Diana 'SAS murder conspiracy': why is Met taking it seriously?
Police under fire for basing inquiry on hearsay of 'erratic' soldier who claimed SAS were behind her death
SCOTLAND YARD is to examine an allegation that the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed in a Paris car crash on 31 August 1997 was actually murder – and that the SAS were behind it. The assessment will be carried out by the Specialist Crime and Operations Command and has been sanctioned by the Met commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.
Where does the claim come from? The Royal Military Police are understood to have passed to the Met a letter written by the estranged parents-in-law of 'Soldier N', an SAS soldier who was a prosecution witness in the recent trial of Sgt Danny Nightingale, the SAS sniper convicted of illegally possessing a gun and ammunition.
What does the letter say? The couple wrote the seven-page letter to the commanding officer of the SAS in 2011. In it they claimed Soldier N had told his wife – their daughter - that the special forces unit had "arranged Princess Diana's death and that has been covered up".
Is that it? Apparently. There is understood to be no hard evidence - just the hearsay of Soldier N's conversations with his wife.
Is Soldier N a reliable witness? Possibly not. The Times says other passages of the letter – which the paper has seen – describe "erratic" behaviour by Solider N, who was separately convicted of possessing illegal firearms and was only released last month after a two-year jail term. "On one occasion he allegedly hid from a passing motorbike fearing 'someone was after him'. He also feared that his wife and another close family member were threats to him... His mother-in-law said he 'can't switch off'."
Why is it being taken seriously? No one is sure. The former Head of Royal Protection, Dai Davies, told ITV News that he was "mystified" by the Scotland Yard announcement. Diana and Dodi's deaths were "an accident by any definition, and three separate inquiries ... have come to the same independent conclusion," he said. Ken Wharfe, the Princess's former Metropolitan Police bodyguard, told the Daily Telegraph: "The police have to look at it because of the level of the crime alleged." But he could not understand why it had taken so long for the allegations to be aired.
So, the police are reopening their murder inquiry? No. They have made it clear they are not reopening Operation Paget, conducted between 2004 and 2006 by the then Met commissioner Sir John Stevens, which found no evidence to support claims – famously made by Dodi's father, Mohamed Fayed - that Diana and Dodi were the victims of a murder conspiracy. This is merely a "scoping exercise" designed to assess the "relevance and credibility" of the information passed to the police.
Then what? It's not clear what Scotland Yard will do if their specialist officers decide the information is "relevant and credible".
Wasn't there a lengthy inquest? Yes. It lasted more than 90 days before concluding on 7 April 2008 with an unlawful killing verdict from the jury. French chauffeur Henri Paul, who was drunk on pastis and driving at twice the speed limit, and also died in the crash, was found culpable, as were the posse of photographers pursuing the car. A French judicial investigation in 1999 had also blamed the chauffeur, but cleared the photographers of direct involvement.
Have Diana and Dodi's relatives responded to the latest news? A royal spokesman said there would be no comment from either of Diana's sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, nor from Prince Charles, who had been divorced from Diana for exactly a year when she died. A spokesman for Mohamed Fayed said he would "be interested in seeing the outcome" of the scoping exercise.
What does the SAS have to say? No comment. But former SAS officer Colonel Tim Collins told the Telegraph: "It's utter nonsense. This is just wishful thinking on the part of somebody." Tory MP Julian Brazier, a member of the Defence Select Committee and a former member of the Territorial SAS, said: "I am very surprised by the police decision to start yet another inquiry based only on this extremely indirect testimony."
Is the upcoming anniversary a coincidence? No, says Dickie Arbiter, the Queen's former press spokesman. "We'll get this every single year prior to the anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales," he said. Both the British and French police had conducted thorough investigations, he said, and both came up with the same conclusions. "I don't think anybody's doubted those conclusions." ·