Princes William and Harry are hoping today that the long-awaited conclusion of the inquest into their mother’s death will put an end to speculation she was murdered.
The young royals said last night they agreed with the jury’s verdict that Diana, Princess of Wales died because of gross negligence by both her driver Henri Paul and pursuing paparazzi.
After 10 and a half years and inquiries likely to cost taxpayers well over £12m (€15m), the 11 jury members concluded yesterday that the “People’s Princess” was unlawfully killed by bad driving.
Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens, whose Paget inquiry investigated the conspiracy theories, said he hoped Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed would be allowed to rest in peace.
But Dodi’s father, Mohamed al Fayed, expressed his disappointment at the verdicts and his spokesman made clear that could still mount a legal challenge.
Thanking the jury, William and Harry said in a statement: “We agree with their verdicts, and are both hugely grateful to each and every one of them for the forbearance they have shown in accepting such significant disruption to their lives over the past six months.”
They added: “The two of us would like to express our most profound gratitude to all those who fought so desperately to save our mother’s life on that tragic night.”
The Princes singled out the sole survivor of the crash, bodyguard Trevor Rees, and thanked him for reliving the moments that led up to the car smash when he appeared in the inquest witness box.
Meanwhile, Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell is today waiting to learn whether he will face a police perjury investigation after allegedly lying to the inquest.
Scotland Yard refused to confirm yesterday whether it planned to launch an inquiry, but the Crown Prosecution Service said it would examine any police file on the matter presented to it.
Mr Burrell admitted he told the jury a few “red herrings” in his evidence and Coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker has publicly described him as a “liar”.
Diana and Dodi were killed alongside Mr Paul when the Mercedes he was driving slammed into the 13th pillar of the Alma Tunnel in Paris on August 31 1997.
Mr al Fayed has never accepted, despite compelling evidence, that Mr Paul – his employee – was drink-driving, claiming instead that the crash was plotted by the Duke of Edinburgh and MI6.
He insisted that he was “blameless” – despite evidence that he may have personally authorised the doomed journey – and shrugged off the jury’s findings, insisting the tragedy was still “murder”.
After sitting through the evidence of 278 witnesses over six months and deliberating for almost 24 hours, the jury reached the joint verdicts on the deaths of Diana and Dodi by majorities of nine-to-two.
They added, through a series of extra narrative conclusions, that they believed Mr Paul had been drinking and was going too fast – the same conclusions reached b y the French and British police investigations which went before.
But they pinned equal blame on the paparazzi driving after hearing evidence they had effectively been “racing” Mr Paul.
The jury also made clear unanimously that the couple’s lives might have been saved by wearing seatbelts.
All 11 also agreed that the fact that the car hit a pillar and not a wall helped make the impact of the 65mph crash more powerful.
During his evidence, road accident expert Dr John Searle suggested the pillars should be “filled in”.
But Mr al Fayed is also likely to face questions in many quarters.
In a statement issued moments after the jury’s decision, he described the verdicts as both a vindication of his conspiracy theories and a “blow to the many millions of people around the world who have supported my struggle”.
He insisted the hearing, held largely at his behest, was not a waste of time or money.
During his summing up, the Coroner said there was “not a shred of evidence” to back up Mr al Fayed's claims.
Although he ruled out the possibility of a verdict which would have pointed to a murder plot, the jury went further pinning the blame partly on one of his (Mr al Fayed’s) employees.
Before reaching their verdicts the jury were told that unlawful killing as a result of gross negligence was equivalent to finding manslaughter had been committed.
The coroner instructed them that they must satisfy a full criminal standard of proof – rather than the “balance of probabilities” usually required in inquests – to return such a strong verdict.