Princess Diana Death Conspiracies—From Prince Philip's Revenge to CIA Plot

Princess Diana's death in Paris 24 years ago sparked a wave of conspiracy theories, egged on by the father of her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, who died alongside her.

Diana and Dodi were killed after a Mercedes driven by Henri Paul, deputy head of security at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, crashed into a pillar in the Pont de l'Alma underpass, on August 31, 1997. Paul also died.

A 2008 inquest found the deaths were the result of "gross negligence" by Paul, who was driving under the influence of alcohol, and by the paparazzi photographers who were chasing the car.

However, Mohamed Al Fayed, a businessman who was then the owner of London department store Harrods, had long claimed Diana had been pregnant at the time of her death and was assassinated because the mother of Princes William and Harry was planning to marry a Muslim man.

While many conspiracy theories remain in dark corners of the internet, these allegations were aired in a major police inquiry in the U.K. Operation Paget—led by John Stevens, a former chief of the Metropolitan Police—investigated and ultimately dismissed the claims, setting out its findings in an 871-page report.

The document, published in 2006, states: "Mohamed Al Fayed has made a principal crime allegation, supplemented by numerous linked claims and assertions.

"In essence Mohamed Al Fayed's allegation is that the 'Security Services' (unless otherwise specified, this is taken to be the Secret Intelligence Service—commonly known as MI6) acting at the behest of HRH Prince Philip, arranged for or carried out the murder of Dodi Al Fayed and the Princess of Wales.

"The alleged motive was that the Princess of Wales was pregnant with Dodi Al Fayed's child and there was to be an imminent announcement of their engagement.

"It is suggested by Mohamed Al Fayed that the royal family 'could not accept that an Egyptian Muslim could eventually be the stepfather of the future King of England'."

As William and Harry prepare to commemorate the 24th anniversary of their mother's death on Tuesday, we look back at the evidence the police obtained to debunk the conspiracy theories.

Princess Diana Wearing Sunglasses
Princess Diana, wearing a Catherine Walker suit and white sunglasses, watches camel racing at Al Maqam during an official visit to Abu Dhabi in March 1989. After her death, unsubstantiated claims that she was assassinated began to circulate. Jayne Fincher/Getty Images

Claim: Princess Diana Believed She Would Be Killed in a Car Crash

Operation Paget uncovered evidence that Princess Diana believed "efforts would be made" to arrange for her to be involved in a car crash.

She expressed her concerns in a meeting with her lawyer, Victor Mishcon, and private secretary Patrick Jephson on October 30, 1995, and the attorney made a note of what was said.

The Paget report stated: "He [Mishcon] wrote that the Princess of Wales had told him, that 'reliable sources' (whom she did not wish to name) had informed her that by April 1996, whether in an accident in her car such as a pre-prepared brake failure or by other means, efforts would be made if not to get rid of her, then at least to see that she was so injured or damaged as to be declared unbalanced.

"The Princess of Wales apparently believed that there was a conspiracy and that both
she and Camilla Parker Bowles were to be 'put aside.'"

The report added: "He [Mishcon] did not believe that what she was saying was credible and sought a private word with Patrick Jephson, who to Lord Mishcon's surprise, said that he 'half believed' the accuracy of her remarks regarding her safety."

The document states: "In the circumstances, Patrick Jephson thought it highly unlikely that the concerns of the Princess of Wales were well-founded. He was however anxious not to dismiss these claims outright."

Claim: Princess Diana Was Pregnant When She Died But This Was Covered Up

Mohamed Al Fayed said during TV interviews that Diana and Dodi had told him she was pregnant and they were about to announce their engagement when they died.

He claimed the security services found out after bugging telephones and that Diana was murdered to prevent her from giving birth to Dodi's child.

In a witness statement to the police investigation, he claimed her body had been embalmed to stop the pathologist revealing her pregnancy.

Quoted in the Paget report, he said: "There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Princess Diana was embalmed on the direct instructions of the British authorities to disguise her pregnancy. I am now informed that the embalming commenced at 2pm on 31 August 1997 in Paris, and the process took some two and a half hours. Therefore her repatriation was delayed pending completion of the embalming process."

