Diana inquest delayed until October
Reuters | March 6, 2007
The judge investigating the death of Princess Diana in a Paris car crash 10 years ago decided on Tuesday to postpone the opening of the inquest until October.
Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, who had hoped to start the long delayed inquest in May, put the date back after pleas from the lawyers of Mohamed al Fayed, whose son Dodi died alongside Diana.
Fayed, owner of the luxury Harrods department store, has long argued that the couple were victims of a plot hatched by the security services.
That sparked a dramatic courtroom clash in a preliminary hearing on Monday when Butler-Sloss challenged al Fayed to back up his allegations.
"There is not a shred of evidence given to me about these allegations," she said. "If there is no evidence to support them, I shall not present them to the jury."
Fayed's lawyer Michael Mansfield had argued that the full inquest should be delayed until October to give him more time to study reports and expert opinion.
Diana, 36, Dodi, 42, and their chauffeur were killed when their Mercedes limousine smashed into a pillar in a Paris road tunnel as they sped away from the Ritz Hotel, pursued by paparazzi on motorbikes.
A three-year police investigation found last year that the crash was an accident and not part of a murder plot as Fayed claims.
The inquiry backed a French probe which concluded that chauffeur Henri Paul, acting head of security at the Ritz which is owned by Fayed, was to blame because he was drunk, under the influence of anti-depressants and driving too fast.
The inquest has taken a decade to come to court as Britain had to wait for the French legal process to be exhausted and then for the police investigation to run its course.
Under the law, an inquest is needed to formally determine the cause of death when someone dies unnaturally.