Deaths of Diana, Dodi al-Fayed were ‘unlawful killing’

April 8th, 2008 - 1:34 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Princess Diana
London, April 7 (DPA) A British jury ruled Monday that Princess Diana and her lover Dodi al-Fayed were unlawfully killed through the gross negligence of their driver and the photographers who pursued them when their Mercedes crashed in Paris Aug 31, 1997. The majority verdict by a jury of six women and five men was seen as an emphatic rejection of claims by Dodi’s father, Egyptian multi-millionaire Mohammed al-Fayed, that Diana and his son died in a staged accident engineered by Britain’s secret services.

But al-Fayed, in a statement that reflected his anger, said he was “disappointed” at the ruling which would come as a blow to his “many million supporters” around the world.

He insisted that Diana and his son were murdered while “at their happiest” after a yachting holiday in the summer of 1997.

“My character and beliefs have been on trial,” said al-Fayed, 74, who also hinted that he believed a second car was involved in the crash.

The ruling came at the end of a six-month inquest headed by Judge Thomas Scott Baker, who said he wanted to draw a line “once and for all” under the speculation and conspiracy theories surrounding the couple’s death.

The jury ruled that the speed and manner in which the Mercedes car was driven by Henri Paul, the French driver employed at al-Fayed’s Ritz Hotel in Paris, and his “impaired judgement” due to excessive drinking, as well as the behaviour of pursuing photographers, were responsible for the unlawful killing, which equates to manslaughter.

The jury had heard “compelling evidence” that Paul, who also died in the crash, had been drinking heavily that night and was driving at twice the speed limit through the Alma tunnel in Paris when he crashed.

In a majority verdict agreed by nine of the jurors, the jury concluded that the photographers and their drivers were “recklessly racing the Mercedes” and drove so close to it that Paul had no freedom to move.

The fact that Diana and Dodi were not wearing seatbelts was also a factor in the crash, the jury ruled.

The jury, which heard more than 250 witnesses, travelled to Paris during the inquest, which is estimated to have cost up to 10 million pounds ($20 million).

In December 2006, a London Metropolitan Police inquiry concluded that Diana and Dodi died as a result of an accident when their car crashed into a pillar in the Alma tunnel in Paris more than 10 years ago.

An earlier French inquiry also ruled that the crash was an accident caused by Paul’s drinking.

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