Opposing British TV
Documentary Says No
Diana Death Conspiracy
By Helen Smith
LONDON (Reuters) - The second British television documentary in two days about the death of Princess Diana sought to debunk a rash of conspiracy theories about the fatal car crash. Thursday's program claimed to prove that Henri Paul, the driver of the limousine in which Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed died, was extremely drunk, had challenged waiting photographers to a chase and was not a qualified chauffeur. Its findings were in direct opposition to those in a rival documentary screened Wednesday evening, which claimed Paul had links with secret services and cast doubt on three post-mortem tests that showed he had drunk three times more than the French drink driving limit. The documentaries, 10 months after Diana's death in the high speed car crash in Paris, have snared huge audiences in Britain, which is still struggling to come to terms with her loss at the age of 36.
The latest documentary dismissed the speculation surrounding Diana's death and declared it ``was no more than a tragic accident.''
But it did pin some responsibility on billionaire Mohamed al Fayed, Dodi's father, who it said had failed to provide the mother of Britain's future heir to the throne with the kind of security he insisted on for himself. The Channel Four program makers interviewed barmen at the Ritz, who said Paul had been drinking pastis and that he had staggered out of the hotel bar before setting out on the doomed journey, in which he also died. The Mercedes car in which Paul drove Diana and Dodi away from the Paris Ritz at top speed was summoned from a pool of limousines at the hotel and was not even checked for terrorist devices, Al Fayed's former head of security, Bob Loftus, told the program.
Where Al Fayed would routinely have an extra car alongside his for added security, the outrider cars that should have driven beside Diana's were sent to the other side of the hotel as decoys for the paparazzi, the program said. ``Compared with the protection that Fayed affords himself ... that which was afforded to the mother of the future king of England was not up to that very high standard, it was a Mickey Mouse operation,'' Loftus said. A former chauffeur who delivered the Mercedes to the back of the hotel told how he had heard Paul taunting waiting photographers that they would never catch up with him on their motorbikes. Roland Biribin, head of the French of Association of Limousine Companies, said Paul should not have been driving the car anyway, because he had not passed the medical examination and six-month trial required to qualify as a limousine chauffeur.
The program makers accused Fayed, owner of London's prestigious Harrod's store, of promoting conspiracy theories to deflect any blame for the crash from himself. Fayed alleges Diana was murdered because she was about to marry his son, a Muslim, and so embarrass the royal family. He has never specified who he believes ordered her death. Such theories have gained wide currency in Britain, where Diana's funeral sparked the biggest outpouring of public grief in memory.
Around 36,000 conspiracy sites can be found on the Internet but they have been given short shrift by a media mired in guilt about its own role in the relentless pursuit of the princess who alternately sought and shunned the world's cameras. Buckingham palace has declined to comment on the many conspiracy theories, but it has frequently appealed to journalists to show sensitivity in reporting because of the effect on Diana's two teenage sons, William and Harry.

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