Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories: Was the Fatal Crash All it Seems?


Princess Diana’s death in Paris on August 31, 1997 was a tragic accident blamed on her driver who hit a pillar in a tunnel, yet conspiracy theories continue to rage. 

Diana, her companion, Dodi Fayed, and their driver Henri Paul died in the crash; bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones was badly injured and was in hospital for more than a month. 

SPYSCAPE examines some of the more notorious conspiracy theories and finds that not everything can be explained away!

Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories: Was the Fatal Crash All it Seems?
Princess Diana and her companion, Dodi Fayed, in August 1997


1. Murder or an accident?

Allegation: Mohamed Al Fayed, the former Harrods owner and Dodi’s father, believes Diana and Dodi were the victims of a murder plot involving the British security services and Prince Philip who acted before the couple could announce their engagement.

The investigation: British coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker said there was no evidence to support Mohamed Al Fayed’s theory that there was a conspiracy involving the British Secret Services and Prince Philip, late husband to Queen Elizabeth. Al Fayed’s request for a judicial review linked to the coroner’s inquest was denied. Forensic expert Angela Gallop examined evidence relating to the 1997 car crash and found no grounds to support a murder claim.

Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories: Was the Fatal Crash All it Seems?

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Princess Diana’s death in Paris on August 31, 1997 was a tragic accident blamed on her driver who hit a pillar in a tunnel, yet conspiracy theories continue to rage. 

Diana, her companion, Dodi Fayed, and their driver Henri Paul died in the crash; bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones was badly injured and was in hospital for more than a month. 

SPYSCAPE examines some of the more notorious conspiracy theories and finds that not everything can be explained away!

Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories: Was the Fatal Crash All it Seems?
Princess Diana and her companion, Dodi Fayed, in August 1997


1. Murder or an accident?

Allegation: Mohamed Al Fayed, the former Harrods owner and Dodi’s father, believes Diana and Dodi were the victims of a murder plot involving the British security services and Prince Philip who acted before the couple could announce their engagement.

The investigation: British coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker said there was no evidence to support Mohamed Al Fayed’s theory that there was a conspiracy involving the British Secret Services and Prince Philip, late husband to Queen Elizabeth. Al Fayed’s request for a judicial review linked to the coroner’s inquest was denied. Forensic expert Angela Gallop examined evidence relating to the 1997 car crash and found no grounds to support a murder claim.

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Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories: Was the Fatal Crash All it Seems?

2. Was Diana pregnant? 

Allegation: Al Fayed also claimed Princess Diana was pregnant with Dodi’s baby. His theory was fueled by a 2003 article in The Independent citing an unnamed senior French police source suggesting a cover-up of the pregnancy.

The investigation: Rosa Monckton, a close friend of Diana, said she was with the Princess shortly before her death and knew Diana was not pregnant. Forensic expert Angela Gallop analyzed Diana's stomach contents for Operation Paget - the Metropolitan Police inquiry - and also said Diana was not pregnant.

Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories: Was the Fatal Crash All it Seems?

3. Did a flash of light distract driver Henri Paul in the dark tunnel?

Allegation - Did someone deliberately disorient driver Henri Paul by flashing a light in the dark tunnel? Former MI6 agent Richard Tomlinson, who was dismissed by the British Security Services, told Mohamed Al Fayed that the security services’ planned to sabotage Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević by dazzling a flashlight in a road tunnel to cause a fatal accident, which sounded eerily similar to the Diana theory.

Investigation - Tomlinson backtracked on his statement while testifying at an inquest in 2008, saying he may have confused his details. A second MI6 witness told the Inquest that such a document had been drawn up but denied Milosevic was the target and noted his MI6 superiors dismissed the plan as ‘out of the question’. 

Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories: Was the Fatal Crash All it Seems?


4. Was the British Special Air Services (SAS) involved?

Allegation - For decades, some conspiracy theorists have believed the SAS was involved. Scotland Yard even launched a probe after an ex-soldier - known as Soldier N - allegedly claimed that the princess was murdered by the special forces unit who flashed a light (see 3 above) using a technique developed to ­combat terrorists.

Investigation - Soldier N's claims about Diana's death were sent to police in July 2013 after the court-martial of another SAS sniper. Soldier N was initially given two years’ detention for his part, then retried and given a suspended two-year jail term. Scotland Yard dismissed reports that SAS troops were behind Diana and Dodi's deaths, ­insisting there was “no credible evidence”.

Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories: Was the Fatal Crash All it Seems?

5. Was Henri Paul a spy?

Allegations - Ex-MI6 officer Tomlinson initially accused Henri Paul of being a paid MI6 informant (then later said he couldn't be certain) and writer/broadcaster Gerald Posner said an NSA source told him that Henri Paul had a meeting with a member of the French DGSE (Direction Generale de la Securite) on the evening he died. The London inquest heard that Paul was carrying £1,250 in cash (about $1,500), adding fuel to the fire.

Investigation - In the great hall of mirrors, it is difficult to know if Paul was a spy. DGSE denied knowledge of Paul but two documents in the French judicial dossier of Judge Hervé Stéphan showed a link between Paul and the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire, the domestic French intelligence agency that deals with espionage. Paul may not have been a paid MI6 informer, but Lord Stevens believed he was likely a low-level informant for the French secret services and police.

Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories: Was the Fatal Crash All it Seems?

6. Was Henri Paul drunk when he crashed in the Paris tunnel? 

Allegation - While Henri Paul was described as "drunk" before he left the Ritz with Princess Diana, Dodi Fayed, and bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, there was no consensus among witnesses and some even thought he was sober. So how much did Henri Paul really drink?

Investigation - French investigators concluded that Paul’s alcohol level was three times the legal limit. Laws differ across Europe, however, so by other measures Paul was only twice the British legal limit. In any event, he was over the legal limit - if the blood samples were actually his. Professor Atholl Johnston, a clinical pharmacologist, told investigators that one of the blood samples was probably not Paul’s but other experts disagreed. In any event, if there was a mix-up, the authorities decided it was likely accidental.

Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories: Was the Fatal Crash All it Seems?

7. Did someone tamper with the seatbelts in the Mercedes? 

Allegation: According to Britain’s tabloid newspapers, detectives examined evidence that the seat belt fastening pins were filed down - but then again, detectives examined every inch of the car so it wouldn’t be unusual to check theories related to the seat belts.

Investigation: While much was made of Diana’s propensity to wear a seat belt, she was not wearing one on the evening of the fatal crash. Both French and British examinations of the Mercedes found no mechanical issues that could have caused or contributed to the crash. There was no defect in the seat belt system.

Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories: Was the Fatal Crash All it Seems?

8. None of the CCTV cameras in the tunnel were operating at the time of the crash

Allegation - According to The Independent newspaper, there were at least 14 CCTV cameras in the Pont de l'Alma underpass, yet none recorded footage of the fatal collision leading to speculation of a high-level conspiracy.

Investigations: Pascal Poulain was the Room Commander on Saturday 30 August 1997. He told investigators that staff tried to use the camera in the Place de l’Alma to view the crash site but it was impossible, according to the Operation Paget inquiry. “The screen showed only a blurred yellow light. We tried to manipulate the camera, that is to use the zoom and maneuver it, in vain. We did not have control. By that, I mean that another section must have been using the camera and manipulating it… But it could also have been due to it being out of order.”

Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories: Was the Fatal Crash All it Seems?

9. The paparazzi were involved

Allegation - Diana was constantly hounded by paparazzi right up until her death. Could the photographers chasing the Mercedes have caused the accident or been part of a larger conspiracy?

Investigation - Neither the French nor English investigators found a criminal conspiracy in regard to the paparazzi, despite allegations they were deliberately chasing the car. Instead, France fined them one euro each ($1) for invasion of privacy, yet rumors persist about a paparazzi conspiracy and in particular about the role of photographer James Andanson.

Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories: Was the Fatal Crash All it Seems?

10. The mysterious white Fiat Uno

Allegation: Did a white Fiat Uno collide with Princess Diana’s black Mercedes before Henri Paul drove into Paris’ Pont de l'Alma tunnel? Some media identify the driver of the Fiat as ex-security guard Le Van Thanh who denies any involvement. Others name photographer James Andanson who died in a car fire in May 2000 (reportedly with a hole in his head), triggering even more conspiracy theories.

Investigations - Witness Sabine Dauzonne said she saw a white Fiat Uno with Paris license plates emerge from the tunnel after the crash and described a tanned driver, a muzzled dog in the back, and the car’s shattered tail light. Martine Monteil of France’s Brigade Criminelle, interviewed in the Channel Four documentary Investigating Diana, was among the first to arrive at the crash site and found white paint on the Mercedes, bits of broken taillight, and ‘tiny pearls’ belonging to the princess. Nothing, however, is conclusive.

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