Tens of thousands of legal documents and photographs detailing the circumstances surrounding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, have gone missing, according to a French newspaper.
Just weeks before the opening of the high-profile inquest into her death, Le Figaro reported that a Parisian lawyer had been told a dossier more than a metre high has disappeared.
Jean-Louis Pelletier, who represents a French paparazzi photographer, said his request for access to the case files had been turned down by the French courts, as the entire dossier could not be found.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen anything like this. There are certainly files that disappear from time to time, but, in this particular case, it’s not normal,” he said.
“All the more so since the case is still ongoing.”
Mr Pelletier is the lawyer for Fabrice Chassery, one of nine paparazzi accused of the manslaughter of Diana and her companion Dodi Fayed after they were killed in a car crash in a tunnel under the Pont de l’Alma bridge ten years ago.
The charges were dismissed in 2002.
Mr Pelletier wanted access to the case files to prove Mr Chassery took one of the most notorious pictures of Diana, which showed her trapped in the wreckage of her Mercedes moments after the crash.
The picture was published after the accident but quickly withdrawn, and deposited in the French courts’ case files.
Mr Pelletier claims it has since been republished as part of a US documentary in 2004 and then again in Spanish and French publications last year, and wants to halt further publication.
He told Le Figaro that the original case files could not be found anywhere in the records of the French High Court, or the Court of Appeal. He has also searched at local district courts without success, he said.
The coroner’s office in London, which is conducting the inquest, said in a statement: “The coroner received a vast quantity of documents, photos and other primary evidence from the French authorities. These included the French judicial dossier, as well as further material. ”
At today’s final preliminary hearing it was revealed that the jury will be taken to Paris to see the scene of the fatal crash on Aug 31, 1997.
Ian Burnett QC, counsel for the inquest, said the jury – made up of members of the public – would travel to the French capital with the coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker and the interested parties.
Lord Justice Baker is leading the inquest into the events surrounding the death of Diana, Dodi and their driver Henri Paul.
An earlier inquiry headed by Lord Stevens, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, concluded that Mr Paul had been over the drink-driving limit at the time of the crash.
Lord Justice Baker said that proceedings must be completed within six months of the Oct 2 start date.