Princess Diana’s Death: Conspiracy without End

Robin Kuehn
Professor Elliot Neaman
Historical Methods
13 December 2010
Princess Diana’s Death: An Accident the People cannot Accept
On the fateful morning of August 31, 1997 the world woke up to the shocking news of Princess Diana’s death. She had the fantasy life that most outsiders dreamed of: a royal husband, two beautiful sons, an unlimited and fashionable wardrobe, a beautiful face, media attention, a personable touch, and the list goes on. Although her life was photographed as a fairytale, what lay behind the smiles for the camera was a dark and lonely personal life inflicted with a loveless marriage and the pressure to conform to the rigid standards of royal etiquette. After putting up with Prince Charles for too long and having her divorce finalized in July 1996 she was able to move on and live her own dreams of helping the less fortunate. With the weight of a horrendous marriage off her back, Diana showed the world her ability to remain a strong and independent woman without needing a husband at her side. Not only was she a single mom but also she was able to touch the hearts of those who were suffering from AIDS and the people living in countries polluted with land mines. She was the Queen of Hearts and when the world heard the news of her death, it caused grief amongst millions admirers. According to the Kubler Ross 5 stages of grief model, people cope with death first through denial, then anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance . After some time most people accepted her death and moved on, however there were some who remained stuck in the denial stage. They immediately began to question the cause of her death. Was there a plot to murder Diana? If so, who could be behind it? People were looking for answers to a question that might not even have an answer. Association cannot be proof of fault, so in the case of Princess Diana’s death, one should not assume that anyone close to the Princess played a role in her death. Although it seems like there is evidence to back up the claim that the monarchy was responsible for Princess Diana and Dodi al Fayed’s death, the evidence can also be manipulated to make it look like Mohammad Al Fayed (Dodi’s father) planned the accident. After all the investigation that had been completed, like Operation Paget, there still was no concrete evidence to prove either party guilty, so Diana and Dodi’s tragic death remains the result of a serious accident. After Operation Paget was completed and it was found that the crash was an accident, anyone who refused to believe the evidence could be considered a conspiracy theorist. It was hard for Mohammad al Fayed (Dodi al Fayed’s father) to accept the cause of Princess Diana and Dodi al Fayed’s death as just an accident, even though all the evidence proves it. The motive for his need to find a cause of death can be interpreted in different ways: either he is truly looking for a culprit or he is trying to divert the attention away from himself as being the cause.
The chronology of events that took place on August 30, 1997 that lead to the Henri Paul, Princess Diana, and Dodi al Fayed’s death at a little past midnight on August 31, 1997 are as follows. Upon arrival to Paris from a relaxing vacation in Sardenia with Dodi, the couple was immediately escorted to Dodi’s apartment. From the apartment they drove back to the Ritz Hotel to settle down in the Imperial Suite. After making a few phone calls it is assumed that they were off to dinner so Henri Paul was officially off duty. While Dodi and Diana attempted to enjoy a quiet meal in the city, no one kept track of what Henri Paul was doing on his time off (no one really cared either). The Princess and Dodi returned to the hotel after an unsuccessful dinner in the city so they ate in the Imperial Suite of the hotel instead. At 9:50pm once their meal was completed, Henri Paul was called back to drive the couple back to Dodi’s apartment. At 12:20am they left the hotel and although the couple did not notice that Henri Paul was drunk, several of the paparazzi noticed that he was laughing excessively and ranting about how no one would be able to catch them tonight. Once they entered that car and closed the door behind them, their fate was sealed . As they sped through the streets and into the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel, the car that Henri Paul was driving sped out of control and hit a pillar. It is here where there is controversy as to what exactly happened. Since it was past 11pm and the video camera security office was already closed, there was no way to view some video footage of what actually happened that fateful night in the tunnel.
