PARIS, FRANCE — On the morning of Saturday, Aug. 30, Dodi and Diana sat on the top deck of the Jonikal and admired the sparkling waters of Sardinia's Emerald Coast. Relaxed, tanned and blissfully happy, so Diana had told her friend Rosa Monckton, they chatted and basked in the sun, enjoying the last moments of their magical Mediterranean cruise.

Butler Rene Delorm arrived on deck at 9:30 with their breakfast: coffee, croissants and jam; a basket of bananas, apples, grapes, oranges and kiwis. Diana, as usual, took a large glass of fresh orange juice and poured hot milk in her coffee. Dodi skipped the juice and drank his coffee black. "It was a quiet morning. They were in a good mood," Delorm recalls. "They never stopped talking the whole cruise. It was amazing; they never ran out of things to talk about. They were always laughing, holding hands."

"[Diana] had expressed concern to Trevor Rees-Jones at the foolhardiness of the motorcycle riders ... that the erratic manner in which they were driving might result in one of them falling under the wheels either of the lead car or the backup," said Fayed security chief Paul Handley-Greaves.

Associated Press, Aug 25, 1998

While the couple was lingering over their breakfast, Dodi's cell phone rang. It was Ritz Hotel president Frank Klein in Antibes, returning Fayed's call from the previous night. Dodi had an urgent need to talk to Klein, who in addition to running the Ritz was also responsible for overseeing the Windsor Villa, the house in Paris where the Duke and Duchess of Windsor had lived for decades and which Fayed's father had leased from city officials since 1986.

The elder Fayed had ordered the Duke and Duchess's effects cleared out and auctioned off for charity in order to turn the property over to his family's personal use. Dodi had a plan for the stately mansion.

"Frank," he said. "Where do we stand on the Windsor Villa?"

Klein informed him that the Windsor artifacts had been removed as of the end of July and were to go on auction at Sotheby's in less than two weeks. The house stood empty.

"Good," said Dodi. "I've spoken to my father about moving in. My friend" — he didn't want to mention Diana's name for fear of electronic eavesdroppers — "doesn't want to stay in England."

Klein quickly guessed whom he was talking about.

Then Dodi said, "We want to move into the villa, Frank, because we are getting married in October or November."

"That's wonderful, Dodi!" said Klein. "Really wonderful. I'll be back in Paris on Monday and we'll talk about it."

Back in Paris that same afternoon, Dodi ran an important errand. Eight days earlier, he and Diana had picked out an engagement ring at the Monaco boutique of jeweler Alberto Repossi.

The Princess-to-Be
     The world met the Princess-to-be in early 1981. She was just 19 — tall and blond, with blue-gray eyes, a shy demeanor, and, as the daughter of the Earl of Spencer, with bloodlines to warm a queen's heart.
     She was a sheltered teenager who'd spent her life in private schools and had started a career as a nursery-school aide, sharing an apartment with three other young women. "Of course she's a perfect dear, you see, but quite empty- headed," said Barbara Cartland, Diana's step-grandmother. "It's not her fault.... She's only 19 and just come from her lessons, which can't have been too sort of demanding, you see?"
     But Diana — at least initially — fulfilled the world's most important demand. She delighted a demoralized British public, suffering from grave economic problems and a national unemployment rate of more than 10 percent at the time of her fairy-tale wedding on July 29, 1981, to Charles. The tabloids screamed in fist-sized letters that Charles, who at 13 years her senior had long eluded the snares of would-be brides, loved her completely. And it seemed the world, and all its avid royal- watchers, did, too.
     Neither love would last. Diana dutifully produced a first son, William, just a year after the wedding, and a second son, Harry, 2-1/2 years later, but it seemed that in the arcane world of the royals, with an increasingly distant husband, she made more missteps than friends and fans.
     In 1982, while pregnant, she was photographed in a bikini. "In the worst possible taste," sniffed the Queen.

Philadelphia Inquirer
Aug 31, 1997

Customized for Diana, the $200,000 ring was a band of yellow and white gold, with triangles of diamond clusters surrounding a stunning emerald. Repossi had agreed to resize it and send it to his shop in Paris, just across the Place Vendome from the Ritz.

A little before 6:30 p.m., Dodi sent Claude Roulet, second in command at the Ritz, and bodyguard Alexander ("Kes") Wingfield on foot to Repossi's boutique. True to his security fetish, Dodi insisted on being driven to Repossi's in the Mercedes 600, though it was less than a hundred yards from the Ritz. Trevor Rees-Jones accompanied him and waited in the car while Dodi went inside.

