Conspiracy Theories, Mysteries

The murder of Princess Diana: the conspiracy that won’t die

A shroud of strange coincidences, missing evidence and sinister unanswered questions continue to hang over the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. In this article I’m going to home in on the three big ones: the white Fiat Uno, the lack of CCTV, and Henri Paul’s blood…

Diana’s death is Britain’s JFK. It remains the nation’s most talked-about conspiracy theory. The fact that the 2007 inquest failed to delve deeply enough into the possibility that the princess was murdered has kept conspiratorial tongues wagging ever since.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before—many times—I’m not a conspiracy theorist. But Princess Diana’s death has always disturbed me. There’s a LOT that doesn’t add up. Does that mean I believe she was murdered by government agents as part of an elaborate royal plot? Not necessarily. But I’m open to the possibility that she could’ve been.

Let’s talk first about Henri Paul, the man who drove Princess Diana to her death in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel on August 31st 1997, killing himself and Dodi Fayed in the process. Officially, as of the 2007 inquest, Henri Paul is guilty of the “unlawful killing” of the princess through negligence—specifically that he was driving while drunk. He’s been accused of having connections with the security services, disappearing for several minutes for unknown reasons shortly before the fateful journey from the Ritz Hotel, and secretly communicating with the paparazzi. But I want to talk about one thing: his blood.

Henri Paul’s blood

The French investigation into Diana’s car crash concluded that Henri was drunk, his blood containing three times the French legal limit. A British pathologist hired by Mohammed Al-Fayed, Dodi’s father, disputed this. Henri Paul’s parents did not accept that their son was drunk, and maintain that he always took his responsibilities as a driver seriously. Material evidence reveals that Henri only purchased two alcoholic drinks, and on hotel CCTV, he shows no signs of being intoxicated.

This led to one of the most famous Diana conspiracy claims: that Henri Paul’s blood was swapped with that of a deceased drunk driver in order to place the blame for the crash squarely on him.

Forensic pathologist Dominique Lecomte is the person who conducted the autopsy on Henri Paul and took the blood samples. Keith Allen in his banned Diana documentary Unlawful Killing called this “the world’s worst autopsy” conducted by someone who was “notorious in France for covering up medical evidence that is likely to embarrass the state”.

Now, Allen has a tendency in this documentary to use hyperbole and far-fetched statements typical of hardened conspiracy theorists (such as his ludicrous baseless attacks on the Royal Family, who he calls “gangsters in tiaras” and “psychopaths”). So I’m certainly not about to take his word as gospel on Dominique Lecomte. However, witnesses and experts in the Operation Paget investigation and the inquest agreed that Lecomte’s account was untruthful, the quality of her autopsy was suspect, and her associated documentation was flawed.

The errors include:

  • Allowing blood samples taken from Henri Paul’s body to remain in an unguarded refrigerator for 24 hours
  • Allowing samples to be stored alongside others belonging to different people
  • Not taking DNA samples from Paul which would prove the blood was his.

It’s not even clear how many blood samples she took because she changed her story. Her paperwork says she took five, but later she testified under oath that she only took three. In addition, the tests themselves revealed lethally high levels of carbon monoxide in Henri Paul’s blood. If these tests were accurate, Henri would not have been the picture of health he so clearly was in the CCTV. On the contrary, he would barely have been able to function at all.

As a result, all the scientists involved in the 2007 inquest branded the Henri Paul toxicology results as “biologically inexplicable”. Professor Atholl Johnston suggested that it wasn’t actually Henri Paul’s blood that was tested, and Professor Robert Forrest admitted, “It’s either conspiracy or cock-up”.

And while DNA tests confirm that at least some of the samples came from Henri Paul, there’s no way of knowing which ones. Could it be that the two blood samples unaccounted for in Lecomte’s documentation were the ones tested for alcohol? This is certainly what Mohammed Al-Fayed, convinced of the ‘switcheroo’ hypothesis, believes.

Suspiciously, both Professor Lecomte and Dr Pepin, the toxicologist who carried out the blood tests, refused to attend the 2007 inquest to explain this monumental mess. The French government excused them on the grounds of “public order”. It later emerged that the real reason was “the protection of state secrets”. Mmmm.

