More than six years after the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Al-Fayed, the questions surrounding the Paris car crash in which they were killed continue to grip the public imagination.
The Court of Session in Edinburgh became the centre of international attention yesterday as Mohamed al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods, pursued his search for the truth about how, or why, his son and Diana died.
“I have been fighting for six years, but I can see the light and justice can be done. What I am doing is for the nation and for the ordinary people … Eighty-five per cent believe Diana was murdered with my son.”
The court heard Mr Fayed’s counsel contend that he had “substantial grounds” for fearing that the British security services were implicated. The crash, it was claimed, had “striking similarities” to an earlier MI6 plot to remove Slobodan Milosevic, then president of Serbia.(1)
Colin Boyd, QC, the Lord Advocate, has refused an inquiry into the crash, but Mr Fayed maintains that as a resident of Scotland, at Balnagown Castle, Kildary, Easter Ross, he is entitled to secure his rights under the tenets of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Mr Fayed argues there should be an effective, official inquiry when someone appears to have been killed as a result of the use of force and is asking Lord Drummond Young to set aside the Lord Advocate’s decision as incompatible with the ECHR.
Richard Keen, QC, for Mr Fayed, said that the official line from the French police after the crash in a tunnel in Paris in the early hours of 31 August, 1997, was that it had been an accident caused by Henri Paul, assistant head of security at the Ritz hotel and the driver of the Mercedes the couple died in. The French police said Mr Paul was drunk and on anti-depressants at the time of the crash. Mr Paul also died in the incident.
“He [Mr Paul] had been in the Ritz Hotel for two hours before he left and is recalled by all those who spoke with him as being entirely sober,” said Mr Keen. He said British and American security services were monitoring Diana and Dodi in the month leading up to their deaths and that Henri Paul may have been an MI6 informant.
And on the night of the crash Mr Paul had taken a “highly unusual route” from the Ritz to Dodi’s apartment.
The QC said pieces of a broken tail-light, from a white Fiat Uno, had been found at the scene of the crash, and there were marks on the bumper of the Mercedes.
Inquiries had “led to the suggestion” that the driver of the Fiat might have been James Andanson, a member of the paparazzi who had been pursuing the couple that summer, although he denied being in Paris that night. In 2000, Mr Andanson’s body was found. It was initially treated as murder, but then was declared to have been suicide.(2)
Mr Keen said there had been reports of a flash of light in the tunnel, which would have blinded a driver.
A former MI6 agent had said the circumstances bore “striking similarities” to a plan in 1992 to assassinate Milosevic. The agent had also revealed that MI6 had an informant on the security staff at the Ritz Hotel. After the crash, it was learned that Mr Paul had 13 bank accounts containing more than a million francs.
“It might suggest he had at least some kind of part-time job,” said Mr Keen.
Diana had expressed fears for her safety, and Mr Keen added: “If her fears had only one ounce of truth in October 1996, one is entitled to ask how much greater they may have been in August 1997 when the general anticipation was that a person denigrated by sections of the establishment was about to become stepfather to the future king,” said Mr Keen.
Mr Keen said Diana and Princes William and Harry were being monitored from around 10 July, 1997, when they arrived at the Fayed estate in St Tropez in the south of France.
After the couple arrived at Beauvais airport on August 30, Mr Keen told the court, “as a matter of practice French security reported the arrival of the Princess to the UK embassy assuming they were not aware of it.
Mr Keen added that the US National Security Agency has confirmed the Princess was the subject of monitoring at the time of the crash.
The hearing is expected to last several days, and the judge will issue his ruling later.
(1) Affidavit of Richard Tomlinson
(2) Diana: The Cover-up Turns Deadly