"Eight days earlier, at the Monaco boutique of Alberto Repossi, Dodi and Diana bought a $200,000 custom-designed engagement ring of yellow and white gold, with triangles of diamond clusters around a stunning emerald.

Dodi took delivery of the ring, which was from a line called Tell Me Yes, but also examined another one that had caught his fancy. He asked Repossi if he could take both rings to see which one the Princess preferred. The jewels were handed over to Roulet, with details about price and payment left to be worked out later between the shop and the Ritz management.

By the time Dodi got back to the hotel's $10,000-a-night Imperial Suite, Diana had returned from getting her hair done. Shortly afterward, Roulet knocked on the door and delivered the rings to Dodi, who took them and disappeared into the next room of the suite. Dodi later returned the second ring to Roulet. It was thus the Tell Me Yes ring that Fayed had selected and probably intended to slip on Diana's finger that night.

Whatever Dodi may have planned, he never had time to carry it out. The ring was later found in his apartment, still in its unopened box. (It now lies in a safety-deposit box in a Swiss bank, along with several love letters from Diana to Dodi.)

The couple had planned to eat dinner that night at Chez Benoit, a trendy restaurant near the Pompidou Center. They stopped first at Dodi's apartment near the Arc de Triomphe, but the crowds of paparazzi were so great that they changed their mind and decided to return to the Ritz for dinner. Back at the hotel, the throngs of photographers and tourists were so large that the couple could not open the car door at first.

The couple had planned to eat dinner that night at Chez Benoit, a trendy restaurant near the Pompidou Center. They stopped first at Dodi's apartment near the Arc de Triomphe, but the crowds of paparazzi were so great that they changed their mind and decided to return to the Ritz for dinner. Back at the hotel, the throngs of photographers and tourists were so large that the couple could not open the car door at first.

"Cameras were right next to her face ... Once inside, she sat on a chair and looked ... as if she were about to cry."

Diana got out first, and Wingfield remembers how the "cameras were right next to her face ...Once inside, she sat on a chair and if she were about to cry."

DODI WAS LIVID. It was now almost 10 p.m. A night security officer named Francois Tendil called Henri Paul, acting head of security, to tell him about the chaotic scene. Paul, who had met the couple at the airport and transported their baggage to Dodi's apartment earlier in the day and had gone off duty at 7:05 p.m., rushed back. What he had been doing during his few hours off is still unclear, as is how much alcohol he might have consumed.

Dodi arranged for his regular car and driver plus a backup vehicle to leave from the front and act as decoys. He, Di and Rees-Jones would leave from the rear with Henri Paul at the wheel of the Mercedes.

What is clear is that when he got back to the hotel, he wound up in the Vendome bar, where he managed to drink right under the noses of Dodi's two English bodyguards. Wingfield told police Paul drank "pineapple juice, which he cut with water from a carafe, because he found it too strong." Rees-Jones later told police Paul had consumed a "yellow liquid." But that "yellow liquid" turned out to be pastis, an anisette-based aperitif about as strong as whiskey.

At about 11:15, Dodi stuck his head out of the door of the Imperial Suite and told Wingfield that he had a plan to elude the paparazzi. His regular car and driver plus a backup vehicle would leave from the front of the hotel and act as decoys. Meanwhile, Di, Dodi and Rees-Jones would drive off secretly from a rear exit with Paul at the wheel of a Mercedes S-280. Dodi had used a similar scheme during his July 25-27 Paris weekend with Diana, with one big difference: on that occasion his regular chauffeur was driving.

After dinner, Dodi called his father and told him that he and the Princess would soon leave the Ritz for his apartment. Mohammed Al Fayed didn't like his plan at all.

The Princess & the Press
     Only days ago, Princess Diana said that she'd love to leave England because of the hounding media coverage.
     She told a French newspaper that "the press is ferocious," that "it forgives nothing and is only hunting down mistakes."
     The princess had sharply criticized the British media in an interview published a few days ago in the French daily Le Monde, saying they only look for the negative.
     "Each act is twisted; each gesture is criticized," she said. "I think it's different overseas. I'm welcomed with kindness.... I think, in my place, any sane person would have left a long time ago. But I can't. I have my sons."
     Since her breakup with Prince Charles, Diana had become increasingly intolerant of paparazzi following her. She got a court order against one last year.
     On the eve of going to Bosnia to campaign against land mines this month, Princess Diana faced a tabloid barrage in Britain focusing on her new boyfriend.
     The publication of photographs showing Diana in embraces with the 41-year-old film producer filled eight pages of London's Sunday Mirror newspaper.
     The photos, taken by an Italian photographer, had been the subject of a bidding war and reportedly cost the Mirror $400,000.
     The princess had already suggested in April that she might leave Britain. In an audiotape, recorded by two paparazzi as she confronted them over photographing her, she's heard saying:
     "I'm seriously thinking of moving away.... I cannot ... be battered every single day because someone is making money out of me.... I cannot be followed around by all these men all the time. It's a nightmare. I can't go to lunch. I certainly don't go out in the evening.... I hide in the back of cars."