Interestingly, Trevor Rees-Jones—Princess Diana’s bodyguard and the only passenger to survive the crash—doesn’t remember much about what happened, but says he does remember that Henri Paul was drunk. Mohammed Al-Fayed doesn’t believe him, of course, and alleges that Rees-Jones, too, is in on the conspiracy. The bigger question, to me, is this. If you’re the bodyguard for Diana, Princess of Wales, why on earth get into a car with a driver who was, as UK newspapers put it, “drunk as a pig”? Either Rees-Jones is an unutterably useless bodyguard whose incompetence makes it highly unlikely he’d be in Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed’s employ in the first place… or someone’s telling tales.

The lack of CCTV

This one pops up a lot. There were a number of CCTV cameras along the route of Diana and Dodi’s Mercedes, yet not a moment of their fateful journey to the Pont de l’Alma tunnel or the crash itself was recorded. Why? Because every single camera was either malfunctioning, switched off or pointing the wrong way. Coincidence? Or did someone make sure that the crash could not be recorded?

In 2006, The Independent reported that there were more than 14 cameras along the route. Mohammed Al Fayed claimed that at least 10 of these were video cameras maintained by the City of Paris and should have recorded at least some of the journey.

Operation Paget looked into these claims. They found that most of the cameras were NOT operated by the City of Paris, apart from one, situated in the Place de l’Alma, just above the tunnel (I’ll come to this one in a moment). Operation Paget concluded that most of the cameras were privately owned security cameras, typically pointing at the entrances to buildings. As such, none of them picked up images of the road or Diana’s Mercedes.

However, there is a glaring inconsistency about these cameras in the Operation Paget report. Police Lieutenant Eric Gigou was part of the team that sought to identify CCTV cameras along the Mercedes’ route in 1997. He reported the following (see page 392 of the Operation Paget report):

“There is no video surveillance of the roads along the Voie Georges Pompidou and Cours Albert 1er.”

However, on page 394, Operation Paget cited the evidence of Pascal Poulain, Room Commander of the Paris Information and Control Centre. When talking about the camera situated in the Place de l’Alma, Poulain said:

“In general that camera, like all those which survey the Voie Georges Pompidou, is used by Traffic.”

Poulain suggested that the Voie Georges Pompidou had rather a lot of cameras, while Lieutenant Gigou said there were none.

Somebody was lying—who?

Mohammed Al Fayed also alleged the existence of a wide-angle camera installed on the building of the International Chamber of Commerce at 38 Cours Albert 1er. This camera wasn’t identified by Lieutenant Gigou. So Operation Paget investigated the building themselves. They said on page 395:

“There is currently no CCTV camera fixed on the building that overlooks the expressway.”

The earliest Operation Paget would have checked this was 2004, 7 years after the crash. That’s not much good, since the camera could’ve been removed long before then. Why didn’t the judge in charge of the French inquiry get this camera checked out when Mohammed Al Fayed’s lawyer alerted him to it in 1997?

And if there was a wide-angle camera at 38 Cours Albert 1er that has since been removed, could it have recorded part of Diana’s journey?

The most controversial camera is the one right by the tunnel. Again, Operation Paget referred to Lieutenant Gigou’s evidence that the camera was under the control of the Paris Urban Traffic Units. Gigou said:

“That department closes down at 11pm, has no night duty staff, and makes no recordings.”

But this information came from Pascal Poulain. He was not part of the Paris Urban Traffic Units; he was from a different department. Poulain explained how his team had tried to manipulate the camera after the crash, in an attempt to zoom in on the scene. It wasn’t possible because they had no control over it. Another section did. All the camera showed at the time was a blurred yellow light. Poulain said:

“In general that camera, like all those which survey the Voie Georges Pompidou, is used by Traffic. Now that section ceases all activity at 11.30 pm, I think. It does not have any night staff. So if that section left that camera on remote before finishing its shift, we could not use it anymore.”

So, the reason no one could see the crash on camera was because the Traffic unit had not released control of it.

