- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

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 Britain’s royal family to kill her and her Egyptian boyfriend.

According to the long-running inquiry’s official report, published yesterday, Diana and Dodi Fayed died when their drunken chauffeur, Henri Paul, crashed their Mercedes limousine in the French capital’s 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 press conference to release the 832-page document, Mr. Stevens conceded that debate will continue 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 London’s most prestigious department stores, died that night 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 in 10 people 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” Diana’s telephone calls. He sidestepped a direct answer, saying only that the CIA had told his 13-member team that it had “no records” that would assist their investigation.

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

Mr. al-Fayed blamed Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, who he said ordered intelligence services to carry out the killings because Diana was pregnant with his son’s baby and the royals feared the possibility of a Muslim baby in their family tree.

Mr. Stevens told the press conference that despite interviewing about 300 witnesses, the inquiry had found no evidence that the princess and the entrepreneur’s 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 Mr. al-Fayed and others that there was a conspiracy to have the princess and her companion killed and to conduct a complex cover-up were “completely unjustified.”

The report detailed the high alcohol content of Mr. Paul’s blood and his speeding to try to get away from paparazzi and said that seconds before the crash, the limousine had a brush with a white Fiat Uno.

The Stevens inquiry also reported that:

• Tests showed that Mr. Paul’s blood-alcohol content 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 that sideswiped the limousine would be found.

• If the four occupants in the limousine, which also carried Diana’s 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 conspiracy theorists that Mr. Paul had been blinded by a “white light” at the tunnel entrance.

• 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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