Diana jurors retrace final journey in Paris
9 October 2007, PARIS (AFP) - Jurors in the British coroner's inquest into the death of Princess Diana retraced her final journey Monday, concluding with a visit on foot to the scene of her fatal crash in a central Paris underpass.
9 October 2007
PARIS (AFP) - Jurors in the British coroner's inquest into the death of Princess Diana retraced her final journey Monday, concluding with a visit on foot to the scene of her fatal crash in a central Paris underpass.
On the first day of a two-day visit, the 11 men and women were driven by coach through the French capital, accompanied by the coroner in charge of the case -- Lord Justice Scott Baker -- and a team of court officials, lawyers and journalists.
At the Alma tunnel police halted traffic as the 50-strong party descended the road on foot. They spent 15 minutes in the underpass, stopping for he longest period at the exact spot -- the 13th pillar -- where the accident took place.
Later in the evening they followed for a second time the route taken by Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, who were killed along with chauffeur Henri Paul in the crash on August 31, 1997.
This time they observed the crash scene by night from outside the tunnel, and spent some 20 minutes watching the patterns of traffic flow.
The inquest, which began last week, is into the circumstances of the crash. Two official investigations -- in France and Britain -- have concluded it was caused by speed and drink-driving, but allegations of a secret murder plot have never been laid to rest.
The purpose of the two-day visit to Paris was to allow jurors to familiarise themselves with the scene of the accident and of events leading up to it.
After being flown to Paris on a charter jet, the jurors set off in the early afternoon from the Ritz Hotel, the property of Fayed's father, Mohamed Al-Fayed.
They were each given folders including maps and satellite images of central Paris, detailing the route taken by the Mercedes limousine and other key places.
First they were driven around to the back entrance of the hotel, where Diana and Fayed slipped out in a failed attempt to escape paparazzi photographers.
From there they headed to the Place de la Concorde, which they explored on foot, before moving on to the Alma road tunnel -- not far from the Eiffel Tower. They drove through the tunnel once before leaving their coach.
"This is to help you members of the jury see what can be seen from particular places," the coroner told the jurors as he showed them the flow of traffic and curve of the road.
Also on Monday evening they were driven to the hospital where Princess Diana died. On Tuesday they were to be shown the interior of the Ritz hotel, where the couple were captured several times on security cameras before leaving.
Tight security rules were in place to prevent disclosure of the jurors' identities, with television and stills photographers ordered not to show their faces. Technically the court was in session through the visit.
Inquests are a legal requirement in England and Wales when a British citizen dies an unnatural death abroad and the body is repatriated. They have a narrow remit, seeking only to identify the deceased and establish how, when and where they died.
Al-Fayed, owner of London department store Harrods, maintains that Diana was killed in an intelligence plot orchestrated by Queen Elizabeth II's husband Prince Philip to prevent her potential marriage to a Muslim.
He has sought, so far unsuccessfully, to force the queen and Prince Philip to testify.
Subject: French news