Diana was pregnant at time of her death, says top policeman

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The Independent Online

A senior police source in France has told The Independent on Sunday that Diana, Princess of Wales, was pregnant at the time of her death following a road accident in Paris six years ago.

The source - who saw all the documents relating to the case surrounding the Princess's death - dismisses suggestions that there was any murder conspiracy before the death of Diana, her friend Dodi al-Fayed and their driver in a car crash on 31 August 1997.

He was speaking after a British coroner announced that he would hold inquests into the cause of the deaths of Diana and Dodi, beginning on 6 January.

However, the source revealed to The Independent on Sunday that there was "a cover-up of sorts" in the days following the crash. Medical reports, which have never been made public, showed that Diana was pregnant at the time of her death. "I can tell you that she was pregnant," the source said.

Friends of Diana and her butler, Paul Burrell, have strenuously denied in the past suggestions that the Princess was expecting a third child at the time of her death.

The source implied that Diana's pregnancy was hushed up to spare the embarrassment of her family. Since it was not regarded as relevant to the causes of the accident, or her death, it was not mentioned at the end of the two-year judicial investigation into the crash by a French judge, Hervé Stephan.

Medical reports from the hospital where Diana died may, however, be included among the 6,000 pages of documents from the French investigation which will be delivered to the British coroner, Michael Burgess, next month.

Reports that Diana was pregnant - first alleged by Mohammed al-Fayed soon after her death - have been seized on by the wilder conspiracy theorists as a possible motive for an assassination plot by the Royal Family and British government.

The same police source in France rejected all these theories and said the investigation file points clearly to an accident, caused in part by the fact that chauffeur Henri Paul had been drinking heavily.

There has also been speculation about the time it has taken to call a British inquest, now routine when a British citizen dies abroad. The coroner has said that he could not open the hearings until he received the French file once legal proceedings were completed in France.

These proceedings have been prolonged mostly by Mr Fayed, who appealed against the original decision by French authorities to bring no action against the photographers who pursued Diana and Dodi's car. When that appeal was lost, Mr Fayed brought another action against three photographers for invading his son's privacy. The case was thrown out by a French court last month.

The royal coroner, Mr Burgess, announced on Thursday that he would begin separate inquests into Diana and Dodi's deaths next month, but indicated that the full hearings will be delayed until the whole French file has been translated and studied.

Mr Burgess said last week: "At neither hearing will I be receiving evidence from witnesses in person. I will, however, make a statement which will cover the purpose of the inquests, how they may be expected to be conducted and the nature and scope of the evidence I expect to receive."