Philadelphia Inquirer
Aug 31, 1997

"Don't go," he warned. "There's a lot of press out there, a lot of people. Why don't you just stay in the hotel?"

"We can't, Moo-Moo," said Dodi, using his nickname for his father. "We have all our things back at the apartment, and we have to leave from there in the morning."

"Just be careful," said his father. "Don't step on it. There's no hurry. Wait until you see the atmosphere is perfect, get in your car, and go away. Don't hide; it is unnecessary. You have security with you.

If they want to shoot you, fine, then at least we know they shot you. But to go out the back, change the driver..."

But Dodi had already made up his mind. During these final moments, he seemed to get more and more excited about his plan. As Wingfield described the minutes before the departure: "[Dodi] was happy, so was the Princess. They joked and laughed."

"It might seem ironic, but I had never seen the couple of Dodi and the Princess as happy as at the moment that they were about to leave calmly from the rear of the hotel."

COULD DIANA HAVE BEEN SAVED? By the time the Mercedes reached the stoplight in the Place de la Concorde, at least half a dozen paparazzi had caught up with it. Taking off just before the light changed, Henri Paul headed onto the riverfront expressway along the 4,000-ft. straightaway leading to the Alma tunnel.

Some 30 seconds later, Paul suddenly lost control of the car and crashed into the tunnel's 13th pillar. The Mercedes spun around 180[degrees] and came to rest against the north wall with its horn blaring from the weight of the driver's inert body on the wheel. Paul and Dodi were killed instantly. Diana and Rees-Jones were grievously injured.

"When I saw Diana in the backseat, I got shivers up my spine," says photographer Nikola Arsov. "You can't imagine how beautiful she was. It was devastating!"

Within some 10 seconds of the crash, the first paparazzi arrived on the scene and began snapping pictures.

"When I saw Diana in the backseat, I got shivers up my spine," says photographer Nikola Arsov, who had followed the decoy cars and arrived at the scene some time after the accident. "You can't imagine how beautiful she was. It was devastating!"

The driver's body is slumped over the horn. The impact is so great that parts of the radiator are reportedly found embedded in his body.

Associated Press

Photos show Diana in profile, quite recognizable with her elegantly coiffed blond hair. There is blood on her forehead; trails of blood also trickle from her nose, mouth and left ear. Apart from the blood, her face is not disfigured. Dodi's left leg, horribly bent and deformed by multiple fractures, lies on Diana's lap. Diana's left arm is draped listlessly over his kidskin boot.

After extensive on-site treatment to stabilize her condition, Diana was taken by ambulance to a hospital, some 3.8 miles away. She was still breathing on arrival but soon went into cardiac arrest. Doctors opened her chest and discovered massive hemorrhaging from a torn left pulmonary vein. Despite the repair of that wound, and a manual heart massage lasting some two hours, they were unable to restore a heartbeat. She was pronounced dead at 4 a.m.

Diana was brought up from the basement operating room where she died to a room on the second-floor intensive-care corridor where French and British officials had set up their crisis center. Nurses had cleaned the body and covered her with a white sheet up to the shoulders. The sheet over the Princess's body obscured her most grievous wounds, and the blood had been wiped from her face.

But what was not apparent had been chronicled shortly before by the Paris medical official who performed an external examination on Diana's body. The report showed a 3-cm wound on the forehead, a cut over the lip, crushed ribs, a fractured right arm, an 8-cm cut on the right thigh, bruises on both hands and feet and a cut on the right buttock. The body chart did not detail the internal injuries, however, since the Princess's chest had already been sewn up by the surgeon.

"You could see a terrible accident had happened and there were photographers, like, all over the place — swarming," says tourist Robin Firestone. "And I was looking at my husband and I said, 'Is this what happens in Paris when you have an accident?'"

Associated Press

According to the French medical examiner's report, the Princess died of "internal hemorrhaging due to a major chest trauma and a phenomenon of deceleration which caused a rupture of the left pulmonary vein." Since the published and unpublished reports have focused on the torn pulmonary vein as the central cause of death, it is worth examining the precise nature of this kind of injury and the chances of survival.

