Has a conspiracy theory ever been treated to such a thorough going over?
Two hundred and fifty witnesses, six months and around £10 million later, a jury found by a majority of 9-2 that Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed’s deaths were an unlawful killing resulting from the “gross negligence” of chauffeur Henri Paul and the paparazzi who pursued them into the fateful Paris tunnel 10 years ago.
(But they would find that, wouldn’t they?)
It turns out that Prince Philip didn’t order M16 to kill them after all. Not that Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi’s father, is convinced — and he could still have legal recourse to examine the matter further (by targeting the paparazzi in civil cases abroad), though it’s a long shot.
Former butler Paul Burrell, meanwhile, could face perjury charges after he was branded an outright liar by coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker, who said it was clear he had tailored his evidence because “whatever he said might have an impact on his future enterprises”. One witness even claimed that bottom-feeding Burrell slipped a ring from Diana’s finger at the mortuary.
It was just one more seedy twist in an ugly drawn-out saga that should have ended a decade ago.
Lawyers, once again, look like the only ones to emerge better off thanks to the special financial windfall that comes only when deep pockets meet a bugbear.
Today, British papers are reflecting on the inquest — which saw Diana pregnancy rumours quashed, the revelation of intimate marital advice from Prince Philip and the introduction to the world of Diana’s other lover, heart surgeon Hasnat Khan — breaking down the numbers, the key moments and how it’s affected the reputation of those involved.
The inquest in numbers
7 paint pots — DIANA fan John Loughrey, 53, used seven pots of paint putting “Diana” and “Dodi” on his face as he attended court every day. Even the coroner mentioned him in his summing up. — The Sun
Top 20 Moments of the Inquest. Including but not limited to…
“She called the Princess a whore. She was messing about with effing Muslim men and she was disgraceful.” Paul Burrell, reporting a phone conversation he claimed to have overheard between the Princess and her mother, Mrs Frances Shand Kydd.
“Not only was the mother of a future king conducting a high-profile campaign against the manufacture and use of landmines, many supplied by the British defence industry, but she was having an affair with an oily bedhopper, the Muslim son of a businessman with a tarnished reputation who has been refused a British passport.” Michael Mansfield, attempting to suggest that the Princess’s association with the Fayed family would have been seen by the Establishment as an alliance made in hell. The phrase “oily bedhopper” was allegedly coined by Prince Philip. — Timesonline
Lest we forget…what Al Fayed claimed.
Under cross-examination, the Egyptian-born tycoon spelled out exactly how he believed Diana was murdered and how he had been thwarted at every stage of his career by secret “stooges” in the judiciary, the Government and the media, many of whom had been ennobled for their services against him. The murder was, he said, the result of an audacious plot hatched by Prince Philip, who was not only a member of the Frankenstein family but also the real ruler of Britain and a crypto-Nazi. Philip was assisted by his son Prince Charles, Mr Al Fayed claimed; they were the two principal royal plotters, the senior male members of what he called a “Dracula family”.
The accident was staged, he alleged, with the full knowledge of Prime Minister Tony Blair, his chief-of-staff Jonathan Powell and, most likely, the Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. He claimed the plot was similar to one hatched by the security services to dispatch the former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. The plan, Mr Fayed said, was masterminded from a secret communications centre in Paris, linked to the government listening station GCHQ by the Queen’s Private Secretary, Lord Fellowes, who also happened to be Diana’s brother-in-law.
Execution of the plot, he said, involved a paparazzi photographer James Andanson (who was, according to Mr Al Fayed, later murdered) and Diana and Dodi’s chauffeur that night, Henri Paul. Both were part of an intricately coordinated joint operation between M16 and the French security services, with communications support from the CIA. — Independent
Why did Michael Mansfield QC take on Dodi’s cause?
For 40 years, Michael Mansfield QC has fought for the underdog and the wrongly imprisoned, overturning some of Britain’s worst miscarriages of justice and staking a claim as one of the country’s leading human rights lawyers. No mere mouthpiece, Mansfield is a socialist who throws himself passionately into his clients’ causes. As he once told the Guardian: “I do feel that reputation, standing up for principle, is one of the few ways in which a difference can be made.” So what principle has he been standing up for in the past few months as chief counsel for Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed in his bid to pin the deaths of Diana and Dodi on the royal family and the security services? How could he have brought himself to represent a case, in the words of the coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker, “so demonstrably without foundation” on behalf of his very rich client? The great radical lawyer has been accused of selling out and abandoning the principles of a lifetime to lend his name and reputation to the billionaire businessman’s dubious conspiracy theories. The contrast with the Stephen Lawrence inquiry could hardly be starker: what difference could he possibly have made at the Diana inquest when it was already abundantly clear, before £7m was spent, that the pair had simply died in a tragic accident? — Clare Dyer, The Guardian
Al Fayed had form before this.
This nonsense might be comprehensible as the ramblings of a father driven mad by grief at the death of his son. But Fayed’s history shows that he became a monster long, long before the 1997 tragedy. He has never been the comic turn supposed by those who laughed at his photocall fancydress posturings as a pharaoh. For decades ahead of his rant to the Diana inquest, he made mischief, peddled falsehoods and pursued vengeance against foes real and imagined. Tom Bower’s devastating investigative biography, published in 1998, portrays a man to whom truth and decency have always been alien. — Max Hastings, Daily Mail
The first verdict to implicate paparazzi.
The Diana inquest verdict of unlawful killing was the most serious that could be delivered and the first to implicate the paparazzi photographers who followed Henri Paul in the deaths of his two passengers. The coroner deemed today’s verdict to be equivalent to manslaughter but it is unlikely that there will be further steps to prosecute the French photographers. British criminal courts, and the British legal system, do not have jurisdiction over events in France. For his inquest, coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker could not compel paparazzi photographers to give evidence. An earlier French investigation has also cleared the photographers of responsibility for the deaths. — Angela Balakrishnan, The Guardian