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DateLine Sunday, 6 April 2008

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Diana death 'conspiracy' thrown out by coroner

The decade-long conspiracy theory that Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed were murdered by MI6 on the orders of the Duke of Edinburgh was finally and comprehensively dismissed last Sunday.

In a landmark day in the six-month inquests, the coroner told the jury that there was no evidence to support claims by Mohamed Al Fayed that the couple were killed in an Establishment plot.

Summing up after hearing more than 250 witnesses, Lord Justice Scott Baker said that the Harrods owner's claims were so manifestly without foundation that even his lawyer was no longer pursuing them. The hearings had heard not a shred of evidence to support them, he added.

The coroner ruled that it was not open to the jury to find that the deaths were the result of an unlawful killing by the Duke of Edinburgh or anyone else in a staged accident. Their options for verdicts were unlawful killing by the gross negligence of Henri Paul, the driver, the negligent driving of pursuing vehicles, a combination of both, accidental death, or an open verdict.

His ruling was aimed at drawing a line under 10 years of conspiracy theorising which have been the subject of two exhaustive inquiries and consumed at least £6 million of British public money.

In his closing remarks the coroner branded several witnesses as probable liars. "One of the regrettable features of this case is the number of people who, it appears, have told lies in the witness box or elsewhere," he said.

The coroner singled out James Andanson, a paparazzo photographer, Paul Burrell, the Princess's former butler, and John Macnamara, Mr Al Fayed's head of security, as liars by their own admission. "Others have either admitted telling half-truths, or part of their evidence may have shown in one respect or more that either in court or previously that they were not telling the truth."

The inquests had served an important purpose in examining the conspiracy theory, fuelled by rumour and suspicion and encouraged by the media, in minute detail, the coroner said.

"There are no doubt those who genuinely believe this [the murder theory] 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 and not anyone else's.

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."

On the question of motive, Lord Justice Scott Baker outlined claims that the Princess had been a threat to the Royal Family, that her antilandmines campaign had been unacceptable in some quarters and that her relationshiop with Dodi Fayed could no longer be tolerated. "Whatever you may think about motives or alleged hostility to Diana they cannot be used to prove that something untoward happened that night in Paris," the coroner said.

The hearing continues.

 

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