Just after midnight, as it is chased by paparazzi on motorcyles,
a black Mercedes carrying Princess Diana speeds into a Paris tunnel and crashes
into a pillar. Dodi Al Fayed, Diana’s current boyfriend, is killed on impact, as
is the driver, Henri Paul. Diana is cared for at the scene and eventually taken
to a local hospital, where she dies at 4 a.m. due to internal bleeding caused by
major chest and lung injuries. Paris police detain several photographers for
Driver Henri Paul’s blood-alcohol-content at the time of the
crash was more than three times the legal limit in France, according to the
Paris prosecutor’s office. The car, it is eventually discovered, was traveling
between 61 to 63 mph; the speed limit in the tunnel is 30 mph.
Paris police open an investigation into the crash as they name
the photographers as manslaughter suspects.
Police investigators interview Trevor Rees-Jones, Dodi Al
Fayed’s bodyguard and the crash’s lone survivor. After the crash, Rees-Jones had
lost consciousness and was unable to speak for days. Apparently suffering from
partial amnesia, he was unable to shed much light on the circumstances
surrounding the crash.
Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi’s father, says in an interview with the
British Mirror that he does not believe the car crash that killed his
son was an accident. Said the multi-millionaire owner of London’s poshest
department store, Harrods: "There was a conspiracy and I will not rest until I
have established exactly what happened."
A medical report reveals Diana would most likely have died
regardless of when she was brought to the hospital. A debate had emerged, after
the accident, about whether Diana would have lived had she been rushed to the
hospital sooner than the two hours medical officials waited. However, France’s
health minister said Diana’s main injury — a torn pulmonary vein — would likely
have killed her anyway.
Mohamed Al Fayed claims the CIA had been tracking Diana and his
son for three months and had compiled a 1,056-page file on the couple. The
Egyptian-born millionaire meets with a French judge and asks him to pursue his
claims of American surveillance.
Mohamed Al Fayed offers $1.6 million for information about a
mysterious white Fiat that police believe may have glanced against Diana and
Dodi’s Mercedes as it entered the tunnel. Al Fayed believes the British
intelligence services orchestrated the crash because, he says, the monarchy
would not want Diana to marry Dodi, a Muslim.
French authorities drop their case against nine photographers and
a motorcyclist. The police say there is not enough evidence to charge the group,
which had been facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and failure to help
The full release of the French investigation concludes the crash
was due to Paul driving at high speeds while drunk and on medication. The
investigation cleared photographers of involvement and chastised the company
that supplied the black Mercedes for not providing a licensed driver. The report
said that Paul did not have the type of license needed to drive the car.
Frances Shand Kydd, Diana’s mother, reacts angrily to a British
Ministry of Defence anti-drunk-driving ad that features a picture of Diana and
the message: "Unfortunately, even a Princess isn’t safe with a drunk driver."
The MoD withdraws the ad and apologizes to Shand Kydd.
A three-judge British Court of Appeals panel rules that Mohamed
Al Fayed made up a story about paying for an engagement ring for his son and
In his first full interview since the accident, sole survivor
Trevor Rees-Jones, Dodi Al Fayed’s former bodyguard, says he wishes he had died
instead of Diana, Dodi and Paul. Rees-Jones was hospitalized for over a month
following the accident, when his face was crushed beyond recognition. With the
help of family, friends and a ghost writer, Rees-Jones publishes The
Bodyguard’s Story his take on the fatal night. Unfortunately, Rees-Jones
still suffers from partial amnesia and cannot remember much of the incident.
On the third anniversary of the crash that killed his son,
Mohamed Al Fayed files a lawsuit against the U.S. government. Al Fayed wants any
documents, including telephone records, the CIA and other agencies might have
about the deaths.
An Oxford University professor says Diana’s death had a direct
impact on the increased suicide rate in Britain in the aftermath of the crash.
In the month following Diana’s funeral, the suicide rate in England and Wales
rose from 90 to 107 per week.
Prof. Christiaan Barnard, who performed the world’s first heart
transplant, claims that his friend Diana could have been saved following the
fatal car accident. In 50 Ways to a Healthy Heart , Barnard writes that
if Diana had been brought to a hospital immediately after the accident she might
have been able to survive. Instead medical personnel worked on her at the scene
of the accident for two hours.
In speaking for the first time about a letter he received from
his sister only a few days before her death, Earl Spencer swats away rumors that
Diana was pregnant or engaged. "…I certainly don’t think she’d have married
[Dodi Al Fayed]."
