After more than 10 years, Princess Diana may now rest in peace. Or would she?
Last Monday, April 7, 2008, a British inquest jury delivered a verdict of unlawful killing in the deaths of the Princess and her boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed in the August 31, 1997 Paris car crash, blaming the driving of their chauffeur Henri Paul, who was also killed, and chasing paparazzi photographers.
Later, Dodi’s father, the billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed declared that enough is enough as he announced that he was abandoning his decade-long legal battle over Princess Diana’s fatal car crash, and accepting an inquest verdict into her death, but “with reservations.”
The owner of London’s up-scale Harrods department store told a British broadcaster that he was “tired” but maintained that Diana and Dodi were murdered as part of a British government plot.
Fayed was quoted as saying he did not want to cause any further pain to Diana’s sons. “I’m leaving the rest for God to get my revenge,” he said.
Fayed has argued that the 1997 crash in Paris that killed his son, Dodi, and the princess was engineered by British intelligence agents working for the royal family.
But a French investigation and the British coroner’s inquest blamed the crash on the driver and photographers pursuing Diana.
Last April 7, nine of the 11 jurors rendered a verdict of “unlawful killing.” There was no indication why there were two dissenters.
All 11 agreed that the car slamming head-on into a concrete pillar rather than striking the wall on the other side was a key factor in the deaths of Diana and Dodi. The jury also faulted the two for not buckling their seat belts.
But jurors laid the heaviest blame on the couple’s driver, Henri Paul, who had been drinking shortly before the high-speed crash that killed all three in a Paris underpass, and on the paparazzi following them.
Diana’s sons, Princes William and Harry, issued a statement expressing support for the verdict and thanking the jurors for their long work.
The death of Diana and Dodi came six weeks after romance bloomed while Diana and her two sons were guests of Mohamed Al Fayed in southern France.
In the following weeks, Diana and Dodi Fayed shared sea cruises, dinners in Paris, even a helicopter trip in England to visit a medium trusted by Diana. Fayed showered Diana with lavish gifts, including a ring that may or may not have been intended to seal an engagement, reports said.
When the couple flew to Paris on Aug. 30, 1997, they were pursued from the airport by paparazzi, who then swarmed outside the Ritz Hotel — owned by Mohamed Al Fayed.
Hoping to shake off the paparazzi, Dodi Fayed agreed to a plan to sneak out the back way in a single car. At least three photographers weren’t fooled, and the chase was on.
Reports said Dodi died instantly when the Mercedes, traveling more than 60 mph, slammed into a concrete pillar in the Alma underpass at 12:22 a.m. Medics initially thought Diana would survive her severe injuries, but she died at Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital around 4 a.m. Only Diana’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees, lived.
French police announced a day after the crash that tests on Paul’s blood showed his blood-alcohol level was three times over the national drunk-driving standard.
The cover of the book on this British tragedy may have been closed, perhaps even sealed, with the jury verdict. But just like the John F. Kennedy assassination and other high-profile whodunit cases, the Diana controversy will linger on.
There will always be unanswered questions. Or answers that raise more questions. Conspiracy theories will not be silenced by a verdict.
But just like what the Good Book says, there’s a time for everything. A time to weep, a time to rejoice, a time to doubt, a time to feel assured, a time to raise one’s voice in protest, a time to keep silent.
I guess, the time to accept the fate of Diana and Dodi has come. May they now rest in majestic peace.
Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed in Paris in 1997, one of the last pictures taken of the two ill-fated couple.