the agency from 1994 until he retired, and insisted the service's Paris station was managed "very strictly" from London.

The hearing continues.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home