"The pulmonary vein is a large vessel that empties into the left atrium of the heart," says a thoracic surgeon at a public hospital in Paris. "It's the vessel that feeds oxygenated blood back into the heart. It is a large vein, with a heavy blood flow, which can be ripped in the case of a major shock or deceleration.

The Princess died of "internal hemorrhaging due to a major chest trauma and a phenomenon of deceleration which caused a rupture of the left pulmonary vein."

Medical Examiner's report

This produces a pulling on the vein, which can cause it to snap and rip off. That provokes a hemorrhage in the chest that is very quickly fatal. If it is really torn off, there is virtually no chance of survival. The blood empties out very quickly, with a compression of the heart, the lungs, followed by a heart attack and cardiac arrest. The person dies very quickly."

But not always. "That depends," this surgeon continues, "on the extent of the hemorrhaging. If you have a big hole or a small hole in a vessel, the blood doesn't flow out at the same rate. Those who arrive [alive] are the ones who have incomplete ruptures of the vein. That can happen. The proof is that this patient arrived alive at the hospital, so there must not have been a complete rupture."

Another French physician, the head of emergency services at a large Paris hospital, says the fact that Diana did not die immediately of a massive hemorrhage indicates that the tear in the pulmonary vein was "either a small one" or that it was partially closed, "perhaps by a bone fragment from a fractured rib." Thus it might have been possible to save her "with some luck and intelligence" — if that was her only internal lesion.

These physicians are careful to point out that they do not have enough precise information about the nature and extent of Diana's injuries to come to any definitive conclusions about her case.

Freer to analyze and speculate is Dr. John Ochsner, 70, chairman emeritus of surgery at Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans and one of America's pre-eminent cardiovascular surgeons. "The reason [Diana] didn't bleed out right away is that the tear was probably clotting and because the pressure there is so modest."

"The philosophy here is to try to stabilize the patient as much as you can, because traveling with this kind of status can be very dangerous for a patient."

Dr. Frederic Mailliez,
first to reach the crashsite

Could a person in that state survive? "Sure," says Ochsner, "depending on the size of the rent, or tear. If it wasn't too big, they could put the patient on a heart-lung machine and just go in and do [the repair] electively. It's pretty obvious: with that lesion, if you can get them in the hospital and on a heart-lung machine early enough, you can save them. But time is of the essence."

It took an hour and 45 minutes from the time of the accident to the time the Princess entered the operating room. What was going on during all that time? First, it took 15 minutes for the first fully equipped ambulance and its onboard doctor to reach the scene. Second, it was a slow, delicate operation to get Diana out of the car; even though the door was open, emergency workers had to cut through metal to free her because one of her legs was pinned under the seat. Third, she received extensive treatment on site, lasting between 30 and 45 minutes, before the ambulance ever rolled. Once inside the large, boxlike ambulance, which was fully equipped as a mobile hospital unit, Diana was put on an IV drip (essentially liquids and dextrose), intubated, attached to a respirator and given external cardiac stimulation.

"The philosophy here is to try to stabilize the patient as much as you can, because traveling with this kind of status can be very dangerous for a patient," said Dr. Frederic Mailliez, an experienced emergency doctor who was the first to reach the scene, before the ambulance arrived. "So we try to restore a little bit of blood pressure and some other things before we start to drive."

Similarly, says Mailliez, it is not uncommon for emergency doctors to tell ambulance drivers to go slowly. "If you are braking or accelerating," he explains, "it can be very bad for the blood pressure, so you have to be very careful." A spokeswoman for the French hospital system confirms that Diana's ambulance "slowed down and rolled gently. It's common sense."

"Stabilizing patients in the field is a mistake we made for decades in the U.S. before we abandoned it in favor of the scoop-and-run method about 10 years ago."

Dr. David Wasserman,
American physician

Ochsner takes issue with such reasoning. "You couldn't try to repair that injury on the scene; you'd have to be in the hospital," he says. The external chest massage would probably be "the worst thing that could happen," he argues. "Once you start beating on the chest, you increase pressure in all the chambers at one time."

"If anything, that would hurt her." As for the go-slow driving technique to avoid shocks and bumps, Ochsner bristles. "Shocks and bumps? You know, if you're trying to save a life, you have to get them to the operating room quickly."

So could the Princess of Wales have been saved if she had reached the hospital earlier?

"I can't second-guess anybody," says Ochsner. "What I'm saying is if it was a small rent, a patient would have plenty of time. But if it's big enough where it's slowly bleeding, as hers was — something between a minor tear and a complete bleed-out — there had to be some resistance of flow, with a clot or something. Otherwise she would have bled out. What I'm saying is this: given that she was still alive after nearly two hours, if they'd have gotten her there in an hour, they might have saved her."

