Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Paris London's police commissioner on Monday retraced Princess Diana's final moments in the streets of Paris in an effort to determine if she was the victim of a criminal conspiracy or a simple traffic accident.
Nearly seven years after her death, a British investigative team and French police officials followed the route taken by the princess on Aug. 31, 1997 -- from the back door of the Ritz Hotel to the 13th pillar of the Alma traffic tunnel, where Diana, her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and her driver were killed in a high-speed crash.
French authorities have ruled the crash an accident. But conspiracy theories continue to surround the wreck.
"It is my job to either prove or disprove those conspiracy theories," said Sir John Stevens, the commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police, after inspecting the crash site.
Stevens undertook his investigation at the direction of royal coroner Michael Burgess, who opened an inquest into Diana's death in January after French legal proceedings in the case had ended.
Burgess accompanied Stevens to Paris.
The inquest came after persistent accusations from Fayed's father, Egyptian-born billionaire Mohammed al Fayed, that Britain's Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, masterminded a conspiracy to kill Diana and Dodi Fayed because he disapproved of their relationship.
Al Fayed also has claimed the circumstances surrounding the crash were covered up.
"I don't dismiss anything," Stevens said. "You just go where the evidence takes you."
Stevens repeated earlier statements that he would question Prince Charles if necessary.
In 1999, a French judge ruled the crash an accident. An investigation concluded that Henri Paul, the driver, had been drinking and was driving at high speed. In 2002, France's highest court dropped manslaughter charges against nine photographers who followed the car from the Ritz and pursued it until the crash.
Monday, the British team drove through the Paris tunnel, then backtracked to the Ritz and returned to the tunnel later in the day to walk the crash site on foot. They were accompanied by Paris chief detective Martine Monteil, who headed the French investigation.
"It's been a very valuable exercise," Stevens said. "You cannot possibly get the proper indications, the evidence, the feel for things just from photographs, videos, witness statements."