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So many conspiracies swirled over Princess Diana’s crash. Now the police chief opens his case files

‘The most famous woman in the world’ would have turned 60 next week. Yesterday, as part of a landmark series and podcast that re-examines Diana’s last days, the Mail told the story of the investigation into the mystery Fiat Uno said to have collided with her Mercedes seconds before it met disaster. Today we examine key conspiracy theories surrounding her death.  

February 2005, and two of the most distinguished figures in law enforcement on either side of the Channel are in conversation at Paris police HQ. This is not a courtesy visit. Both men are working. The situation is unusual, to say the least.

‘Jean,’ asks Pierre Mutz, the city’s Préfet de Police, of his companion. ‘I cannot understand why the most senior policeman in Britain is here, investigating a simple road traffic accident?’

Sir John Stevens, who until the previous month had been the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, regards Mutz with solemnity.

‘Because the central allegation I am investigating is that Her Majesty the Queen’s husband conspired with MI6 to murder the most famous woman in the world,’ he replies.

‘Okay, Jean,’ says Mutz. ‘Now I understand!’

Stevens’s remit was to examine more than 100 allegations of a murderous Establishment conspiracy; allegations which had been made by Egyptian tycoon Mohamed Al Fayed in relation to the death of his son Dodi and Diana (pictured) on August 31, 1997

In January 2004, while still boss at Scotland Yard, Stevens had been asked by then Royal Coroner Michael Burgess to head an investigation which would become known as Operation Paget.

Stevens’s remit was to examine more than 100 allegations of a murderous Establishment conspiracy; allegations which had been made by Egyptian tycoon Mohamed Al Fayed in relation to the death of his son Dodi and Diana on August 31, 1997.

Paget’s findings — which included 300 witness statements and a deep delve into the files of MI5 and MI6 — would then be used as evidence for a London inquest into both their deaths.

A major catalyst in setting up Paget was a note Diana had written to her butler Paul Burrell in 1995, expressing fears that her estranged husband Prince Charles was plotting to harm or kill her by sabotaging her car.

In the wake of her death, these allegations were championed by Al Fayed. He believed Establishment opposition to Diana’s relationship with Dodi was driven by a deep-rooted racism — a scenario which has echoes in the rift between Harry and Meghan and the Palace today — and Islamophobia.

Al Fayed was not alone in believing there had been a plot. ‘It was an international concern,’ said Stevens. ‘I think something like 65 or 70 per cent of the country thought there had been a conspiracy and that the death of someone like Diana, who was an icon… couldn’t be explained away, other than that… foul play [took] place.’

Stevens was under no illusion that the task would be tricky. ‘But the only way to proceed is to keep a neutral stance and, to use my old maxim, “go where the evidence takes you”. He recruited a tightly knit team of only 12 officers.

‘I didn’t want any leaks, because I had no doubt that [dirty tricks] would take place. I know we were under surveillance at times, though I don’t know by whom. It goes with the territory in these cases.’

Inititally, Al Fayed had every faith in Stevens to get to the truth. Indeed, he had pressured the coroner to appoint him, having been impressed with the way he had conducted three inquiries in Northern Ireland into alleged collusion between the security forces and Loyalist paramilitary groups that had resulted in the murder of Nationalists.

Pictured: Princess Diana with Dodi Fayed in the lift of the Ritz hotel CCTV footage showing the couple's final hours

Pictured: Princess Diana with Dodi Fayed in the lift of the Ritz hotel CCTV footage showing the couple’s final hours

‘Mr Burgess had been pressured by Mohamad Al Fayed into having me appointed, mainly because of what had happened in Northern Ireland,’ Stevens told the Mail this week. ‘Mr Al Fayed had confidence that I would do what he referred to as a “proper job” and investigate in a way that would be fearless.’

There was a ‘very cordial’ first meeting at Al Fayed’s Park Lane apartment, where the tycoon left the Commissioner in ‘no doubt whatsoever’ what he believed to have taken place.

‘The crash was not an accident but murder, and this murder was a result of a conspiracy by the Establishment, in particular His Royal Highness Prince Philip and the security and intelligence services,’ said Stevens. ‘These were very, very serious allegations that went to the very heart of the Royal Family, MI5 and MI6.’

He added: ‘We made the decision early on to remind ourselves, regularly, that Mr Al Fayed was a grieving father. And we got on pretty well over that three-year period until, I’m afraid, we gave our conclusions and the relationship deteriorated pretty rapidly after that.’

