Inquest in Princess Diana's death begins

Tuesday 02 October 2007 20.56
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Princess Diana - Died in August 1997
Princess Diana - Died in August 1997
Paris - Scene of 1997 crash
Paris - Scene of 1997 crash

Eleven jurors have been selected to decide if there is any truth to claims that Britain's royal family ordered the murder of Princess Diana.

Coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker urged the six women and five men to weigh only the evidence given in the High Court in London into how exactly Diana and her boyfriend Dodi al Fayed died 10 years ago in a Paris road tunnel.

Dodi's father Mohamed al Fayed, accompanied by his lawyer Michael Mansfield, sat in on the case.

He expressed his relief that the evidence was to be finally heard by a jury. 

He asserted his belief again that his son and Princess Diana were murdered by the royal family.

Justice Baker said that one of the purposes of the inquest is to investigate the incident thoroughly so that public suspicion is either dispelled or substantiated.

The inquest could only begin after the completion of an official probe, which last year concluded that the crash was a tragic accident involving a high-speed crash by a drunk driver.

The inquest, legally required when a British citizen dies an unnatural death abroad and the body is repatriated, has a narrow remit, seeking only to identify the deceased and find how, when and where they died.

No blame is determined and the verdict must not identify anyone as having criminal or civil liability.

Possible verdicts include natural causes, accident, suicide, unlawful or lawful killing or industrial disease. The inquest may also produce an open verdict if there is insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion.

If a verdict of unlawful killing was returned, it could leave open the possibility of civil legal action by Mr al Fayed.

The inquest will examine the embalming of Diana's body, her post-mortem, the hours before the crash, suggestions she was engaged to Fayed, the alleged purchase of a ring, claims she was pregnant and bodyguards' evidence.

Jurors were handed maps of the route taken on the fateful night in Paris as well as photographs of the wrecked Mercedes in the underpass.

Justice Baker said the jurors would be asked to consider how the driver of the car lost control and smashed into the tunnel's 13th pillar.

Meanwhile, a bid by Mr Al-Fayed to have the European Court of Human rights consider a case against France over the death of his son Dodi and Princess Diana has been rejected.

The court ruled that the complaint was inadmissible, saying that the French authorities had given Mr al Fayed every chance to put his case and that they had carried out an adequate investigation into the Paris car crash.