Because there were so many questions left unanswered at the time of Princess Diana’s death, conspiracy theories were created in an attempt to fill the gap. Some of the questions that the coroner still had even 10 years after the accident were: “whether a Fiat Uno or any other vehicle caused or contributed to the collision, the circumstances relating to the purchase of the ring, whether the British or any other security services had any involvement in the collision…”
Absurd Conspiracy Theories
Several conspiracy theories arose as an attempt to find an explanation for Princess’ death; they ranged from absolutely ridiculous and impossible to theories that made people actually stop and think twice about them before dismissing them. One of the most outrageous theories is the idea that Diana faked the whole accident so the world would think that she was dead. The idea was that once the world grieved and forgot about her, she and Dodi could escape to a private island and live in peace forever. Since Diana was sick and tired of the media intruding in every facet of her private life, this theory may seem like a dream come true, but it is highly unrealistic. There were videotapes, pictures, and audio recordings from the Ritz Hotel that show her and Dodi al Fayed walking to the car. There are also pictures of her in the car immediately after the accident. In order for this theory to have actually worked Diana would have had to find someone identical to her (including matching DNA since blood samples were tested) and magically switched spots between the time that she entered into the car and her death. This is nearly impossible because there were paparazzi following the car the whole way from the hotel to the tunnel. Also, it is easy to dismiss this theory since the Coroner’s reports all show thorough blood tests and other medical examinations that prove the woman who died in the car was actually Princess Diana. Personally, I also do not believe that Princess Diana would be selfish enough to leave her sons and her duties to the world in order to live on a secluded island with her boyfriend. She was too generous and her heart was too big to be isolated on an island. For this conspiracy theory to be valid, at least a few people would have to know about the plot so that they could assist in the switching of the “Princess Diana look alike.” I think it would be incredibly hard for those people to keep quiet about her situation, making the possibility of this conspiracy theory a zero. In her Panorama interview Diana’s response to a question asking if she was out to destroy the monarchy was, “…why would I want to destroy my child’s future?” This response proves that Diana was always looking out for her children’s best interest. She could sacrifice her desires and suppress her bitterness for the monarchy so that her children could grow up in a secure environment. I do not believe that Princess Diana would have thought that selfishly disappearing with Dodi to escape the media would be the best option for Prince William and Harry.
An even more ridiculous conspiracy theory is that God smote Diana and Dodi off the face of the planet because she was sleeping with a man (Dodi) that was not her husband. These conspiracy theorists base their idea on Deuteronomy 22:22 which reads, “If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.” The fact that some people think that the accident was a direct hand of God is ridiculous since they choose to disregard the fact that the driver was drunk and it was a mere accident due to driving under the influence. Also, if you read the Bible verse literally, she was divorced to Charles by now so she technically was not married Prince Charles anymore. Her divorce was on July 15, 1996. When religious extremists use the Bible to explain everything, it becomes hard to explain evidence and have a logical conversation with them. If you disregard concrete evidence there is no way that you can accept the proven facts.
Mohammad as a Father
As a father, Mohammad had a legitimate reason to question the cause of his son’s death. To find internal peace and closure, Mohammad al Fayed looked for answers to his questions about who was responsible for the car accident. When the answers did not satisfy him he went to court to find justice. Under the concerned father image, Mohammad just wanted to find justice for his son and wanted to find the true reason for his son’s death. He spent millions of dollars to try and find a culprit and have justice prevail, however his finger pointing only led to all the fingers being pointed back to him.
Currently, Mohammad still has a portion of his website devoted to the “truth” about Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed’s death. He remains saddened about his son’s passing and is still trying to keep the memory of him alive by continuing to search for someone who will right the wrong of his Dodi’s death.
Mohammad as a Conspiracy Theorist
Using the characteristics listed in Denying History, Mohammad al Fayed exemplifies the fact that, “they focus on what is not known and ignore what is known, carefully selecting data that fit and ignoring data that do not fit into their preconceived ideas.” Mohammad tried to find external factors that triggered Henri Paul’s speeding like the flash bulb at the end of the tunnel or chasing paparazzi. Instead of accepting that drunk driving causes extreme behavior Mohammad chose to ignore that fact and picked other out of context details to make it seem like Henri Paul had no other option to speed. Mohammad has been known to be fixated on certain details that don’t exactly add up to the fact that it was as purely an accident. He uses those minor details to discredit the whole theory of the accident. In order to have a fair trial, Mohammad al Fayed’s investigation “should not be motivated, for example, by the desire to curry favor with an advertiser or to advance a particular political interest.” In fact, Mohammad has done the opposite; he has been looking for a clue that proves that the accident was a result of a conspiracy theory. Motivated by his own goals of finding a culprit he has manipulated evidence to fit them into his own conspiracy theory.
