Preliminary hearings ahead of a full inquest into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, began at the High Court in London today.

The next stage in the long-awaited case comes nearly a decade after Diana and Dodi Al Fayed were killed in a car crash in Paris and three years after the inquests were first opened.

Among those present at the Royal Courts of Justice today were Michael Mansfield QC, representing Dodi Al Fayed's father, Mohamed, and Sir John Nutting, appearing on behalf of the Queen.

Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Diana's sister, and Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, private secretary to Princes William and Harry, were also in attendance.

Baroness Butler-Sloss began by offering her 'deepest sympathy' to the relatives and friends of all those who died on 31 August 1997.

She said there had been a significant delay in the inquest proceedings following an extensive investigation into the crash.

The French procedure did not allow the use of their documentation until the main investigation was complete, she told the court.

Baroness Butler-Sloss said serious allegations that the deaths of Diana and Mr Al Fayed were intentional led to a Metropolitan Police investigation.

She said police were asked to provide a separate report to assist the coroner. When she receives that report, arrangements for hearing the inquests can be made, she added.

Baroness Butler-Sloss, Britain's former top female judge, has come out of retirement to preside over the high-profile matter.