No conspiracy, Diana coroner concludes after £10m inquest

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The Independent Online

The Duke of Edinburgh and MI6 have been cleared of arranging the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed after the coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker said there was not a shred of evidence to support a conspiracy theory.

The coroner demolished the central claim by the Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed, telling the jury that the suggestion that Prince Philip had ordered MI6 to arrange for the couple to die in a Paris road tunnel on 31 August 1997 was without foundation.

Dismissing Mr Fayed's theories, he said: "Foremost among them is the proposition that Diana was assassinated by the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) on the orders of the Duke of Edinburgh. There is no evidence that the Duke of Edinburgh ordered Diana's execution, and there is no evidence the Secret Intelligence Service or any other government agency organised it."

He said the lengthy inquest, estimated to have cost £10m, had played a crucial role in testing those theories but that some people would believe in the murder theory no matter what the verdict was. He told the jury: "There are no doubt those who genuinely believe this to be the case and will continue to do so regardless of any verdict you return. You have heard the evidence and it is your decision that matters."

But the coroner added: "You will have been reassured to have heard that Mohamed Al Fayed told you on oath that he will accept your verdict; no doubt the other interested persons will do likewise."

After discounting any credible evidence to support a conspiracy theory, Lord Justice Scott Baker said the jury could only return verdicts of accidental death or death by gross negligence. If the evidence did not support either conclusion then they could leave the verdict open.

The jury were also told that three of the witnesses had lied. Lord Baker said it was regrettable that there had been some witnesses "who it appears have told lies in the witness box or elsewhere", naming former butler Paul Burrell as one of those who were "liars by their own admission".

Mr Burrell appeared at the inquest for three days in January, but in a video recording obtained by The Sun newspaper he apparently claimed he introduced "red herrings" during his evidence and held back facts. He refused to re-appear at the inquest to explain discrepancies between his evidence and the newspaper report. At the time, the coroner said he could not compel him to give evidence because he lives outside the court's jurisdiction in the US.

On the question of whether Princess Diana was pregnant, the jury were told that there was no conclusive medical evidence to indicate that was the case.

The only witness to fully support this claim was Mr Fayed. "The [telephone] conversation involved three people but only one can tell us about it now," the coroner said. "Sadly the only other people who can confirm or deny it are no longer alive, so this fairly and squarely raises the issue of Mohamed Al Fayed's credibility. Is this a man on whose word you can rely?"

Dealing with whether Diana and Dodi were or were about to get engaged, the coroner highlighted a mass of, at times, conflicting evidence about their previous relationships. And he asked the jury: "At the end of the day does the precise state of the relationship between Diana and Dodi really matter?"

The coroner will continue his summing up today.