The sheer number of conspiracy allegations which had to be examined by Paget led him to break them down into 16 different ‘themes’. These were then assigned to members of his team to be pursued concurrently.

This week Stevens took the Mail through the bombshell core allegations supposed to have provided a motive for murder.

The princess was pregnant

This was one of Al Fayed’s most incendiary claims. There was plenty of eyewitness and circumstantial evidence that Diana was not expecting a baby when she died. But could Paget prove or disprove her condition scientifically so long after the event?

‘The thing we wanted to do very, very quickly was to get the [wreck of the Mercedes] back over from France so that we could have it examined by the forensic people,’ said Stevens. ‘Look at the blood, see if we could actually find out from the blood — though it had never been done before — whether or not Princess Diana had been pregnant. In the car there were still traces of her blood and other people’s blood which we wanted to test. So we managed to get it back and the Transport Research Laboratory took it to bits.’

A DNA test identified a sample of Diana’s blood from the carpet inside the Mercedes. Then, at the request of the Paget team, a private forensic company carried out a further test. This was supervised by Professor David Cowan, head of forensic science and drug monitoring at King’s College, London. No sign of the pregnancy hormone HCG was found. The probability from the blood sample is that she was not pregnant,’ said Stevens. ‘The samples were seven to eight years old and it was a long shot but we had to give it a go.

‘Not conclusive but on a sliding scale, no, she was not pregnant. Taken together with other eyewitness accounts, and her use of contraceptives at the time, there is a degree of certainty.’ The Mail can reveal that the world-renowned fertility expert Lord (Robert) Winston assisted the Paget team in reaching this conclusion.

A DNA test identified a sample of Diana’s blood from the carpet inside the Mercedes (pictured). Then, at the request of the Paget team, a private forensic company carried out a further test

A DNA test identified a sample of Diana’s blood from the carpet inside the Mercedes (pictured). Then, at the request of the Paget team, a private forensic company carried out a further test

She was embalmed to mask pregnancy

Al Fayed claimed that the embalming carried out at the hospital on August 31, prior to the arrival of Prince Charles and Diana’s sisters, was a deliberate attempt to conceal her pregnancy. This had been orchestrated by MI6 and the British embassy.

‘If a woman is embalmed, the formaldehyde used in the process can result in a false positive for pregnancy,’ explained Stevens.

‘Mr Al Fayed said this was done so Diana’s pregnancy could be blamed on the embalming fluid. In fact she was embalmed that afternoon at the request of the French authorities, following their own rules and regulations. They brought in a female embalmer.

‘We interviewed her and she told us she did exactly to Diana what she would have done with anyone else. It was a chaotic situation but the French simply wanted to make her presentable.’

Diana and Dodi were getting engaged

Al Fayed alleged that Diana was in a serious relationship with his son and they intended to marry. The Establishment was not prepared to accept a Muslim as Diana’s husband, nor stepfather to a future king. As a result they had to be killed.

The existence or otherwise of an ‘engagement’ ring was one of the most intriguing aspects of the Paget inquiry.

Celebrity jeweller Alberto Repossi, who owned a shop on the Place Vendome in Paris, a display window in the Ritz hotel and another shop in Monte Carlo, was interviewed by Paget investigators no fewer than three times.

Even so, a convincing ‘narrative thread’ regarding such a ring remained elusive. Al Fayed claimed that the couple had seen a ring at the Repossi store in Monaco. But their bodyguards insisted that they did not go into the shop.

On the evening of his death, Dodi visited the Repossi store in the Place Vendome. The hotel’s deputy manager then also paid a visit and returned to the Ritz with two rings. One of them was from the Dis-moi Oui (French for Say Yes to Me) range. This was later found in Dodi’s apartment.

The existence or otherwise of an ‘engagement’ ring was one of the most intriguing aspects of the Paget inquiry. Paris jeweller Alberto Repossi sold Dodi Fayed this dlrs 205,400 diamond friendship ring he gave Princess Diana shortly before the car crash that killed them Sept 1, 1997

The existence or otherwise of an ‘engagement’ ring was one of the most intriguing aspects of the Paget inquiry. Paris jeweller Alberto Repossi sold Dodi Fayed this dlrs 205,400 diamond friendship ring he gave Princess Diana shortly before the car crash that killed them Sept 1, 1997

Paget spoke to Diana’s close friends. None of them had been told of a potential engagement. Indeed Diana was opposed to remarriage.

