Jury: Driver, Paparazzi to Blame for Princess Di's Death

Jury: Driver, Paparazzi to Blame for Princess Di's Death
Princess Diana
sipa

updated 04/07/2008 at 11:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/07/2008 11:40AM

The jury at the inquest into the 1997 deaths of Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed found they were unlawfully killed because of the actions of their driver and the pursuing paparazzi, it was announced Monday.

The couple's deaths were caused by the "unlawful, negligent driving of the Mercedes and the following vehicles," the 11 jurors determined.

The jury also delivered a damning verdict for driver Henri Paul, who also perished in the Paris traffic tunnel crash. The accident, they said, was "caused or contributed to" by the speed and manner of driving of the Mercedes and the following vehicles, the impairment of the driver through alcohol, the fact that neither were wearing seatbelts and that the car hit a pillar in the Paris underpass.

The jury's decision followed more than 23 hours of deliberation. Earlier Monday, the coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker said the 11 members could return a majority verdict so long as nine of them agreed.

The inquest opened in October and lasted more than six months. In that time, claims and counterclaims about the events leading up to the tragic event of Aug. 31, 1997, were heard.

Friends of the princess's recounted how her former boyfriend, surgeon Hasnat Khan, was her real true love, while tender notes to and from Diana to both her father-in-law Prince Philip and Fayed – the son of Harrods department-store owner Mohamed Al Fayed – were also presented.

Khan broke his silence during the inquest to say of the proceeding, "I hope it settles all the questions."

Reaction to Findings

After Monday's announcement, Mohamed Al Fayed said he was "disappointed" with the outcome. He has long promoted the theory that the couple were murdered by the secret service at the behest of the royal family.

"The verdicts have come as a blow to many millions of people around the world," said a statement read by his spokeswoman Katharine Witty. Adding that the inquest had proven that the couple were in a "serious relationship, his statement went on to say, "They were taken away in the prime of their life when they were at their happiest. I will always mourn their loss to me and the world."

Also appearing distressed was Princess Diana's sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, who was present in court to hear the verdicts. She left 25 minutes later, looking grim. Accompanying her was Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, private secretary to Prince William and Prince Harry.

The entire investigation took three-and-a-half years, with the inquest costing an estimated $16 million, according to Scotland Yard's deputy commissioner Paul Stephenson. He and former commissioner Lord Stevens also said the jury verdict vindicated their findings that there was no conspiracy.

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