Paparazzi, chauffeur caused Diana's death, jury rules

Diana, the Princess of Wales, was unlawfully killed in 1997 by the negligent driving of her chauffeur and the photographers chasing her car, a British jury has concluded.

Princes William, Harry 'agree' with verdict

Diana, the Princess of Wales, was unlawfully killed by the negligent driving of both her chauffeur and the paparazzi, a British jury ruled Monday.

The 11 jurors handed down their verdict after spending five days deliberating the evidence given during a six-month inquest. 

The verdict, the most severe the jury could have reached, essentially means that jurors believe the reckless behaviour of the driver and paparazzi amounted to manslaughter.

However, criminal charges are unlikely because the incident happened
in France, outside the British authorities' jurisdiction.

Diana, her companion, Dodi Fayed, and their driver, Henri Paul, died when their speeding car slammed into a concrete pillar in a Paris traffic tunnel on Aug. 31, 1997. The three were being chased by photographers in cars and on motorcycles.

Fayed's father said Monday that he cannot accept the findings of the jury.

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Jurors were not allowed to reach a verdict of murder. They instead had the option of reaching one of five conclusions:

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

In a statement released Monday, Princes William and Harry, said that they "agree with the jury's verdict." Diana's two sons also thanked the jury for their "thorough" work in considering all the evidence.

The $20-million inquest headed by Lord Justice Scott Baker, began Oct. 2 and heard from more than 250 witnesses from around the world.

Jury told to consider seatbelts, alcohol as factors

Before the six women and five men on the jury began deliberating, Baker instructed them to consider whether Diana and Fayed would have survived if they had been wearing their seatbelts and whether Diana would have lived if she had been taken to the hospital sooner.

He reminded the jury that Diana's Mercedes was travelling between 95 km/h and 110 km/h, and that doctors were on the scene within 10 minutes of the 12:22 a.m. crash. Diana arrived at the hospital about one hour and 35 minutes later, and died at about 4 a.m.

A day after the crash, French police announced that Diana's chauffeur was three times over the national drunk-driving standard at the time of the collision.

Jurors specified that fact in their verdict, noting they believed alcohol and non-use of seatbelts contributed to the deaths.

'I am disappointed': Fayed's father

Fayed's father, Mohamed Al Fayed, said Monday that the verdicts would come as a blow to many. He said the Queen and Prince Philip should have been called as inquest witnesses.

"I am disappointed," Al Fayed said in a statement, according to Reuters. "No one should be above the law."

Al Fayed has alleged that his son and Diana were killed by British secret service agents on orders from Prince Philip, who didn't want Diana to marry a Muslim.

But Baker told jurors to dismiss any conspiracy theories promoted by Al Fayed, declaring them to be "without substance."

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

The inquest 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.

French police initially charged nine photographers with manslaughter, but those charges were thrown out in 2002. Three of the photographers were convicted of invasion of privacy in 2006 for taking pictures of the couple.

Soon after the crash, the paparazzi were vilified in Europe and around the world. Some British newspapers declared they would never use another paparazzi shot, a promise that ultimately was never kept.

With files from the Associated Press