Stevens also submitted written questions to Prince William: ‘One of the most important was whether his mother had expressed to him whether or not she was going to get married. And he categorically said she had not.’

The Paget team still believe that the paparazzi in Paris that weekend might have been tipped off —they will not say by whom — about the possibility of a ‘$1 million first photo’ of Diana wearing such an engagement ring.

‘A picture of the ring would have been worth a fortune,’ said Stevens. ‘Just why were the paparazzi in such a frenzy that night after a whole summer of Diana and Dodi pictures?’

Paget was not allowed to interview the paparazzi as they had already been questioned by their French colleagues.

Stevens believes that the first time that Dodi saw the Dis-moi Oui ring was when the Ritz manager brought it to the hotel hours before the fatal crash.

‘We believe that Dodi was probably going to ask Diana to marry him and she would have said “no”,’ Stevens told the Mail.

‘We suspect his butler was waiting at his Rue Arsene Houssaye apartment with the ring to be presented after the aborted meal at Chez Benoit. The restaurant was too public a place to propose.’

Henri Paul’s blood samples swapped

Al Fayed claimed that Henri Paul had been part of a secret service murder plot. He also suggested that blood samples taken from his body after death came from someone else altogether, in order to cover up the truth.

Precisely how this fitted into his conspiracy theory — for example by causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle — was not made clear, but it is true that the carbon monoxide levels in Paul’s blood samples were extraordinarily high.

‘This was a real problem for us,’ said Stevens. ‘The blood sample was supposed to have been taken from his heart, where the blood is most pure.

‘The reading for carbon monoxide from that sample was 20.7 per cent, which was very hard to explain. At those levels he would have been staggering around…barely conscious.’ The high reading (the true level was around 12 per cent) was the result of mistakes made at the French forensic laboratory.

Pictured: Henri Paul, the driver of the car that carried Princess Diana, her boyfriend Dodi and himself to their deaths on the Aug 31 high-speed crash in a traffic tunnel at the Pont de l'Alma in Paris

Pictured: Henri Paul, the driver of the car that carried Princess Diana, her boyfriend Dodi and himself to their deaths on the Aug 31 high-speed crash in a traffic tunnel at the Pont de l’Alma in Paris

The particular blood samples had not been taken from Paul’s heart but his chest cavity, a location which would have been vulnerable to contamination during or immediately after the crash.

The sample vials were then mislabelled as ‘heart blood’. Documents which confirmed that the samples came from the chest cavity rather than the heart were then misplaced in the archive. ‘It was very awkward [to untangle],’ says Stevens. ‘But it would have been a very big problem for Paget if we had not discovered the mistake.’

Blood samples showed an alcohol content which would have ‘impaired’ Paul’s ability to drive safely. ‘We never used the word “drunk” in the report,’ said Stevens. ‘But put yourself in his shoes that Saturday night.

‘He left work after a long and stressful day and probably had a glass of wine or two. I would have done the same myself.

‘And when the unexpected recall came he couldn’t refuse. The circumstances would have put him further on edge. I think he was just one of those persons who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. And for that he lost his life.

‘I think if Diana had Scotland Yard protection there, linked with the French security services and their protection, then this wouldn’t have happened.

‘I’ve got no doubt about that. Certainly Henri Paul wouldn’t have been driving that car.’

After three years Paget was ready to report. There had been no conspiracy. And no one could have saved the Princess.

Stevens had a private meeting with Princes William and Harry at St James’s Palace the day before his report was delivered.

‘The Princes were quite keen to see me on my own and for me to take them through the main issues … and what our conclusions were,’ Stevens recalled.

‘They didn’t want anyone else in the room. Just the three of us.

‘We spent 90 minutes together and it was an incredibly emotional situation. They were invited to ask any question they wanted to and they did. I know our conclusions were a relief to them.’

That same day, Paget informed Mohamed Al Fayed’s office and lawyers of the conclusions the investigation had reached.

‘We sent him a message that I would like to see him to explain the conclusions in person,’ Stevens recalled. ‘But the message came back that Mr Al Fayed did not want to meet me.

‘The only time I saw Mr Al Fayed after that was at the inquest when I was giving evidence and he was in the court.

‘By then, sadly, he had rubbished the report and wouldn’t take the conclusions at all. But there will always be people around who cannot believe someone like Diana died in this most horrendous and tragic circumstance without there being a conspiracy.’

Indeed, there still are. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk