British and American security services were monitoring Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed in the month leading up the car crash in which they died, a Scottish court heard today.
On the opening day of a legal challenge for a public inquiry into the tragedy, the Court of Session in Edinburgh was also told driver Henri Paul may have been an M16 informant.
Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, who was in court today, is challenging the refusal of the country’s senior law officer to hold an inquiry in Scotland.
He believes Diana and Dodi were murdered and the full facts of the crash in Paris on August 31, 1997, have never been revealed.
In his submission, Richard Keen QC, representing Mr Al Fayed, said Diana and Princes William and Harry were being monitored from around July 10, 1997, when they arrived at the Al Fayed estate in St Tropez in the South of France.
By August press speculation was intensifying that the couple were about to announce their engagement, fuelled by comments Diana made about an impending statement that would cause “shock and surprise”.
After the couple arrived at Beauvais Airport on August 30, Mr Keen told the court: “As a matter of practice French security reported the arrival of the Princess to the UK embassy assuming they were not aware of it.
“The UK embassy announced that she was not the subject of any monitoring in Paris.
“It said it was not aware of her presence in Paris on August 30/31.
“Consequently they said they could not assist in any matters relating to the crash or the circumstances leading up to the crash as they were not involved in any monitoring or security of the Princess of Wales.
“The petitioner (Mr Al Fayed) has real grounds to call into question the credibility and reliability of that statement.”
Mr Keen also told the court the US National Security Agency has confirmed the Princess was the subject of monitoring at the time of the crash.
But he said more than 1,000 pages of documents relating to the crash could not be made public in the US for “national security” reasons.
Mr Keen said the surveillance may have been carried out by the US on behalf of the UK security services.
He also told the court of the explosive claims made by former MI6 agent Richard Tomlinson.
Mr Keen said Tomlinson he had confirmed Diana was being monitored by the UK security service in France and that MI6 paid a “long standing informant” at the Ritz Hotel in Paris.
He told the court Paul earned around €24,400 as assistant head of security at the Ritz.
“Subsequent to the crash he maintained 13 different bank accounts in Paris that contained in excess of 1.2m French Francs (€182,940) , which might suggest that he had some form of part-time job,” Mr Keen said.
Tomlinson also claimed reports of a “blinding flash” in the tunnel prior to the crash and the reported involvement of another vehicle mirrored plans he had seen in 1992 for the attempted assassination of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Earlier, Mr Keen outlined some of the matters which, he said, led his client to the “reasonable belief that the life of his son Dodi may have been taken by force”.
The first, he said, was the “highly unusual route” taken by Mr Paul, who was supposedly heading to Dodi’s apartment.
The route, according to witness reports, was “prompted to a material extent by other vehicles travelling ahead of it, or with the Mercedes”, he added.
The court was shown plans and aerial photographs of the route, and two locations were indicated where witnesses had reported that the Mercedes appeared to have been prevented from turning off where it might have been expected to.
Mr Keen also told how there were 10 traffic cameras on the route between the Ritz and the Alma tunnel, as well as a speed camera at its entrance – none of which, Mr Al Fayed had been told, were operational at the time of the accident.
This had come as “a surprise” to one motorist who had been charged with speeding by virtue of the tunnel camera 15 minutes earlier, the QC added.
Mr Keen said a television company had recently broadcast a photograph of the Mercedes on its way to the tunnel, said to have come from Judge Stephan’s file, but of which Mr Al Fayed had no further details.
“The absence of film from any of the cameras created more concerns when it emerged that there were other vehicles involved in the circumstances of the crash,” he added.
These were a white Fiat Uno and a large dark motorcycle with two male riders who had pursued the Mercedes into the tunnel and then overtaken it.
“At which point,” Mr Keen went on, “two independent observers entering the tunnel from different directions reported a large, indeed enormous, radar-like flash of light in the tunnel.”
He said it was later found that traces of paint and rubber taken from the scene could be identified as coming from a Fiat Uno – and this had prompted Judge Stephan to instruct an investigation into this matter.
“However, he countermanded those instructions, which might appear a little unusual as he does seem to have believed that another vehicle was probably involved in the crash.
“And that evidence emerges from a transcript of his interview with Trevor Rees-Jones, the one survivor of the crash.”