Was anyone in the Traffic unit interviewed about this? No. Not a soul. Neither the French investigative team nor Operation Paget made any effort to interview members of the Traffic unit about whether they were in control of the camera or not.

It’s entirely possible that this was all done deliberately. Someone could’ve made sure that the camera wasn’t pointing in the direction of the crash, that it was only showing a blurred yellow light. And someone could’ve made sure it was left on remote so that no one could use it to record the incident.

The white Fiat Uno

Princess Diana, Henri Paul and Trevor Rees-Jones moments before the fatal crash

Without any images or recordings of the crash, it’s difficult to know exactly what happened in that tunnel.

What we do know is that a white Fiat Uno collided with the Mercedes moments before it crashed into the tunnel’s thirteenth pillar. Analysis of the Mercedes wreckage showed traces of white paint on the Mercedes bodywork, and bits of broken tail light from another vehicle in the road, which forensics matched to a Fiat Uno. An extensive search for the Uno was undertaken by French police and apparently over 4,000 were examined. Alas, the car was never found.

The theory goes that the white Fiat Uno—along with a number of motorcycles—surrounded and blocked the Mercedes, causing it to swerve and hit the thirteenth pillar. Eyewitness evidence is hazy and conflicting, but three witnesses agreed that there was a motorcycle on the Mercedes’ right hand side which would’ve made it very difficult for the Mercedes to exit the Cours Albert 1er onto the slip-road. Others saw a car that resembled a white Fiat Uno entering the tunnel as they did. Moments after the crash, one witness saw the Uno driving erratically out of the tunnel, zigzagging to such an extent that he had to sound his horn.

And Operation Paget also concluded that there was enough evidence to support the theory that at least one motorcycle had been following Diana’s Mercedes and left the scene without stopping. A motorcycle that, like the Fiat Uno, has never been identified.

Fingers have long pointed at one Fiat Uno owner, James Andanson, a French photographer who had previously photographed Diana and Dodi in the south of France. He sold his Uno two months after Diana’s death and died in murky circumstances a couple of years later (officially a suicide, but his family reject this and many people believe he was murdered by the security services because of his knowledge of and/or involvement in Diana’s assassination). A new forensic analysis commissioned by Operation Paget couldn’t confirm either way whether his Fiat Uno was the one they were looking for, and no evidence has been found that conclusively links Andanson to Diana’s death.

To me, the biggest mystery of all is what happened in that tunnel. We know that a white Fiat Uno collided with the Mercedes and disappeared. We know that several motorcyclists were hotly pursuing the Mercedes and at least one of them fled the scene. Eyewitnesses also reported seeing a bright flash of light inside the tunnel. This led some to believe that the motorcyclists and/or the driver of the Uno used a flare or strobe light to blind Henri Paul and cause him to crash.

There are people out there who know more about what went on inside the Pont de l‘Alma tunnel in the early hours of Sunday 31st August. That much is certain. Whoever was driving that Fiat Uno—they know what happened, yet they have never come forward. Why? If the Uno’s collision with the Mercedes was an accident, why not come forward and say that? Surely you would. Surely.

On the other hand, if the Uno driver was part of an insidious conspiracy to murder the most famous woman in the world, we have our answer.

I remain open to the possibility that Diana, Princess of Wales, was murdered. I’m not going to say I believe it. Rather, I’m agnostic about it. I think, if the government wanted to assassinate Diana, there are much easier ways to go about it than staging a car crash. Having said that, if you’re determined to make it look like an accident…

If I’m certain of one thing, it’s that the official story doesn’t add up. Will we ever learn the truth? I doubt it. We know from history that if powerful people want to keep secrets, they will do so with impunity.

Princess Diana’s death is a key mystery in my forthcoming novel Million Eyes, for which I’m currently seeking an agent. Stay tuned for news and updates about my search.

Next time: That’s a wrap for the time being. I’ll continue updating the blog with fiction-related news, but I’m giving the regular weekly articles an extended break. This is so I can focus on trying to get an agent/publisher for Million Eyes and dedicate more time to my new novel. I’m a contributor for the Time Travel Nexus, so if you’re interested in time travel conspiracy theories and urban legends, that’s where you’ll find me! Adios for now!

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