Judge wraps up Diana inquest

LONDON (Reuters) - After almost six months and more than 250 witnesses, the judge presiding over the inquest into Princess Diana’s death wraps up the case on Monday with his summary to the jury.

In this file photo pictures of Dodi Al Fayed and Princess Diana are displayed in the window of Harrods in London, August 31, 2007. After almost six months and more than 250 witnesses, the judge presiding over the inquest into Princess Diana's death wraps up the case on Monday with his summary to the jury. REUTERS/Chris Radburn/Pool

Few areas of the private life of the “People’s Princess” were spared before Lord Justice Scott Baker and a string of sensational allegations were explored in court.

Did security services kill Diana on the orders of the Royal Family? Was she pregnant? Did the 36-year-old plan to get engaged? Was her phone bugged?

To some the inquest was an unnecessary 10 million-pound soap opera. To others it was a chance to bring closure in a tragedy of lives unfulfilled.

Friends, family, faith healers, spies, bodyguards, police chiefs and butlers -- everyone had an opinion on Diana.

The jury was flown to Paris to see the crash scene in a road tunnel and the hospital where she died in August 1997.

Mohamed al-Fayed, whose son Dodi died alongside Diana in a high-speed car crash after a brief summer romance, pointed the finger of blame at the royals.

On a day of high drama in London’s High Court, the owner of the luxury London store Harrods accused Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s husband and Diana’s former father-in-law, of being a “Nazi” and a “racist”.

His voice cracking with emotion, he said Diana, divorced from heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, had “suffered for 20 years from this Dracula family”.

“It was slaughter, not murder,” said al-Fayed who believed Diana and Dodi had been planning to announce their engagement.

Diana’s confidante Annabel Goldsmith was convinced the affair was a summer fling. Just days before she died, Diana told Goldsmith she needed marriage “like a rash on the face”.

“Affairs of the heart are impossible to fathom,” said Diana’s stepmother Raine Spencer, resplendent in black hat and veil, talking like a character from the pages of a romantic novel by her own mother, author Barbara Cartland.

Paul Burrell, Diana’s former butler, told the inquest her mother had called her a whore for dating Muslim men.

Al-Fayed fought a long legal battle to have the inquest heard by a judge and jury. Under British law, an inquest is needed to determine the cause of death when someone dies unnaturally.

It was delayed for a decade because Britain had to wait for the French legal process and then a British police investigation to run their course before the inquest could begin.

Both police probes concluded it was a tragic accident because chauffeur Henri Paul was drunk and driving too fast.

The jury, expected to retire on Wednesday to consider their verdict, will have to decide if it was an accident or if there is any evidence of a plot.

The judge will at first be seeking a unanimous decision and, failing that, will settle for a majority verdict, court officials said.

For full coverage of the inquest visit


Editing by Robert Woodward