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Years after Di's death, theories still spinning

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 9:28 am    Post subject: Years after Di's death, theories still spinning Reply with quote

Years after Di's death, theories still spinning

By Jeffrey Stinson,

LONDON — Tracy Holmes pauses on the landing at Harrods department store near the memorial statue of Princess Diana and boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed. The dead couple are depicted chained at the legs, beneath the wings of an albatross.

"They were murdered, beyond a shadow of a doubt," says Holmes, 42, from Belfast, Northern Ireland. "Her death," Holmes says of Diana, "solved many problems for the royal family."

Fiona Halsey, who also has stopped by the bronze statue, isn't so certain. "Before, I thought she was killed. Then I leaned toward an accident," says Halsey, 55, of Christchurch on England's south coast. "Now I'm not so sure because there have been so many theories put forward."

More than eight years after Diana and Dodi died along with their driver in a high-speed car crash in a Paris tunnel, questions about the deaths have not been put to rest. Not for Halsey, nor for many others who continue to wonder about the death of the princess. If anything, there is more doubt now about the official version — that Diana was a victim of a drunken driver — and there are more people here willing to believe, as does Holmes, that she was murdered or allowed to die in the tunnel in the early morning hours of Aug. 31, 1997.

"It won't go away," Robert Jobson, a noted royals watcher who co-wrote a book on Diana, says of the questions.

A new wave of doubt about the crash has been kicked up by the man designated to give Britons the last word on Diana's death: Lord John Stevens. Stevens, a former chief of New Scotland Yard, heads the official British investigation, which is still not concluded two years after it began.

Stevens said in a Jan. 29 interview on GMTV that his investigation "is a far more complex inquiry than any of us thought." And it is taking longer than he planned. He originally said it would be completed early last year. Now it's uncertain when it will be done.

No end to speculation

Speculation about the cause of the crash continues to generate reports in the British media, most based on anonymous sources. None of the reports has been supported with evidence or official confirmation.

There are variations, but the typical conspiracy line — one that Dodi Al Fayed's father, Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, has fueled — is that Diana, 36, was murdered because she was pregnant with Dodi's child and the two were about to be engaged. Such a union with a rich playboy of Egyptian heritage could have been an embarrassment to the British royal family.

Although Diana was estranged from the royal family, she could still have become queen mother when her son William ascended to the throne, after his father, Prince Charles. The clinchers for conspiracy theorists: Diana purportedly feared for her life, didn't trust the royal family and predicted in an October 1996 note to her butler that she would be killed in a car "accident." The note came to light in butler Paul Burrell's 2003 tell-all book.

Conflicting reports on the possible causes of the crash have continued to surface — despite a French court ruling in 1999 that it was an accident.

On Jan. 6, 2004, Royal Coroner Michael Burgess announced that he had asked police to look into the conspiracy theories. His request for an investigation came as John Burton, the royal coroner at the time of the crash, disputed at least one of the allegations.

In a story published Jan. 7, 2004, Burton told The Times of London that he was present at a postmortem examination after the princess' body was returned from Paris. (An autopsy was not conducted after the crash.) "I was actually present when she was examined," Burton said. "She wasn't pregnant. I know she wasn't pregnant."

Britain's Daily Mirror published the letter that Diana's butler, Burrell, claimed she had written to him. In it, she said Prince Charles was plotting to kill her in an auto accident. The Daily Mirror called the idea "utterly preposterous to many people" and said there was no supporting evidence.


Aug. 31, 1997: A car carrying Princess Diana, 36, and Dodi Al Fayed, 42, crashes in a tunnel in Paris while traveling at a high speed. Both are killed in the crash, as is Henri Paul, their driver. Paul was deputy head of security at the Ritz Hotel, which was owned by Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi's father.

Sept. 1, 1997: The initial French investigation determines that Paul's blood-alcohol content was above the legal threshold for drunken driving.

Sept. 19, 1997: Diana's bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, who survived the crash, says he cannot remember the circumstances.

July 2, 1999: Paris appeals court rejects a petition by Mohamed Al Fayed that contends the deaths were the work of British intelligence.

Aug. 17, 1999: A French prosecutor drops charges against nine paparazzi photographers and a motorcycle messenger who arrived on the scene within minutes of the crash. The prosecutor says they had no criminal involvement in the crash.

Sept. 4, 1999: A French judge finds no apparent conspiracy and concludes that Paul was drunk and under the influence of drugs and couldn't control the speeding car.

Jan. 6, 2004: British Royal Coroner Michael Burgess convenes and then adjourns an inquiry into the deaths and asks Lord John Stevens, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police at New Scotland Yard, to investigate theories about the cause of the crash.

April 26, 2004: Stevens retraces part of the journey made by Diana and Dodi in Paris and says he hopes to finish his investigation in early 2005.

Jan. 29, 2006: Stevens says in an interview on Britain's GMTV television that his investigation is not complete, that it was more complex than he had anticipated and that Mohamed Al Fayed had been right to raise concerns about the crash.

