On August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, died after a high-speed car accident in the Pont d'Alma tunnel in Paris. Princess Diana was traveling with Dodi Al-Fayed (son of billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed). In the front seats were bodyguard Trevor-Rees Jones and the Hotel Ritz's acting security manager, Henri Paul, who'd been ordered to elude the cars and motorcycles packed with paparazzi that were chasing the famous couple. Paul crashed into a support column (portentously, the 13th one) in the tunnel, and eventually all but Jones died from their injuries.
Almost immediately, Dodi's famous father came out swinging. He claimed that Diana was murdered by the English Crown to hide the fact that the couple was about to be engaged, and that Diana was pregnant with her Egyptian boyfriend's child, a scandal that Britain's royal family wouldn't stand for. French authorities investigated the case and judged it an accident, caused by driver Henri Paul's reckless driving while under the influence of antidepressants and too much booze (three times the legal limit in France).
Al-Fayed was relentless, and wild charges were made over the years:
- The late Henri Paul was accused of being in the paid service of the British, French, or U.S. intelligence communities (it varied, depending on who was telling the tale).
- French investigators were accused of swapping Paul's blood samples with those of a drunken suicide victim (later debunked by DNA records).
- Britain's MI5 and MI6 security services were implicated, as were Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth's husband Prince Phillip.
Other claims bubbled to the surface. One especially lunatic one was that Diana's well-publicized campaign against the use of landmines had cut into the business of unscrupulous landmine manufacturers, so she had to be snuffed by the military-industrial complex.
Uber-conspiracist David Icke got in the game, too, claiming that Diana had seen Queen Elizabeth transform herself into a 12-foot-tall alien lizard, a secret so devastating that she had to be murdered.
As for the pregnancy claims, Diana had never said anything to anyone about it, and blood tests, in fact, revealed no sign of pregnancy, though an early stage of pregnancy in a late post-mortem is apparently difficult to determine. Reports that Dodi had purchased an engagement ring turned out to be false. As for Fayed's notion that the couple had been murdered out of some racist motivation, Diana had just ended a two-year liaison with a Pakistani Muslim that the Royal Family seemed to have no objections to her marrying, if she'd been so inclined.
In January 2004, London's Metropolitan Police began its own inquiry, Operation Paget, led by then commissioner Lord John Stevens, with a team that would eventually include 14 officers. After nearly three years and a cost of £3.7 million (more than US $7 million), the initial 832-page report was issued in December 2006, saying that every single one of the conspiracy theories were without foundation, and that Diana hadn't been murdered.
In April 2008, an inquest jury ruled that the couple's deaths were caused by the "unlawful, negligent driving of the Mercedes and the following vehicles." In other words, the chauffer was drunk and the paparazzi were overzealous. Mohamed Al-Fayed, Dodi's father, continues to believe the couple was murdered.