On Cars & Cardiac Injury
     I find it important to note here that the risk of further damage to a patient's heart due to the stresses of acceleration and decceleration is not completely dismissed by doctors in the US, despite what American doctors quoted here imply.
     Only days before, in a conversation initially unrelated to my research for this article, a friend described the outpatient recommendations for her boyfriend's father, who had just turned seventy, and had just undergone open heart surgery weeks earlier.
     His doctors had advised him to avoid road travel, for the very reason the French doctors cite. On this recommendation the patient, even while ambulatory and without complication, is recovering exclusively at home, conveniently near his hospital.
     If such recommendations are part of standard therapy for post-operative heart patients, taking such precautions for the emergency transport of cardiac cases seems not only reasonable, but may be the difference between life and death.
     It is more likely that Diana's weakened cardiovascular system failed due to the pressure exerted by the external massage, which, as a standard initial procedure, would have been performed regardless of whether she was at the crashsite or the hospital (or whether she was in France or America, in that case).
     The lateness of Diana's arrival at the hospital only reduced the time doctors had to discover the torn artery and attempt to remedy the initial inevitable mistreatment. If the timetable of this account is accurate, the hospital would have had an extra 30 to 45 minutes with Diana had the ambulance left once she was stable.
     However, once at the hospital, she'd have immediately undergone 20 to 30 minutes of standard external massage (at least in America). Her doctors thus might really have had only 10 to 20 extra minutes at best, depending on when they might have decided it necessary to open her chest, which in turn depended on the rate of her bleeding.
     Only if her heart were not mortally damaged — by either the accident or the external massage — might Diana's doctors have possibly saved her.

Dave Hill

Ochsner's view is supported by Dr. David Wasserman, 45, an American physician with nine years' experience working in the emergency rooms of some of the country's busiest urban hospitals, including New Jersey's Hackensack Medical Center. "If they had gotten her to the operating room sooner, she would have had a far greater chance. You could never diagnose that kind of injury in the field, never. In the U.S. there'd be hell to pay in a case like this — lawsuits, internal investigations. Spending all that time on on-site treatment was absolutely the wrong approach for this patient."

While not accusing any individual medical worker of professional errors in treating Diana — indeed, they clearly followed standard French procedures — Dr. Wasserman argues that the fault lies with the whole French approach to emergency medicine. "Stabilizing patients in the field is a mistake we made for decades in the U.S. before we abandoned it in favor of the scoop-and-run method about 10 years ago," he says.

Before that, we found we were losing more patients by messing with them in the field than by getting them to the hospital. All kinds of studies have found a major negative correlation between the time spent in the field and a patient's prognosis.

In most cases, the only thing we do to trauma victims on site is to stabilize the spine and start an IV drip. Then we get them to the hospital fast."

A FATHER IN QUEST OF ANSWERSMohammed Al Fayed bounds suddenly into the boardroom at Harrods. The Egyptian tycoon is dapper in his plaid shirt and Glen-plaid trousers. Although the 40-day Muslim mourning period is over, he continues to grieve for Dodi and Diana: the tie adorning his Turnbull & Asser shirt is black. It is clear that he feels as if he has lost not only a son but two children, and at a moment when such happiness for them was in the offing.

Discussing the tragedy publicly for the first time, Al Fayed says he was as surprised as anybody when Dodi and Diana fell in love. But he could see the attraction. "She had been excited to marry the future king when she was young," Al Fayed explains. "But she had no experience of life."

"She faced this maze of tradition and bureaucracy and found that this was not the life she was looking for. After her father passed on, she would sometimes come to me for advice. She wanted to live like an ordinary person. She came from the aristocracy, but she was an ordinary girl."

Al Fayed believes that Diana's Saint-Tropez holiday with him, his wife and his five children opened her eyes to the possibilities of a happy family life. "Our family, she never saw anything like it in her life," he says, noting that she had an unhappy childhood amid her parents' bitter divorce.

"The freedom she enjoyed, no formalities." With a laugh, he adds, "Dodi had the same sense of humor as me. For the first time, she meets somebody like me, only younger! She enjoyed our family, and Dodi was part of it. If my son is happy, I am happy. It was his choice, his problem. I want to make him completely independent, not relying on me all the time."

"You can't believe what I am fighting here," he says. "They can't get over the fact that I own Harrods. It's an Egyptian, not a Briton, who built this store, this fantasy. How can a bloody Egyptian come from another planet and do this?"

