UK top cop in Paris on Diana 'murder' enquiry

26th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 26 (AFP) - Britain's most senior police officer Sir John Stevens on Monday visited the Paris underpass where Princess Diana died in a car crash seven years ago as part of his investigation into rumours that she was the victim of a murder plot.

PARIS, April 26 (AFP) - Britain's most senior police officer Sir John Stevens on Monday visited the Paris underpass where Princess Diana died in a car crash seven years ago as part of his investigation into rumours that she was the victim of a murder plot.

Stevens, the head of Scotland Yard, spent 20 minutes in the underpass by the Alma bridge over the river Seine, accompanied by the royal coroner Michael Burgess who ordered his investigation.

"I've learned a great deal. You cannot get it from photographs, videos and witnesses. You have to see it for yourself. It's been extremely valuable," Stevens told reporters at the scene.

Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed were killed in the accident on the night of August 31 1997. Their chauffeur Henri Paul, who also died, was found in the official French enquiry to have been responsible for the crash because he was driving at high speed with alcohol in his blood.

However Dodi Al Fayed's father, Egyptian tycoon Mohamed Al Fayed, has persistently claimed that the couple were murdered, prompting Burgess to ask Stevens to see if there is evidence behind the rumours.

Earlier Monday Stevens visited the Ritz Hotel in the Place Vendome, where Diana and Dodi began their last journey trailed by a group of press photographers, and then retraced their 1.5 mile (2.5 kilometre) route to the Alma underpass.

Riot police kept back a crowd of around 60 mainly British journalists as Stevens, Burgess and three French officials walked into the road tunnel, which had been sealed off from traffic. In the underpass he examined the central column - 13th from the entrance - into which the car careened.

"You've got to see it at first hand. Otherwise you cannot do the job properly," Stevens said, adding that the road gradient had been steeper and the underpass narrower than he had imagined.

"There are a lot of conspiracy theories relating to the tragic deaths of these three people. It is my job to report to the coroner that every single aspect has been thoroughly investigated, and to prove or disprove these conspiracy theories," he said.

Stevens' visit came a week after photographs of the dying Princess Diana lying in the crashed Mercedes limousine were broadcast in a documentary on the American television station CBS, prompting an outraged reaction from her family.

In January Burgess opened and adjourned the only British enquiry into the deaths, after French legal proceedings in the case finally came to an end. In
November a Paris court had cleared three press photographers of breach of privacy charges for taking pictures of the couple in the run-up to the crash.

Burgess said that because he was aware there was "speculation these deaths were not the result of a sad, but relatively straightforward, road traffic accident in Paris," he had asked Stevens to make enquiries.

Stevens said Monday he hoped to finish his report by the end of the year and that he would be interviewing members of the British intelligence services MI5 and MI6.

Murder allegations have centred on claims that the British establishment may have wanted to get rid of Diana because she was having a romantic liaison with a Muslim man. "I don't dismiss anything. What you have to do is go where the evidence takes you," Stevens said.

His investigation has access to the 6,000 page French judicial dossier containing the evidence that the accident was the result of excessive speed and drink driving by a man not qualified to be behind the wheel of a powerful armoured limousine.


© AFP

                                               Subject: French news

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