The final, haunting photo of Princess Diana, taken on the night she died, shows her sitting with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed in the back of a Mercedes car as it roars away from the rear entrance of the Paris Ritz Hotel, heading for the couple’s secret love-nest near the Champs-Elysees.
Diana is twisting her head to peer out of the Mercedes’ rear window, anxiously looking to see if her car is being chased by the paparazzi who had besieged her and Dodi since their arrival in the French capital from a Mediterranean holiday eight hours earlier.
At the wheel is chauffeur Henri Paul. Dodi’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones is in the front passenger seat.
What happened over the next two minutes is central to a new probe by Scotland Yard into an astonishing claim from an SAS sniper, known as Soldier N, that members of his elite regiment assassinated Diana seconds after the Mercedes sped at 63mph into the notoriously dangerous Pont d’Alma road tunnel.
Many will dismiss Soldier N’s claims as yet another conspiracy theory. After all, millions of words have been written about Diana’s death at 12.20am on Sunday, August 31, 1997.
Two inquiries, by Scotland Yard and the French police, have found the deaths were a tragic accident.
An official inquest, which ended five years ago, came to the same conclusion.
The world was led to believe the blame lay with the grossly negligent driving of an intoxicated Mr Paul and the pursuing paparazzi.
But — however unlikely they may seem at first glance — I am convinced there is something in Soldier N’s claims.
Ever since Diana’s death at the age of 36, I have investigated forensically the events that led up to the crash and what happened afterwards.
I have spoken to eye-witnesses, French and British intelligence officers, SAS soldiers and to friends of Diana and Dodi. And I have interviewed the Brittany-based parents of the 41-year-old chauffeur Henri Paul.
They told me, with tears in their eyes, that their son was not a heavy drinker: his chosen potion was a bottle of beer or the occasional Ricard, a liquorice-flavoured aperitif.
The fact is that too many of these accounts suggest that Diana’s death was no accident.
Crucially, my investigations show that the paparazzi who supposedly hounded Diana to her death were not even in the Pont d’Alma tunnel at the time of the car crash.
They also reveal how a high-powered black motorbike — which did not belong to any of the paparazzi — shot past Diana’s Mercedes in the tunnel.
Eyewitnesses say its rider and pillion passenger deliberately caused the car to crash.
In addition, my inquiries unearthed the existence of a shadowy SAS unit that answers to MI6, as well as the names of two MI6 officers who were linked by a number of sources to Diana’s death.
Could the Establishment really have turned Henri Paul and the paparazzi into scapegoats? Could there have been a skilful cover-up by people in powerful places to hide exactly what did happen?
There is little doubt that Diana, recently divorced from Prince Charles, was a thorn in the side of the Royal Family. Her romance with Dodi, though only six weeks old, was serious.
The Princess had given her lover her ‘most precious possession’ — a pair of her deceased father’s cufflinks — and phoned friends, saying she had a ‘big surprise’ for them when she returned from Paris.
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