In order to find a responsible party for Princesss Diana and Dodi Al Fayed’s death, Mohammad has blamed several different people and organizations. The first group of people he found fault in was the paparazzi. From the beginning of Princess Diana’s courtship to Prince Charles, the paparazzi were present to document her every move. This constant presence of paparazzi did not stop when she began dating Dodi, in fact the paparazzi thrived on photos of their relationship. They remained intrusive even after she died in the car accident, for there were still photographers snapping photos of her in the mangled car after the accident. Because the paparazzi had a long history of causing problems with the subjects of their photos, it was easy for Mohammad to blame them. It could have easily been a flash bulb that blinded Henri Paul or a Paparazzo that accidentally hit the car in a mad dash to get a close up shot, in the end the Paparazzi were present at every stage of their night and visible at the accident, the paparazzi became an easy target for blame. After media attention swirled around the possibility of the paparazzi being the cause of Princess Diana’s death, the photographers defended themselves and claimed they were being made the scapegoats. Mohammad may have picked an easy target at first, but after the investigations dismissed the paparazzi of being at fault, Mohammad had to find another culprit.
Mohammad Al Fayed’s main conspiracy allegation is that the M16 (British intelligence) assisting in carrying out the murder for Prince Philip. He claimed that the ‘“establishment’ could not accept that an Egyptian Muslim could eventually be the stepfather of the future King of England.” There are several reasons why this theory could appear valid, for there are several reasons as to why the Queen would prefer that Diana was dead. Rumors spread like wild fire that the Queen wanted her killed because she didn’t want a Muslim in the family, Diana was pregnant, Diana was a disgrace to the royal family, etc. There were several clues or coincidences that made it easy to point fingers at the Queen. For example, in a private letter to Paul Burrell (Diana’s butler) she wrote, “my husband is planning ‘an accident’ in my car. Brake failure or serious head injury in order to make the path clear for him to marry Tiggy.” One of Diana’s close confidantes Lucia Flecha da Lima believes that Paul Burrell faked the note, since he was able to mimic the Princess’ handwriting. Mohammad could have paid Paul a large sum of money to fake the note in order to make his theory look more valid. Lucia Flecha de Lima spoke with Diana on several occasions, even a day before her death and does not remember Diana expressing any fears for her life. At first it seems right that Diana was uncontrollable and a disruption to the royal family traditions, but I don’t think the Queen would risk the reputation of the royal to dispose of an unruly princess. I also do not believe that she would want her grandchildren to suffer the pain of losing a mother at such a young age.
Another reason why some people make think the Queen killed the princess was because the Sunday of Diana’s death, the Queen made the Prince William and Prince Harry attend church as if nothing happened. Because the lack of empathy on the Queen’s behalf, Mohammad used this instance to further prove his point that the Queen was behind the whole plot. She obviously did not have an emotion or sadness over the loss so Mohammad assumed that this meant she was happy that her secret plan succeeded.
The Controversy Surrounding Henri Paul
Henri Paul was an employee of Mohammad Al Fayed, so people began placing the fault on Mohammad. Maybe that is the reason why he began making up different rumors about her pregnancy, their engagement about the flash of light that caused Henri Paul to swerve. All the conspiracy theories that were put out there by Mohammad were his attempt to divert the fingers pointing to him or his fault. Mohammad claimed that it was all an outside influence that caused the accident, not Henri Paul who was an employee of Mohammad. Mohammad may have been pouring all this money into investigation either to attain justice for his son’s death or to have media attention drawn away from him and to the monarchy instead.
Many people have concluded that there could have been a master plot behind the car crash because there were several instances that occurred that seemed a little too coincidental. For example, Henri Paul’s bank account had a suspicious amount of extra cash deposited just days earlier, which led to a suspicion that he was paid to crash the car and kill the Princess and Dodi. If an uninformed person did not look into the details of the accident, they could easily think that the accident was the result of a plot and the extra money in Henri Paul’s bank account was his reward money for fulfilling a mission. However, the truth behind the money in Henri Paul’s bank account was for him to purchase last minute items for guests who did not have cash on hand. The guests would be billed later.
