- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2006

LONDON — A former London police chief says the results of an ongoing investigation into the death of Princess Diana, who was killed in a Paris car crash in 1997, may surprise the British.

He is coy about what those surprises may be, but John Stevens, London’s “top cop” for five years, said in a British television interview that his officially sanctioned inquiry into the demise of the “people’s princess” has been “far more complex than any of us thought.”

Among the more spectacular claims thought to be under investigation are reports that Diana was pregnant by her Muslim boyfriend at the time of her death and that a laser beam was flashed into the eyes of their driver on the fatal night.

Mr. Stevens’ refusal to rule out such conspiracy theories in his appearance on London’s GMTV “Sunday Program” prompted the Independent on Sunday newspaper to suggest that he was trying to prepare the British public for “some shocking conclusions.”

The newspaper quoted a senior officer in the two-year-old investigation as saying that “people are going to be very surprised about what we have to say.”

Just when the Stevens inquiry, dubbed Operation Paget, will issue its report is not clear. It is, said the retired commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, a “thorough investigation, going where the evidence takes us.”

Diana, the 36-year-old divorced wife of Prince Charles, was with her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, in the back seat of a Mercedes S280 driven by chauffeur Henri Paul when it crashed in Paris’ Pont d’Alma tunnel at about midnight on Aug. 31, 1997.

Diana, Mr. Fayed and Mr. Paul were killed. The lone survivor was Diana’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, who was badly injured.

An early investigation by French police suggested that it was a straightforward traffic accident and concluded that Mr. Paul, the head of security at the Paris Ritz hotel, was drunk on a combination of alcohol and antidepressants when he steered the Mercedes at high speed into the right-hand wall of the tunnel.

But Mr. Fayed’s father, Mohammed al-Fayed, the multimillionaire owner of London’s high-end Harrods department store and the Paris Ritz, has spent millions of dollars trying to prove that Diana and his son were murdered.

Many of the conspiracy theories have their basis in Mr. al-Fayed’s contention that the princess and his son were victims of a plot that was orchestrated by Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, and carried out by Britain’s intelligence services.

The New Criminologist, a London-based journal, summed up a key motive suggested by some conspiracy theorists — that the relationship between Diana and Mr. al-Fayed’s son was of “threat value” to the Britain’s next monarch, Charles, and that the princess “was a threat worth removing.”

The Independent on Sunday said on Feb. 5 that a retired senior police officer in France who told the newspaper two years ago that Diana was pregnant when she died stands by his statement.

That claim has been rejected by close friends of the princess and by the doctor who performed the autopsy in England.

But, as the Daily Express noted, the claim is still harbored by conspiracy theorists, who insist that Diana and Mr. Fayed “were killed to avoid the royal family’s embarrassment at her having a baby by a Muslim.”

In a new twist, the Daily Express, one of London’s less highly regarded tabloid newspapers, reported last week that new witnesses had told British detectives that they saw a motorcyclist point a laser into Mr. Paul’s eyes and that one said he saw “an enormous, radarlike flash of light” just before the crash.

As conjecture raged, royal coroner Michael Burgess two years ago ordered up Operation Paget, a Scotland Yard police investigation into the case, and asked Mr. Stevens to lead the 15-member squad.

“It is right to say that some of the issues raised by Mr. Fayed have been right to be raised,” Mr. Stevens said in the GMTV interview. “We are pursuing those.”

But he did not say which of Mr. al-Fayed’s concerns he thought were justified, if any.

Mr. Stevens suggested a key to the inquiry is the Mercedes S280 and the police reports from Paris that the car was being chased by nine French photographers in vehicles and a motorcycle courier when it glanced off the right-hand tunnel wall, swerved to the left and slammed head-on into a pillar.

“We’ve had a lot of cooperation from the French authorities,” Mr. Stevens said. Since August, “We have had the car back in this country, which is being examined, and we are looking at a lot of other issues.”

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