However, medical professionals told Operation Paget that it would not have been routine to conduct a pregnancy test.

The report concluded: "As her death was not due to natural causes, i.e. it was the result of a sudden and violent impact, the Deputy Public Prosecutor tasked a court appointed medical expert, Professor Dominique Lecomte, to carry out an external examination of the Princess of Wales' body. This concluded that the injuries were consistent with the car crash."

Princess Diana Wearing Tartan
Princess Diana, wearing a tartan dress designed by Caroline Charles, attends the Braemar Highland Games in Scotland on September 5, 1981. Anwar Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

When no suspicious circumstances were identified, the body was released for embalming, the report said.

Numerous friends also told the police investigation that she had never mentioned being engaged to Dodi—or that she was pregnant.

Journalist Richard Kay told the inquiry: "I remember a telephone conversation in early August 1997. We spoke about whether she was going to get married. She said, 'Absolutely not. I've just got out of one marriage and I'm not going to get involved in another one.'"

Rosa Monckton, a close friend of Diana's, told the police: "She said that Dodi had found a ring he wanted to give her. However, she told me she was not happy about him wanting to buy her a ring and said that she would wear it on her right hand."

Claim: Princess Diana Was Murdered on the Orders of Prince Philip

Mohamed Al Fayed blamed Prince Philip for Diana's death, saying he did not want her to marry and have a baby with a Muslim man.

There were also unsubstantiated claims that Philip, who died in April, wrote Diana threatening and "vitriolic" letters, according to the investigation.

Philip declined to comment on the allegations when approached by the police, but the Paget inquiry found them to be unsubstantiated.

The report said his relationship with his daughter-in-law "was described in ways that could range from closeness to hostility."

However, it added that she had had a serious relationship with another Muslim man, the surgeon Hasnat Khan, and had even considered marriage to him.

The Operation Paget report states: "The Princess of Wales had a very close relationship with Hasnat Khan, a Muslim, for about two years until just before her death.

"This relationship was not hidden, they stayed at each other's homes and Hasnat Khan met her children, HRH Prince William and HRH Prince Harry.

"The Princess of Wales asked her butler Paul Burrell to make enquiries about the feasibility of marrying a Muslim, Hasnat Khan."

Princess Diana on Night of Car Crash
This photo—showing Diana, bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones (L) and driver Henri Paul shortly before the crash—was presented as evidence at the 2008 inquest, which found "gross negligence" by the paparazzi and the driver. Rees-Jones was the only survivor. Jacques Langevin/Sygma via Getty Images

Claim: Prince Charles Would Arrange an 'Accident' so He Could Marry His Sons' Nanny

Diana's butler Paul Burrell produced a note that he said had been written by Diana, which read: "This particular phase in my life is the most dangerous, my husband is planning an 'accident' in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry Tiggy [Legge-Bourke, William and Harry's nanny].

"Camilla is nothing but a decoy so we are being used by the man in every sense of the word."

Prince Charles was asked about the claims during the police investigation and said he had no desire to marry Legge-Bourke.

The Operation Paget report states: "HRH the Prince of Wales stated that he had no knowledge of this note until its publication in 2003 and did not know why the Princess of Wales wrote it.

"The Princess of Wales did not speak to him about it. HRH the Prince of Wales knew the woman named in the note, as a family friend. There has never been any possibility at any time of marriage to her."

Claim: The CIA Was Involved in a Plot to Assassinate Diana

Mohamed Al Fayed said in a witness statement: "CIA and NSA in the United States closely intercepted and monitored her [Diana's] telephone calls. They would have been aware that she intended to announce publicly her engagement to Dodi on Monday, September 1, 1997.

"The CIA and NSA possess 39 documents consisting of 1,054 pages which relate in part to transcripts of telephone calls made by Princess Diana whilst she was with my son."

