- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2007

LONDON (AP) — A coroner overseeing the inquest into the death of Princess Diana said today she had seen no evidence of a conspiracy to kill the princess and her boyfriend.

Mohamed al Fayed, whose son Dodi Fayed died with Diana in a Paris car crash in August 1997, has long claimed that the couple were victims of a conspiracy.

In particular, he contends that Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, was behind their deaths and that the plot was carried out by British secret services. Prince Philip has never commented on the claims.

“There are a large number of serious allegations being made,” said the coroner, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, a retired judge. “At the moment, there is not a shred of evidence given to me about these allegations.

“Let me make it very clear — if there is no evidence supporting them, I shall not present them to the jury.”

Judge Butler-Sloss commented after a morning of legal arguments during which Mr. al Fayed’s lawyers asked for a six-month delay in starting the inquest, citing the need to examine reports and prepare experts.

The request — echoed later by lawyers representing the family of chauffeur Henri Paul, who also died in the crash — received little sympathy from Judge Butler-Sloss.

“I would be very sad if I was obliged to delay the start of the main proceedings for another six months. I feel that would be very, very hard on the families,” she said.

Diana’s sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, and Maj. Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, private secretary to Princes William and Harry, were in court to represent her family. Mr. al Fayed sat on the other side of the small courtroom for the morning’s proceedings.

Judge Butler-Sloss, who remains in charge of the case, had decided to conduct the inquest without a jury. A three-judge panel overturned that decision after a challenge by Mr. al Fayed and ruled that a jury should deliver the verdict.

Diana, 36, and the younger Mr. Fayed, 42, were killed along with Mr. Paul when their Mercedes crashed in the Pont d’Alma tunnel on Aug. 31, 1997. The only survivor, bodyguard Trevor Rees — formerly known as Rees-Jones — was badly hurt.

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