British, French officials discuss Diana death probe

Saturday, February 7, 2004

PARIS -- As a British coroner embarked on a new probe into the death of Princess Diana, a former French investigator in the case on Friday rejected claims that murder or conspiracy were to blame and accused news media of dredging up "fantastical theories" about the August 1997 car crash in Paris.

"Everything indicated that this was a traffic accident," Mulles said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"The French investigation never took up the theory of a conspiracy," he said. "No element leading in that direction came into the hands of the French judicial system."

A French court ruled in 2002 that the crash was an accident caused by the drunk and speeding driver of the Mercedes, Henri Paul. But Fayed's father, Mohammed Al Fayed, alleges the three were victims of a conspiracy directed by Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.

British royal coroner Michael Burgess has asked Britain's metropolitan police commissioner, Sir John Stevens, to examine the claim. Stevens has said his investigation could include questioning of Prince Charles, Diana's ex-husband.

Mulles made the comments as Burgess met officials from the French Justice Ministry. Officials at the ministry and the British Embassy in Paris declined to comment other than to confirm the meeting.

Burgess also was expected to visit the tunnel where the crash occurred, part of an inquest that began Jan. 6.

Britain's Daily Mirror recently published a letter in which Diana claimed that Prince Charles was plotting to kill her in a car accident. The letter was apparently addressed to her butler.

Paris police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Burgess was to stay in Paris through the weekend. No reconstruction of the events leading to the crash has been planned, the sources said.

French investigators found that the Mercedes carrying Diana and Dodi had a brush with a Fiat Uno before the crash. Investigators are not sure how the Fiat might have been involved. French police questioned almost 3,000 owners of Fiat Unos but failed to locate the one in question.

"The Mercedes struck a vehicle, the driver lost control of the wheel," Mulles said. "The evidence collected on the scene ... showed that."

Asked why investigators did not find the Fiat, Mulles said: "I'd respond that it was just bad luck."

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