A coroner’s jury ruled Monday that Princess Diana and boyfriend Dodi Fayed were unlawfully killed through the reckless actions of their driver and the paparazzi in 1997. The jury had been told that a verdict of unlawful killing would mean that they believed the reckless behavior of the driver and paparazzi amounted to manslaughter. It was the most serious verdict available to them.
The couple died in Paris when their speeding car slammed into a concrete pillar while it was being chased by photographers in cars and on motorbikes. The jury added that the fact that Diana and Dodi were not wearing seatbelts was a contributing factor.
The coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, had instructed the jury that there was no evidence to support claims by Fayed’s father, Mohamed Al Fayed, that the couple were victims of a murder plot directed by Prince Philip and carried out by British secret agents. The jury was not at liberty to disagree.
The six women and five men on the jury began deliberating April 2 after hearing six months of testimony from more than 240 witnesses. They also went to Paris to see the scene of the Aug. 31, 1997 crash.
The cost of the inquest itself, including lawyers and staff assisting the coroner, has exceeded $6 million. Baker had expressed hope that the inquest would lay to rest, once and for all, any false theories about the princess’ death. Dodi Fayed died instantly when the couple’s Mercedes, moving in excess of 60 mph, slammed into a concrete pillar in the Alma underpass in Paris at 12:22 a.m. Medics initially thought Diana would survive her severe injuries, but she died at a hospital around 4 a.m.
The paparazzi who pursued the couple were vilified. As grieving Britons piled up flowers outside Diana’s Kensington Palace home, some British newspapers declared they would never use another paparazzi shot — a vow that proved time-limited.
French police announced a day after the crash that tests on driver Henri Paul’s blood showed he was three times over the national drunk-driving standard.