Jurors at the inquiry into the death of Diana, the late Princess of Wales, started their deliberations Wednesday after hearing six weeks of evidence.


Diana and Dodi Fayed are shown in the back of a car the night they died. ((Jacques Langevin))

"There is no pressure of time. Take as long as is necessary," said Lord Justice Scott Baker, who heads up the inquest into the Aug. 21, 1997, car crash in a Paris traffic tunnel. Diana, her companion Dodi Fayed and their driver Henri Paul were killed.

Under British law, an inquest must be held whenever someone dies under unnatural circumstances.

The inquiry into the deaths was delayed for more than 10 years until British and French police investigations were completed. Both concluded high speed and drunk driving caused the accident.

The 11-person jury can choose from five verdicts:

  • Unlawful killing through gross negligence.
  • Unlawful killing by "following vehicles."
  • Both of the above options.
  • Accidental death.
  • An open verdict, if the jury feels it didn't hear enough evidence.

Among the last questions Baker Scott put to the jury was whether Diana and Fayed would have survived had they worn their seat belts and whether Diana would have lived had she been taken to the hospital more quickly.

He reminded the jury that the Mercedes was travelling between 95 km/h and 110 km/h in the tunnel, and that doctors were on the scene within 10 minutes of the crash. Diana arrived at the hospital about one hour and 35 minutes later.

Baker Scott instructed the jury not to return with a verdict that the pair died in a staged accident, saying conspiracy theories promoted by Fayed's father are "without substance."

Mohamed Al Fayed alleges the two were killed by British secret service agents on orders from the Queen's husband, Prince Philip, because of fears Diana was about to marry his son, a Muslim.

Estimated to have cost about $20 million, the inquiry heard from more than 250 witnesses around the world. Baker Scott is seeking a unanimous verdict.

With files from the Associated Press