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New inquest opens on diana murder { September 2007 }

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Diana inquest opens as Al-Fayed repeats murder claim
Oct 2 06:54 AM US/Eastern

Al-Fayed: ‘Find the Murderers’

The father of Princess Diana's Egyptian lover reiterated Tuesday his claim that the couple were murdered by the British royal family, as a long-delayed inquest into their deaths finally got underway.

Mohamed al-Fayed made the comments on arrival at the High Court in London, where hearings began with the selection of an 11-person jury to hear the case 10 years after they died in a Paris road tunnel crash.

"I'm fighting for 10 years. At last we're going to have a jury of ordinary people and I hope (for) the decision which I believe, that my son and Princess Diana have been murdered by the royal family," he told reporters.

"I'm hoping to God to find the murderers the gangsters who have taken the lives of two innocent people."

The inquest, overseen by coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker, is expected to spend up to six months considering evidence surrounding the deaths of Diana and her Egyptian lover Dodi Fayed in a Paris road tunnel in August 1997.

Under British law the inquest could only begin after the completion of an official probe, which last year concluded that the crash was a "tragic accident," echoing the findings of a French police investigation which focused on the fact that their French driver was drunk.

The inquest -- legally required when a British citizen dies an unnatural death abroad and the body is repatriated -- has a narrow remit, seeking only the identity of the deceased, plus how, when and where they died.

No blame is determined at inquests and the verdict must not identify anyone as having criminal or civil liability.

Possible verdicts include natural causes, accident, suicide, unlawful or lawful killing or industrial disease. The inquest may also produce an open verdict if there is insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion.

Diana, 36, Dodi Fayed, 42, and their chauffeur Henri Paul, 41, were killed on August 31, 1997. Their Mercedes hit an underpass pillar soon after speeding away from the Hotel Ritz, owned by Fayed's father Mohamed Al Fayed.

Diana's bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was the only survivor, but suffered serious injuries.

The inquest, which briefly opened in January 2004, will examine the embalming of Diana's body, her post-mortem, the hours before the crash, suggestions she was engaged to Fayed, the alleged purchase of a ring, claims she was pregnant and bodyguards' evidence.

In their travels to and from court, the jurors will be under police guard to ensure they are not "hassled or harassed" after Baker pointed out that the couple's deaths have "created worldwide interest on an unprecedented scale".

Each juror had to answer a list of questions to ensure they were not biased.

Among the more controversial parts of the inquest will be attempts by Dodi Fayed's father to force Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, to testify.

The coroner has thus far thrown out those attempts, but has nonetheless said he would keep the possibility under review.

Fayed, the millionaire owner of London department store Harrods, maintains that Diana, whose eldest son William is second-in-line to the throne, was killed in an intelligence plot orchestrated by Prince Philip to prevent her potential marriage to a Muslim.

The judge and jurors are due to visit the crash scene in Paris on October 8 and 9. Witnesses to the crash and possibly paparazzi photographers at the scene are expected to start giving video evidence from France from around October 10.

Shortly before the inquest got underway, Fayed's spokesman said he hoped it could finally uncover the truth about the crash.

"This is the last best chance to get at the plain unvarnished truth about what happened 10 years and two months ago," said spokesman Michael Cole.

Copyright AFP 2007

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