Stevens hits back at 'scurrilous' Diana allegations

The police officer who led the investigation into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales today dismissed "scurrilous allegations" that he had not done his job properly.

Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Stevens also revealed that he would be demanding an apology.

Britain's former top policeman produced the Paget report into the Paris crash which killed Diana, her lover Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul in August 1997.

He spoke out today as he began giving evidence at the Diana inquest at the High Court in London.

Ian Burnett QC, counsel to the inquest, told the jury there had previously been observations of discrepancies between what driver Henri Paul's parents had been told and what had been in the final Paget report.

Lord Stevens replied: "I would say these are scurrilous allegations."

He then added: "I'm looking for an apology for this in due course."

Lord Stevens said the allegations had included the notion that he had not done his job properly and the "extraordinary allegation that I had been got at in terms of how the evidence and the report was going to be put forward".

He said: "It's quite outrageous. I will take that on my behalf, but I will not have it said about people who worked for me for four years who sometimes can't defend themselves about these issues.

"I have not said anything about it until today, but I will say a few things about it today."

Lord Stevens launched Operation Paget in 2004 at the request of Michael Burgess, the Royal Coroner who was overseeing the future Diana inquest at the time.

His brief was specifically to investigate allegations that Diana and Dodi were murdered, the theory most commonly associated with Dodi's father, Harrods owner Mohamed al Fayed.

The former Scotland Yard chief rejected the murder claims when the Paget report was published in December 2006.

The inquest jury was told today that Operation Paget officers had a meeting with Henri Paul's parents in Paris before the publication of the report.

They were told that a note from that meeting recorded that Mr Paul's parents had been told the report would be saying that their son had consumed two glasses of the spirit Ricard that evening.

It would also say that officers had had difficulty determining Mr Paul's whereabouts for part of the evening, and it may have been that he had gone for a drink because he believed he had finished work.

Mr Burnett asked: "Reading that, it might infer that the message conveyed was that Henri Paul had only consumed two alcoholic drinks."

This he said, would be at odds with the suggestion that Mr Paul had a reading of 170mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, well over the drink drive limit.

Lord Stevens replied: "That would not have been the natural reading.

"We're talking about what evidence there was against Henri Paul that night.

"The evidence was that he had taken two Ricards."

Lord Stevens added: "We are being fair to Henri Paul, we tried to be fair to everybody involved.

"It referred to the evidence we had."

Lord Stevens told the jury that a police officer determines whether a person is drunk based on whether they have slurred speech, glazed eyes and are unsteady on their feet.

The jury later heard that Lord Stevens was "happy to state at this point, in my view, based on all the evidence available to us, that Henri Paul was not 'drunk as a pig' as referred to in some publications, but more correctly described as under the influence of alcohol."

Lord Stevens flatly rejected any suggestion that he had tried to keep "potentially relevant" information from the coroner.

The jury has already heard that a message - dubbed the Mishcon note - was written by Diana's divorce lawyer Lord Mishcon after an October 1995 meeting outlining her fears that there was a plot to kill her in a car crash.

In the strictest of confidence Lord Mishcon passed it on to police, who kept it in a safe at Scotland Yard.

It was only when Diana's former butler Paul Burrell produced a note from the Princess making very similar allegations in the Daily Mirror in October 2003, that the police agreed to hand over the Mishcon note. It was sent to the coroner in December 2003.

Michael Mansfield QC, for Mohamed al Fayed, said: "I am actually going to suggest that the Mishcon note was going to stay in the safe and the only way that you were going to reveal it was because Mr Burrell went to the press with this and the ball started rolling."

Lord Stevens replied: "You are making the allegation that this was never going to be made available to the coroner - that is wrong."

Lord Stevens, who was Metropolitan Police Commissioner from 2000 to 2005, said that legal advice was sought within days of Mr Burrell's making his note public.

He had already taken telephone calls from his predecessor Lord Condon and Lord Mishcon, who was still concerned about the impact it could have on Princes William and Harry, on the matter.

Getting legal advice and Lord Mishcon's permission took time, Lord Stevens stressed.

The Coroner Lord Justice Baker said: "I think what Mr Mansfield is getting at is that but for the Burrell note surfacing, the Mishcon note might never have seen the light of day at all."

"Sir, it would have," Lord Stevens replied. "Was there a deliberate attempt to keep this away from the coroner - of course there was not."

Lord Stevens was later asked if he had "deliberately misled" the Pauls about how much their son had had to drink that night.

He replied: "That's outrageous, and I'm looking for an apology in relation to that."

He was then asked if, between his meeting with the Pauls and the publication of his report, he had been "got at by the establishment to change your view from two drinks to more than two two drinks."

Lord Stevens replied: "That is not the case. The reason I was wanted to do this investigation was because of my investigations in Northern Ireland where my integrity was everything to me.

"To think I would even contemplate that taking 14 or 15 officers, the whole French investigation along with that is absolutely absurd, and crazy.

"Allegations trip off people's tongues, it's just not right."

He added the whole team would have had to have been involved.

"The whole team, that's what I find so hurtful. That I could manipulate them into saying things and going down a criminal course of action, it's absolutely absurd and we want an apology."

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