Nine photographers and a press motorcyclist are cleared of
responsibility in the crash that killed Diana after a French court upholds the
prior dismissal of manslaughter charges. In a separate case, however, the
photographers remain under investigation for taking pictures of the victims
after the crash.
Just days before the fifth anniversary of Diana’s death, a book
by another of Diana’s former bodyguards sets off a firestorm. Ken Wharfe’s
tell-all makes a wide range of accusations, including one that the British
intelligence agencies bugged Diana’s phones. That claim was later proven
A poll finds that a quarter of Britons think the princess was
murdered and half think there was a cover-up of the circumstances surrounding
A Royal Duty, a book by Diana’s butler Paul Burrell, is
published in the U.S., stoking outrage across the pond in Britain, where the
book is being serialized in a newspaper. Burrell printed a letter in which Diana
wrote: "This phase in my life is the most dangerous." She goes on to say someone
"is planning an ‘accident’ in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in
order to make the path clear for Charles to marry."
A French court finds three paparazzi who took pictures of the
princess the night she died not guilty of invading her privacy.
Mohamed Al Fayed claims in a Scottish court that Diana and his
son were murdered.
The first British inquest into Diana’s death opens with a coroner
formally requesting London’s Metropolitan Police to start an investigation. A
separate inquest into Dodi’s death also commences. An inquest, which is held in
Britain when someone dies unexpectedly, violently or of unknown causes, is
designed to establish basic facts, not assign blame. It cannot proceed until an
official police investigation is completed.
Diana’s family criticizes CBS for broadcasting never-before-seen
photographs of Diana just before she died, saying they are "shocked and
sickened." The pictures were taken moments after the car crash and were part of
a 4,000-page French government report CBS recently obtained.
Persistent claims by Henri Paul’s parents that their son was not
drunk at the time of his fatal car accident prompt French authorities to open a
Documents reveal that Diana was supposed to be in a different car
the night she died in the fatal accident. A memo to Prime Minister Blair showed
Diana’s first vehicle failed to start.
The Metropolitan Police investigation into Diana’s death is
expected to cost more than $3.3 million, according to official figures.
27 Lord John Stevens, the former head of London’s Metropolitan Police
and the lead investigator into the inquiry into Diana’s death, tells an
interviewer, "It is a far more complex inquiry than any of us thought."
Lord Stevens reveals that he meets with Mohamed Al Fayed every
two months and that new technologies are allowing great progress in the inquiry.
Stevens says it is "quite extraordinary how things are advancing."
Chi, an Italian magazine, publishes a photo of a dying
Diana, causing a huge uproar in Britain and around the world. The decision to
print a black-and-white photo of Diana receiving oxygen was "vile," says Mohamed
The three-year British investigation into Diana’s death — the
first step in order to begin an official inquest — concludes with the release of
an 800-page report that finds the crash was a "tragic accident," says Lord
Stevens. Mohamed Al Fayed claims the report furthers a cover-up and continues to
press his theory that the British establishment plotted to kill Diana to prevent
her from marrying his Muslim son.
With the Metropolitan Police investigation completed, the British
inquest into Diana’s death resumes in London.
The British coroner, retired High Court judge Elizabeth
Butler-Sloss, postpones the inquest until October after Mohamed Al Fayed
requests an extension to prepare his case. Butler-Sloss had said she had not
been presented "any shred of evidence" to back up Al Fayed’s claims. The
millionaire’s lawyer begged to disagree.
Butler-Sloss announces her resignation from the inquest, saying
that Lord Justice Scott Baker would eventually take over from her because she
lacked experience in jury trials. Butler-Sloss made clear that the inquest would
not need to start over and she would continue to handle the pre-Inquest
proceedings until her successor came aboard.
A lawyer for Mohamed Al Fayed asks for the Queen to provide
testimony. Al Fayed’s team, which has already requested Prince Charles and the
Duke of Edinburgh give evidence, wants the Queen to clarify a comment Burrell
says she made to him about the "powers that may be at work" in regards to
Diana’s death. Butler-Sloss says such a request is unheard of and may be a
Lord Justice Scott Baker takes over from Butler-Sloss.
As part of the pre-inquest hearings, Lord Justice Scott Baker
sets out a list of 20 "likely issues" to be brought up at the hearing. They
range from Henri Paul’s level of inebriation to the culpability of a Fiat Uno
and the actions of the paparazzi as well as "whether the Princess of Wales was
pregnant" and if "the Princess of Wales feared for her life." It also mentioned
such minutiae as the theft of digital photographs — including shots from the
accident scene — from the London home of Lionel Cherruault the night after the