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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Al Fayed, Can Princess Diana Soul Rest In Peace Please?

The father of Princess Diana's lover yesterday launched a legal challenge against the decision not to hold inquests into their deaths in a Paris car crash almost 10 years ago in front of a jury.

Egyptian-born Mohammad Al Fayed, owner of luxury London department store Harrods, wants to overturn a ruling by Britain's former top woman judge Elizabeth Butler-Sloss last month to handle the official inquiries on her own.

Diana, 36, Fayed's son Dodi, 42, and their chauffeur Henri Paul were killed when their Mercedes limousine smashed at high speed into a pillar in a Paris road tunnel as they were pursued by paparazzi on motorbikes.

A three-year British police investigation ruled at the end of last year that the crash was an accident and not part of an elaborate murder plot as Fayed claims.

The British inquiry backed a French probe which concluded that the driver was to blame because he was drunk, under the influence of anti-depressants and driving too fast.

Under British law an inquest is needed to formally determine the cause of death when someone dies unnaturally.

Butler-Sloss decided it would be inappropriate to hold the inquests, scheduled from May, in front of a jury made up of ordinary members of the public saying only a coroner could give a "careful and fully reasoned decision".

Yesterday, Fayed, together with the Ritz Hotel and Paul's parents, attempted to reverse that decision at a judicial review held at London's High Court.

Michael Beloff, lawyer for the Ritz, argued that, for intricate legal reasons, Butler-Sloss had no jurisdiction to sit on the case or had to consider it with a jury.

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