"A Wonderful Life"
     Rene Delorm is expecting us. He opens the door of the third-floor apartment and ushers us into the foyer, with its geometric black, white and pink marble floor and crystal chandelier.
     "We didn't touch anything since that night," he explains in his French-accented English. "We just cleaned up. Mr. Al Fayed wants the apartment to stay just the way his son left it, as if he were coming back."
     Rene is proud to show off Dodi's 10-room apartment on the Rue Arsene-Houssaye. He takes us through a small salon to the left of the foyer and out onto a wide wrought-iron balcony. Next to the salon is the green living room, where Diana left her luggage and dressed for dinner on that Saturday evening.
     Rene can't say for sure where she would have slept that night. One might suppose it would have been in Dodi's bedroom. But, as the butler points out, "they never spent the night here. They never came back."
     Rene takes us through the main living room, a high-ceilinged space with two large sofas, a pink marble-topped coffee table, a white marble mantelpiece. Here and there are framed pictures of Dodi with movie stars. But it is in the intimacy of the master bedroom that Dodi's spirit seems most present. A king-size bed with a gold bedspread dominates the room. Heavy brocade and silk curtains frame the windows.
     On the mantelpiece is a collection of medicine bottles — Vitamin E-400, folic acid, Super Hy Vites, Tylenol, Tums — that bear witness to Dodi's health mania. There are three stuffed bears on a table by the marble fireplace; stuffed animals are to be found all through the apartment.
     One by one, Rene opens the mirror-covered doors to the clothes closets that line the south wall. In one, there are 15 suits — all Armani and all dark. On the floor, neatly arranged, are three or four pairs of cowboy boots. To the left, a narrow chest of drawers, labeled by category: BOXER SHORTS, UNDERWEAR, SOCKS, SHORTS, SWEAT PANTS. Still speaking in the present tense, Rene says, "He's very organized, very neat."
     Rene is heading back to California, where he first met Dodi. He had left it all behind to accompany a lonely Egyptian playboy on his quest for happiness and paternal approval. Dodi almost had both in his grasp.
     "It was a wonderful life," says Rene. "There were dinner parties, cruises, movie stars. And the Princess was going to come into his life. Then...pssssht! It all went away."

Al Fayed makes no apologies for his role in bringing down a government that failed to appreciate what he gave to the country and eventually denied him citizenship. "I brought down part of them," he explains, his lip trembling and his eyes filling with tears. "I won't stop until I bring down the rest of them. I won't stop until I reveal the true extent of the political conspiracy that I have been the victim of, how they set up a government inquiry ..." He gets up and walks across the room to get a box of Kleenex from a small table in the corner.

"It was a very serious matter. Maybe the future king is going to have a half brother who is a 'nigger,' and Mohammed Al Fayed is going to be the stepgrandfather of the future king. This is how they think, this Establishment.

Mohammed Al Fayed

"I am a taxpayer in this country," he continues. "I have devoted 30 years of my life employing people, bringing in business, paying hundreds of millions of pounds in taxes. This is my country. You don't want to end, after you sacrifice for all this, to be humiliated in a report commissioned by a corrupt Tory government. I am fighting a crusade for the masses, for the ordinary people."

It was precisely these forces, Al Fayed believes, who were appalled and alarmed by the news that Diana had fallen in love with his son Dodi. "It was a very serious matter," he says. "Maybe the future king is going to have a half brother who is a 'nigger,' and Mohammed Al Fayed is going to be the stepgrandfather of the future king. This is how they think, this Establishment. They are a completely different type of human being."

The meeting has been a difficult one for Al Fayed. By the end, the tension in his body has become palpable. But before excusing himself to attend another appointment, he makes a vow: "I am not going to rest until I know what happened. It is not only my son. It's the mother of two boys."

Persons close to Mohammed Al Fayed with knowledge of the official investigation have warned him that a variety of problems make it as yet impossible to conclude that Diana and Dodi died in an ordinary traffic accident. They claim that the crime scene was not properly preserved; that the Mercedes was removed from the tunnel with "indecent haste"; and that initially the French police either were ignorant or lied about a collision with a second car, the mysterious Fiat Uno. They also continue to insist, though without evidence, that the postmortem on Henri Paul was botched and thus led too easily to the drunk-driver conclusion.

Serious unanswered questions, they say, include why it took medical rescuers nearly two hours to get the Princess to a hospital; why French authorities have not made available tapes from surveillance cameras outside the ministry of justice (just next to the Ritz) and along the Mercedes' route; and why the British intelligence service has failed to come forth with what they know about the crash.

Seeking independent information on the case, Al Fayed has launched his own investigation, involving current and former members of Scotland Yard and an ex-CIA agent, led by his own security team.