All of the doubts have taken on a new life since Stevens' remarks in January. A subsequent flurry of stories in the British press raised more questions.

Since then, Stevens' office has refused to comment on unconfirmed reports in the news media. Among them was a Feb. 26 story in The Sunday Times, based on an anonymous source, that said Diana's driver, Henri Paul, was a paid informant for the French intelligence service. French Ministry of Justice spokeswoman Ulrika Weiss said Wednesday that the ministry has nothing in its Princess Diana file on Paul working for French intelligence. The story also said Stevens couldn't get Paul's records from French authorities. The Directorate for Territorial Surveillance, France's security and intelligence agency, would not comment when contacted by USA TODAY.

Similarly, Stevens has been mum about a Feb. 28 Daily Mirror report, also quoting an anonymous source, that laptop computers had been stolen from his private office. Stevens' office did not respond when asked to comment on a March 6 story in The Daily Mail that said Stevens' interim report, which the newspaper said would be released in May, would dismiss the conspiracy theories.

The still-unfinished Stevens investigation and newspaper reports have begun to sway some people, including Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a columnist for The Independent newspaper in London.

Murder theories emerged almost as soon as word broke that the popular and glamorous princess of Wales had died. Questions lingered, despite the French ruling that it was an accident caused by Paul, the driver, who was drunk and on medication. That probe found Paul could not control the speeding car as it was chased by photographers. The probe lasted 18 months, involved 30 police officers and produced 6,000 pages of evidence.

In a Sept. 1, 2003, poll conducted by London's Sunday Express newspaper, 27% of Britons said they thought Diana had been murdered, and 49% said they thought circumstances of her death were covered up. (Fifty-one percent said she wasn't murdered.)

The theories, which have filled websites and been dissected by television programs and books, won't go away.

"It's because she was such a magical person that (many people think) she couldn't die an ordinary death," says Ingrid Seward, author of the book Diana: The Final Word and editor of Majesty Magazine. "People think she couldn't die in a drunken-driving accident. She was such an icon."

Diana's death "holds the same fascination as JFK, Marilyn Monroe's death and the abdication of Edward VIII," the British king who gave up the throne in 1936 to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, Seward says. "There are unanswered questions in all of these things."

'Who are the real loonies?'

Alibhai-Brown, the Independent columnist, wrote Feb. 27 that her fellow journalists call her "loony" when she questions the French finding that Diana was a drunken-driving victim.

Chief British investigator Stevens "says the investigation is proving to be more complicated than he imagined. Now we learn that Henri Paul, the driver, was a paid-up member of France's intelligence services," Alibhai-Brown wrote. "So who are the real loonies? Conspiracy theorists or those who foolishly repudiate all conspiracy theories?"

Mohamed Al Fayed is one who believes a conspiracy exists. In addition to erecting the bronze statue, titled Innocent Victims, to their memory in his department store in September, Fayed has spent millions of dollars investigating the case after initially running into what he says were roadblocks when he sought answers.

Fayed, 72, has said his oldest son, Dodi, 42, and Diana were the victims of a plot carried out by MI6, the British intelligence service, to prevent them from marrying. Fayed declined to be interviewed by USA TODAY, but he was quoted in the Daily Mirror on Feb. 28 as saying Diana and Dodi "were executed by MI6 security personnel who have been identified to me."

"Diana was pregnant," he told the newspaper. "They had both told me that. It was very early on. They planned to get married and were going to announce their engagement on the Monday two days after they were killed."

MI6 did not respond to a USA TODAY request for comment.

Stevens, who promised when he took on the investigation that he would pursue all the various theories, said in his television interview in January that Fayed was "right to raise concerns" and that his probe was pursuing questions that Fayed raised. Fayed has expressed confidence so far in Stevens.

What if Stevens concludes, after his long investigation, the same thing that the French did: that the crash was an accident? Will that satisfy everyone?

Seward, the author and longtime royals watcher who brands the murder conspiracies "absurd," says she doesn't think it will. Neither does royals watcher Jobson. "It will carry on forever," he says. The doubters and conspiracy theorists will never be satisfied, he says. "If they (Stevens and his investigators) come back with the same answer saying it was an accident, people will always say, 'It's what they would say, isn't it?' "

About a half-mile from Harrods and the Diana and Dodi statue, at the fountain erected by the Princess Diana Memorial Fund in her memory in Hyde Park, the water runs cool and quiet. Tourists stop and take photos.

Many Britons, like Rachel Hawkins, 30, of London, pass by with hardly a glance. That doesn't mean they aren't conflicted about what happened to the pretty and popular princess, about the accusations made against Britain's royal family and about the never-ending fascination with Diana.

"I don't know who to believe," Hawkins says. Ultimately, she says, it may make no difference whether Stevens finds that Diana died in an accident or was murdered in a plot. "That's not going to bring her back, is it?" Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.
-Leo Tolstoy
Diana, Princess of Wales is and always will be The People's Princess.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2006 11:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not surprise there is endless of 'spinning'. Endless of fibbers so I can't see the end of the tunnel to see the proper truth.
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