ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Princess Diana unlawfully killed

A coroner's jury ruled Monday that Princess Diana and boyfriend Dodi Fayed were unlawfully killed through the reckless actions of their driver and paparazzi in 1997.

The jury had been told a verdict of unlawful killing would mean they believed the reckless behavior of the driver and paparazzi amounted to manslaughter. It was the most serious verdict available to them.

New criminal charges were unlikely because the incident happened in France outside the British authorities' jurisdiction, a court spokesman said.

Nine photographers were charged with manslaughter in France, but the charges were thrown out in 2002. Three of the photographers were convicted of invasion of privacy in 2006 for taking pictures of the couple.

The couple and their driver died in Paris when their speeding car slammed into a concrete pillar while it was being chased by photographers in cars and on motorbikes. The jury, which voted 9-2 to blame the driver and paparazzi, added that the fact Diana and Dodi were not wearing seat belts was a contributing factor to their deaths.

The coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, had instructed the jury there was no evidence to support claims by Fayed's father, Mohamed Al Fayed, that the couple were victims of a murder plot directed by Prince Philip and carried out by British secret agents. The jury was not at liberty to disagree.

Al Fayed refused to renounce his conspiracy theory and said he was disappointed by the verdict.

"The verdicts will come as a blow to the many millions of people around the world who supported my struggle," he said in a statement read outside London's High Court by his spokeswoman, Katharine Witty.

Asked inside the courthouse for his reaction, Al Fayed said: "The most important thing is it is murder."

The six women and five men on the jury began deliberating April 2 after hearing six months of testimony from more than 240 witnesses. They also went to Paris to see the scene of the Aug. 31, 1997, crash.

The cost of the inquest itself, including lawyers and staff assisting the coroner, exceeded $6 million.

This doesn't count the cost of lawyers representing the Metropolitan Police and the Secret Intelligence Service, nor the $16 million the Metropolitan Police says it spent on its own two-year investigation. In an 813-page report in December 2006, the police concluded there was nothing to substantiate Al Fayed's claims.

Baker had expressed hope the inquest would lay to rest, once and for all, any false theories about the princess' death.

Dodi Fayed died instantly when the couple's Mercedes, moving in excess of 60 mph, slammed into a concrete pillar in the Alma underpass in Paris at 12:22 a.m. Medics initially thought Diana would survive her severe injuries, but she died at a hospital around 4 a.m.

The paparazzi who pursued the couple were vilified. As grieving Britons piled up flowers outside Diana's Kensington Palace home, some British newspapers declared they would never use another paparazzi shot -- a vow that proved time-limited.

French police announced a day after the crash that tests on driver Henri Paul's blood showed he was three times over the national drunk-driving standard.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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