Investigators, they add, are closely examining enlarged stills taken from the Ritz security videotapes to identify suspicious men outside the hotel, apparently neither photographers nor tourists, shortly before Dodi and Diana fled from the rear.

Seeking to get independent information on the case, Mohammed Al Fayed has launched his own investigation. It is headed in Britain by Harrods security chief John MacNamara, an ex-Scotland Yard inspector, and in France by Pierre Ottavioli, a former chief of the criminal brigade and now the head of a private French security firm. A retired CIA agent with links to Ottavioli's network has also been brought into this private probe. In addition, Scotland Yard has assigned one of its own inspectors, Jeffrey Rees, to serve as a liaison with the official French investigation.

A CAR CRASH — OR A PLOT? Debris found near the tunnel entrance — fragments of glass and a piece of a rearview mirror — indicated that the Mercedes may have collided with another vehicle before losing control. Some investigators at first theorized that a motorcycle might have made contact with the Mercedes, perhaps touching the rearview mirror with a handlebar. However, any collision with a motorcycle at that speed would certainly have knocked the two-wheeled vehicle over and probably killed its driver.

Conspiracy theorists speculate that a motorcycle worked with the Fiat Uno, pursuing the Mercedes doggedly from the Place de la Concorde, forcing it to drive faster and faster as it approached the tunnel.

But there definitely was a motorcycle right behind the Mercedes, and it does not appear to have been driven by a photographer. Three witnesses, all of whom were in the eastbound lanes, described seeing a large motorcycle in the westbound lanes slow down and pass the wreck just moments after the crash. Jean-Pascal Peyret, headed west in his Saab, was passed by a single motorcyclist just seconds after hearing the final impact.

In addition to the motorcycle behind the Mercedes, there was a small, slower-moving car in front of it. Several eyewitnesses said they saw the Mercedes swerve to the left to pass the second car and at least one said he saw the two vehicles collide. Analysis of the taillight fragments found near the tunnel entrance showed they came from a Fiat Uno manufactured between 1983 and 1989; police experts also concluded that the white paint marks on the side of the Mercedes were likely to have come from an Uno. Though the precise role of the Fiat remains unclear, as does the identity of the driver, investigators are convinced that it was a key factor in causing Henri Paul to lose control.

Some conspiracy theorists have floated the idea that a motorcycle might have been working in tandem with the Fiat Uno. Its role might have been to pursue the Mercedes doggedly and aggressively from the Place de la Concorde, forcing it to drive faster and faster as it approached the Alma tunnel. But based on the available evidence it now seems likely that Diana and Dodi died in a tragic accident. Nonetheless, as with any good conspiracy theory, many of the facts surrounding the Paris crash can be arranged to fit an assassination scenario. And unless some of the key questions are answered — above all the identities of the mystery motorcycle and Fiat drivers — the events of Aug. 31, 1997, will continue, at least among the conspiracy-minded, to feed speculation about plots and cover-ups for the next hundred years.

Grist for the Rumor Mill
     Unsatisified with deficiences in the official account, theorists of all stripe and colour have weighed in to point fingers at just about every participant imaginable. Many of the usual suspects have been trotted out and even Diana herself is implicated in one scenario. The most popular suspects follow:
     1) The Royal Family, with the aid of British Secret Service and Parliament, and perhaps the CIA and FBI, conspired to deny a Semitic foothold to the throne. Diana was already pregnant with Dodi's child. Too, the government had been growing tired of Diana's security expenses. On a continent where dynastic intrigue was once as commonplace as bad dentistry, this idea comes easiest to most, including Dodi Fayed's father.
     2) The Pope recognized that the impending union of British and Arab interests threatened the security of the Vatican hegemony. This would have meant a fundamental shift in the balance of power in the quadrant.
     3) International arms merchants began to feel the financial bite of Diana's campaigns against the use of land mines.
     4) Diana's campaigns and charities by far reaped the largest financial and political gains, far more than she'd generated in life — a fact which gives the arms dealer theory a painful shot in the foot.
     5) Pop musician Elton John enjoyed a significant career boost with his "Candle in the Wind" tribute single. So who's he trying to fool?
     6) Diana, a loser at love, obsessed over her late beau. Loathful at the possibility of a second divorce and wanting to "possess" him forever, she arranged the romatic tragedy by her own hand.
     7) Di and Dodi faked their deaths, and in a twist of perfect irony, sold photos of their "accident" to the tabloids for millions. They now live in quiet retirement on an island, finally free of the paparazzi who plagued them.