Mohammad also puts fault on the French health system. Thomas A. Sancton investigates the details of the emergency health care on the night of the accident. Henri Paul and Mr. Fayed were killed instantaneously upon impact of the car crashing while Princess Diana was still alive but had thoracic trauma, some cuts on the forehead, arm, and thigh as well as a dislocated shoulder. Her bodyguard was still alive but suffered only from a broken wrist and several severe injuries to the face. Immediately after the crash a physician with the SOS medicines private medical group arrived on the scene because he was coincidentally driving in the tunnel at the same time as the accident. Upon arrival to the site of the accident he did not know who was involved so he immediately began to help the woman with the most hope for survival by putting her head in a position where she could breathe easier. Since he did not have medical equipment on hand, he called the emergency services as soon as he could. The French have a system where they try to treat the patient on site and stabilize them before transporting them to the hospital. In America it is the opposite, we scoop the patient up and bring them to the hospital as fast as we can. The French emergency service Sapeurs-Pompiers is like a “mobile hospital unit” because it has the capability of treating the patient thoroughly en route, but the crew failed to identify the Princess’ internal bleeding. They took 40 minutes to drive to the hospital rather than a usual 10-minute drive. This was a point where Mohammad argued that it was a conspiracy for the Queen probably paid the ambulance workers to slowly drive to the hospital so Princess Diana’s likelihood of surviving would be lower.
In addition to the lack of evidence that supports the fact that the accident was a murder, Baker, the coroner and Ian Burnett, the lead counsel for the inquest both suggested that the amount of people that Fayed claimed that were part of the conspiracy would have made it incredibly hard to remain a secret. Baker said, “ A lot of people were involved in the plot” meaning that for every single one of those people to keep their mouths shut and keep the evidence hidden must have been something close to a miracle, especially with the nosiness of the paparazzi and the temptation to sell information for a lot of money.
Operation Paget
Operation Paget was a government funded intensive investigation conducted by Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington in 2004 to finally settle any disputes and controversies as to the cause of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed’s death. Mainly this investigation was to put all of Mr. Al Fayed’s claims that the accident was a planned murder to rest. Lord Stevens and his team contacted everyone involved in the accident from the French Police to Prince William. He claims that all organizations and people involved have been extremely cooperative and there had been no attempts to hold back information, therefore his report is fully complete and his conclusions are accurate. The result of the investigation and their findings all are stated when Lord Stevens writes, “Our conclusion is that, on all the evidence available at this time, there was no conspiracy to murder any of the occupants of the car. This was a tragic accident. “ Operation Paget refutes the claims suggested by Mohammad al Fayed about the engagement and pregnancy. According to the interviews with Lady Sarah McCorquodale (Diana’s sister), Paul Burrell, and Rosa Monkton there was no indication that Diana had an intention of marrying Dodi. In fact she mentioned that she needed marriage, “as a rash on her face.”
After researching the many opinions on the cause of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed’s death, I have to agree with Lord Steven’s conclusion that their death was the result of a tragic accident. No one knows what Mohammad’s intentions are in pointing fingers at the monarchy, paparazzi, and even the French Health care but he has become a conspiracy theorist in not recognizing the concrete proof. Mohammad exemplifies the characteristics of a conspiracy theorist by having an agenda that he is trying to fill and finding specific clues and details that fulfill his agenda while leaving out other important information.

Works Cited
Baker, Lord Justice Scott, “Coroner’s Inquests into the Deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and Mr. Dodi Al Fayed” (accessed November 4, 2010)
Burns, John F, “In Diana Inquest, a conspiracy theory with new twists” New York Times. (Accessed November 4, 2010)
Levine, Michael. The Princess and the Package: exploring the love-hate relationship between Diana and the media. Los Angeles, CA: Renaissance Books, 1998
Oxon, D. Phil and Thomas A. Sancton. “Death of a Princess, Did Princess Diana Have to Die?: A Case Study in French Emergency Medicine.” The Internet Journal of Rescue and Disaster Medicine 2000: Volume 1 Number 2, (accessed November 4, 2010)
Rayner, Gordon, “ Princess Diana Letter: ‘Charles plans to kill me’”
Sancton, Thomas A., “ Death of a Princess, Did Princess Diana Have to Die?: A Case Study in French Medicine” Internet Scientific Publications. (accessed November 4, 2010)
Shermer, Michael, and Alex Grobman. Denying History. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2000.
Stevens, John, “The Operation Paget inquiry report into the allegation of conspiracy to murder.” (2006), 5,
(accessed November 4 2010)
“Dodi and Diana: Their Story” (accessed November 9 2010)
“Princess Diana’s Accident” [Accident], (accessed November 20, 2010).
“Princess Diana’s Death: Conspiracy Theories” (Accessed November 9 2010)


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