- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

1:10 p.m.

LONDON — A three-year investigation has concluded that the death of Princess Diana in a high-speed car crash in Paris nine years ago was a “tragic accident,” not the result of a conspiracy engineered by Britains royal family to murder her and her Egyptian boyfriend.

According to the long-running inquirys official report, published today, Diana and Dodi Fayed died when their drunken chauffeur, Henri Paul, crashed their Mercedes limousine in the French capitals Pont de l’Alma tunnel while trying to outrun a pack of photographers on motorbikes at up to 100 miles an hour on the night of Aug. 31, 1997.

“There was no conspiracy to murder any of the occupants of that car,” said former London Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Stevens, who headed the $7 million investigation, code-named Operation Paget. “This was a tragic accident.”

However, at a London news conference he called to release the 832-page document, Mr. Stevens conceded that debate will go on without end about how and why the princess, ex-wife of Prince Charles, heir-apparent to the British throne, and her boyfriend, son of the Egyptian owner of one of Londons most prestigious department stores, died that summer evening in Paris.

“I have no doubt that speculation as to what happened that night will continue and that there are some matters, as in many other investigations, about which we may never find a definitive answer,” Mr. Stevens said.

A hastily organized opinion poll for the British Broadcasting Corp. suggested that more than three persons out of every 10 in Britain still do not believe it was an accident.

Some puzzles remain, and Mr. Stevens himself alluded to one when he was asked whether, as some news reports had suggested, a U.S. intelligence agency had “bugged” Dianas telephone calls. He sidestepped a direct answer, saying only that the CIA had told his 13-strong team it had “no records” that would assist their investigation.

Distinctly unhappy with what he described as the Stevens inquirys “unbelievable judgment” was Dodi Fayeds father, Mohamed al-Fayed, who since the crash has claimed that his son and Diana were murdered by British secret agents because their relationship was an embarrassment to the royal family.

Mr. al-Fayed pinned the blame for their deaths directly on Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth IIs husband, who he said ordered intelligence services to carry out the killings because Diana was pregnant with his sons baby and the royals feared the possibility of a Muslim baby in their family tree.

Mr. Stevens told the news conference that despite interviewing about 300 witnesses, the inquiry had found no evidence that the princess and the entrepreneurs son were engaged or that Diana was pregnant.

Although Dodi Fayed had bought her a ring just hours before their deaths, the former police chief said, it was not an engagement ring. “We have spoken to many of her family and closest friends, and none of them have indicated to us that she was either about to or wished to get engaged.”

Mr. Stevens said claims by the senior Mr. Fayed and others that there was a conspiracy to have the princess and her companion murdered and to conduct a complex coverup were “completely unjustified.”

However, the head of the inquiry refused to respond to Mr. Fayeds claim that the investigations massive report was a whitewash and a coverup. He described the distraught father as a “genuine grieving parent,” but he added that “at some stage, you have to draw a line under it and move on.”

The report detailed the high alcohol content of chauffeur Henri Pauls blood, his speeding to try to get away from chasing photographers, the paparazzi who were involved in the high-speed chase, and said that seconds before the crash, the limousine had a brush with an as-yet-unlocated white Fiat Uno car.

Mr. Stevens declined to apportion blame. “A crash of this nature is similar to a major crash of an airliner,” he said. “It is a long chain of events. Take any link out of that chain, and this would not have happened.”

Meanwhile, the Diana death story goes on, and the Stevens investigation does not end it. Still ahead for next year is a formal inquest into the case, to be presided over by Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, a former top judge.

The Stevens inquiry also reported that:

• Blood tests showed that Mr. Paul was more than three times over the French drunken-driving limit; DNA tests disproved claims by conspiracy theorists that the chauffeur’s blood samples had been switched.

• It was doubtful that the white Fiat Uno car that sideswiped the limousine would ever be traced.

• If the four occupants in the limousine, which also carried Dianas bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones , had been wearing seat belts, all might have survived the crash. Only the bodyguard lived.

• Nothing was found to support claims by conspiracists that Mr. Paul had been blinded by a “white light” at the entrance to the Pont de lAlma tunnel.

• Mr. Stevens’ team spoke to Prince Charles and to Prince Philip but did not consider it necessary to interview other members of the royal family.

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