Dave Hill


One year and countless tributes later, the most intensive investigation surrounding an automobile accident may be drawing to a close. But any criminal proceedings envisioned by the prosecutor, Maude Coujard, aren't likely to begin for yet another year. And extending well into the next century will be the impending civil claims, which are already developing into a bitter shootout between Mohamed al-Fayed, the paparazzi, the bodyguards, the Ritz Hotel, Etoile Limosine, Mercedes-Benz, and each contestant's insurers.

Most believe — including prosecutor Marie Coujard — that the paparazzi, yet to be formally charged, will be eventually acquitted. Any penalties are likely be minor — a steep fine, but no jail.

Lead investigator Judge Herve Stephan has so far reconstructed the following scenario: For reasons known only to Dodi, he, Diana and their guards departed the Ritz in a hastily-rented Mercedes S-280, despite the availability of his father's bulletproof Mercedes 500 SEL, among other cars.

Four months earlier, and probably unknown to the passengers, the S-280 had been stolen and stripped, but rebuilt by the rental agency Etoile Limosine at a cost of $20,000. The car also had numerous mechanical problems, all known to Etoile.

As the Mercedes sped down the Paris tunnel, closely pursued by paparazzi, it clipped a slower white Fiat Uno, which caused the Mercedes' air bags to explosively deploy, stunning and blinding the intoxicated driver Henri Paul at a critical moment. Spinning out of control, the car crashed into a tunnel pillar.

Despite an intensive 10-month search for the Uno, however, Stephan has basically given up hope of finding it. On Nov. 13, the owner of a repainted Uno, both matching the descriptions of eyewitnesses, had been detained but released when interrogators determined the car failed to match evidence from the crash.

Ten paparazzi remain under investigation for involuntary homicide and nonassistance to persons in danger. In their defense they claim the Mercedes left them far behind, giving them no role in the accident. Though only one tried to call emergency services, all claim to have assumed help was on the way.

Most witnesses, however, depict them hovering about the wreck and insulting one another while jockeying for the best shots.

Stephan is still looking for other paparazzi that may have been on the scene. It is said that he suspects the ten know more about the Uno than they admit, and that the driver might have been an associate.

To date the ten have not been formally charged and are still working, sometimes at Diana-related events.

Most believe — including, it has been reported, prosecutor Coujard — that some will be charged but eventually acquitted. Any penalties are likely be minor — a steep fine, but no jail.

Even so, we can be assured that the trial, once begun, far beyond what was witnessed during the O.J. Simpson trial, will be the most watched event in history.


After two years of investigating a number of theories about the crash and testimony from almost 200 people, on Sep. 3 French judges completely cleared photographers as well as Dodi al Fayed of responsibility for the fatal accident. They laid the finger of blame solely on driver Henri Paul, who was inebriated and taking anti-depressants and consequently lost control of the speeding limo.

The judges determined that Paul had to avoid a slower-moving car entering the tunnel, a reference to the elusive white Fiat Uno he apparently grazed before crashing. French police never found the car despite a dragnet involving over 4,000 Fiat Uno owners.

While imposing "a continuous and insistent presence," the photographers could not be placed at the moment of the crash.

The ruling followed the Aug. 17 recommendation by the state prosecutor that charges be dropped because the driver was clearly to blame for the accident. The agreement of judges and prosecutor gives Mohamed al Fayed's expected appeal little chance of success.

While it was agreed that several of the photographers had imposed "a continuous and insistent presence" on Dodi and Diana since the couple arrived in Paris, the photographers "did not resort to ruse or violence," nor was there any evidence that they were close to the Mercedes-Benz at the moment of the accident."

Besides clearing the photographers, the ruling also dismissed charges that emergency medical crews had been tardy in coming to the aid of Diana, who was not killed on the spot. "The surgical team cannot be reproached for anything, since no other surgery or reanimation strategy could have altered the patient's condition," judges said.

To Mohamed al Fayed's charges of conspiracy and murder, judges concluded "no element however imprecise has given any backing to such theses." The accident "was not the result of a deliberate act."

from Reuters, Sep 3, 1999.

The Final Hours
Time, Feb 16, 1998, vol. 151 no. 6
  Excerpts from Thomas Sancton and Scott MacCleod's
"Death of a Princess: The Investigation."
  Mystery in the Details:
Time, Aug 31 1998, vol. 152 no. 9
  More from Sancton and MacCleod.  
  Piecing Together Diana's Final Hours
Associated Press, Aug 26 1998
  Timetable to tragedy.  
  Princess Diana — Full Coverage  
  Just about everything but the sink.  
  The First Diana Conspiracy Site  
  Definitely not the official story.  
  Diana Murdered: Says Purported CIA Document  
  Where does this stuff come from?