The Paget inquiry did confirm that the U.S. intelligence agency possessed 39 documents relating to Diana, but it also said these were not related to the crash or her death.

Mohamed Al-Fayed at Princess Diana Inquest
Mohamed Al Fayed gestures as he leaves the opening of the U.K. inquest into the deaths of Diana and his son Dodi on January 6, 2004. Scott Barbour/Getty Images

One was said to be a recorded conversation with a friend, Lucia Flecha de Lima, who was married to the Brazilian ambassador to the U.S. The call was made from the embassy in Washington, suggesting Diana was not the one under surveillance.

Quoted in the Irish Times, Tom Crispell, a spokesman for the CIA, said in 1998: "The assertion that the CIA played any role in the death of Princess Diana is ludicrous."

Operation Paget concluded: "The prospect of an intelligence agency allowing foreign law enforcement officers direct and unfettered access to classified documents is very remote.

"However, in the course of investigations at the SIS [MI6] and at the Security Service in London, Operation Paget was satisfied that there was no evidence that communications relating to the events in Paris had been received from any American agency. There is no evidence to support the claim of concealment of relevant material."

Claim: Princess Diana Was Murdered by the SAS Using a Bright Light

One theory explored in the British media in 2013 was that the SAS had murdered Princess Diana by shining a powerful torch in the eyes of driver Henri Paul.

This claim emerged when two soldiers from the special forces regiment were prosecuted for possession of firearms.

It emerged that the mother-in-law of one of the two, named only as "Soldier N," had written a letter to the SAS commanding officer making a series of allegations in September 2011.

These covered Soldier N's treatment of his partner and children, but also claimed he had told his family that the regiment had killed the princess.

In 2014, the soldier's ex-wife told the Daily Mail: "The fact that they stayed silent about Diana compounded my belief that my ex-husband had told me the truth in 2008 when he talked about an SAS soldier directing a beam of light into the eyes of Princess Diana's chauffeur as their Mercedes entered the Pont d'Alma road tunnel.

"My husband had added that after the SAS had caused the car to crash, a soldier had run back to the wreckage and looked inside to see how badly Princess Diana was hurt.

"Apparently he then gave a signal to a colleague that their mission had been successful. So now I'm convinced that this operation is the SAS's big secret."

However, the Metropolitan Police said in December 2013: "The final conclusion is that whilst there is a possibility the alleged comments in relation to the SAS's involvement in the deaths may have been made, there is no credible evidence to support a theory that such claims had any basis in fact."

Soldier N was convicted of illegally possessing a pistol, a silencer, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a hand grenade.

According to the earlier Operation Paget report, some eyewitnesses did describe seeing a bright light around the time of the crash—thought by some to be camera flashes.

However, the idea that a light had caused the crash was discounted based on analysis by road collision investigators, who found the car lost control because of the driver's actions before it entered the tunnel.

The Paget report reads: "It is apparent that there was a loss of control of the Mercedes some distance before the Alma underpass.

"The loss of control had already commenced before that location and therefore any bright lights or flashes on the immediate approach to or within the underpass were not a contributory factor to that loss of control.

"This means there is no significance in any flashes in the underpass. This is an important point in relation to the conspiracy allegation."

The Verdict: Grossly Negligent Driving

The official verdict on the factors that contributed to Princess Diana's death was given by a jury at her inquest, which began in London after the completion of the French investigation.

In April 2008, after six months of evidence and testimony from 278 witnesses, a 9-2 majority ruled that Diana and Dodi Fayed were unlawfully killed by "grossly negligent driving," The Guardian reported.

The forewoman of the jury told the court: "The crash was caused or contributed to by the speed and manner of the driving of the Mercedes, the speed and manner of driving of the following vehicles, the impairment of the judgment of the driver of the Mercedes through alcohol, and there are nine of us who agree on those conclusions.

"In addition, the death of the deceased was caused or contributed to by the fact that the deceased [were] not wearing seatbelt(s), the fact that the Mercedes struck the pillar in the Alma Tunnel rather than colliding with something else—and we are unanimous on that, sir."