LONDON—Princess Diana wasn't engaged, wasn't pregnant, wasn't murdered and probably would've survived the spectacular Paris car crash that claimed her life had she been wearing her seat belt, according to an 833-page report released Thursday.
The report, more than nine years after Diana's death, was the result of almost three years of investigation into allegations that the princess was murdered by British secret agents after they learned she was pregnant and engaged to Dodi al Fayed, the son of the millionaire owner of the famed Harrod's department store.
But the report, which devoted 80 pages alone to the relationship between Diana and al Fayed, said no evidence supports those claims and much debunks them. A close friend of Diana told investigators that Diana never considered al Fayed, who also died in the crash, more than a summer fling.
Still, the report was immediately denounced by Mohamed al Fayed, who has spent millions on a private investigation into the deaths of his son and Diana and remains convinced that they weren't accidents. On Thursday he said he would continue to investigate the deaths until he finally found "the terrorists, the gangsters, who have taken away my son from me, terrorists with power in high places, power in the royal family."
Diana died after the car she was riding in crashed in a Paris tunnel during a chase with photographers on Aug. 31, 1997. The continuing controversy over the death of the most popular princess in modern history is testament to Diana's grip on an adoring public.
In the days after her death, millions of Britons turned out to mourn—an outpouring that became a crisis of confidence in a royal family from whom the princess, divorced from Prince Charles, was estranged. Only after days of growing outcry did Queen Elizabeth return to London from vacation and order the flag flown at half-staff above Buckingham Palace.
The elder al Fayed repeated his accusations that his son and the princess were killed to stop them from marrying and to stop his son, a Muslim, from becoming the stepfather of the future king of England.
He claimed that the French driver of the car in which his son and the princess were riding, Henri Paul, was in the employ of the British intelligence services MI5 and MI6. Paul, al Fayed said, had met with his "handlers" before the accident to hear the plan in which he would "drive into a planned tunnel where he can carry out his horrendous murders." Paul also perished in the crash.
Al Fayed also said that he believes Lord John Stevens, the former London police chief who headed the inquiry, intended to do a thorough investigation, but was forced by British security forces to produce a whitewash.
Stevens said that he understood al Fayed's reaction and that he didn't expect the three-year inquiry to stop questions about the deaths. The inquiry cost $7.5 million and isn't the final step—a coroner's inquest will be held sometime in January.
"I have no doubt that speculation as to what happened that night will continue, and that there are some matters, as in many investigations, about which we may never find a definitive answer," he said.
But he added: "On all the evidence available at this time, there was no conspiracy to murder any of the occupants of the car. This was a tragic accident."
He said he didn't doubt al Fayed's sincerity. "I, for one, know he is a genuinely grieving parent," he said.
But he said al Fayed must face the facts. "I do think it's now time to read the details in the report," he said, adding that the investigation "had been determined, absolutely determined, to get at the truth of the matter."
Investigators made several attempts to find evidence to support the numerous conspiracy theories surrounding the deaths, he said. They had assembled "the most comprehensive survey and reconstruction of the scene of an incident ever," Stevens said, including an advanced three-dimensional computer re-creation.
He said investigators had concluded that the car carrying al Fayed and Diana was traveling more than 60 mph, twice the speed limit, when it rammed into the 13th support post in a tunnel near the Seine River. He said no one was wearing a seat belt and that the driver was drunk.
"Had they been wearing their seat belts, they may very well not have died," he said.
Stevens noted that while there was evidence that al Fayed had purchased an engagement ring for the divorced princess, there was no evidence that she knew about it. He said investigators had spoken to many of her closest friends and to her sons, and none was aware of any knowledge, interest or intention on her part to marry al Fayed.
Lucia Flecha de Lima, a friend who spoke to Diana a few days before the accident, is quoted in the report as saying, "Dodi was a summer romance, in my opinion."
Stevens also interviewed Prince Charles and Prince Phillip, Charles' father. He found no evidence that Prince Phillip had links to MI6, Britain's intelligence service.
Investigators also found no evidence that Diana was pregnant, the report said. Tests on Diana's blood, taken from the vehicle carpet, came back negative.
The report also noted that "none of the friends" in whom Diana normally confided had any knowledge of a pregnancy.
The report spent 50 pages detailing perceived threats to Diana, but concluded that there was no evidence for any of them. Stevens, however, noted Thursday that Diana's premonition that she would die in an accident is "one of those things that will go unanswered."
"Car accidents are by nature a long chain of events," Stevens said. "Take any one link out of that chain, and the event wouldn't have happened."
And, he concluded, "at some stage, people have to draw a line under the event and move on."
To read the report, go to http://files.homeoffice.gov.uk/OperationPagetReport.pdf
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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