On August 31, 1997, exactly 24 years ago, the world lost Diana, Princess Of Wales.
The troubled Royal was being driven through the the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris when the driver — trying to escape paparazzi, who had given chase on motorcycles — lost control and crashed the car. Diana Spencer, her lover Dodi Fayed, and driver Henri Paul were all killed. Only her bodyguard survived.
The tragic and shocking nature of the premature death of the “People’s Princess” naturally led many to wonder if there was something more to it than just merciless misfortune. But as we know, conspiracy theories flourish when they have someone pushing them — and the theories in this particular case had a patron.
Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al-Fayed (above, inset), is a billionaire who owned Harrods department store. And when he accused the British government of having his son and Diana killed because of their relationship, it was the accusation that launched a thousand tin foil hats — and a couple very serious, incredibly thorough investigations. Apart from the initial investigations, the Metropolitan Police (aka Scotland Yard) launched an investigation called Operation Paget in 2004, which delivered an initial report in 2006. In 2007 the Royal Courts of Justice tapped Lord Justice Scott Baker to open a coroner’s inquest to continue the investigation. Al-Fayed’s own private investigation lasted years, costing him who knows how much money.
So after all that investigating, is there actually anything to the theories surrounding Diana’s death? Let’s look at each one and its status…
Diana Was Secretly Engaged
A big part of the conspiracy theories about Diana being murdered hinge on there being some big change in her life that someone was trying to stop or cover up.
One of the major ones is that Diana was engaged to Dodi Fayed, and they were on the verge of announcing their intentions to the world the following Monday, September 1.
The couple’s romantic relationship had, by most accounts, been going well. So it’s certainly plausible enough Dodi may have asked her in a private moment to marry him — and she may even have said yes. But there is some evidence against this.
Firstly, no one Diana knew could confirm the engagement. Neither her then-15-year-old son Prince William nor her sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale, her closest confidants, had heard anything about it. And no one interviewed from either staff knew of any plans to make such a huge announcement.
Dodi had indeed bought a ring. The engagement ring, purchased from the “Tell Me Yes” line at the Repossi jewelers in Paris, was found at his apartment in the Rue Arsene Houssaye after his death. That apartment was exactly where the couple were headed the night they died.
So it’s clear if Dodi had not asked her yet, he was planning to. Whether she would have said yes, whether she intended to ever marry him, well that we can never know for sure.
Diana Was Pregnant
This one is particularly disturbing…
The theory goes that Diana was actually pregnant at the time of her death, with Dodi Fayed’s child — and that fact was too explosive, and someone didn’t want it getting out. How could they hide it? Well, that’s actually the source of the theory…
First Diana was given blood transfusions in the hospital after the crash — which theorists think could have contaminated her blood and made tests invalid. Then, after her death, Diana was partially embalmed by a French embalmer. This was supposedly done prematurely because the Princess’ body was lying in a hot hospital room — and British and hospital officials were worried about the state she would be in by the time Charles and the other Royals arrived to view the body. Conspiracy theorists note the embalming process — in which the body is injected with formaldehyde — makes an accurate pregnancy test impossible. And they believe this was done for one reason only: to cover up her unborn child.
The thing is, though, there was blood that was untainted by transfusion or embalming — on the car itself. Samples from the carpet and foot-well of the car were tested extensively at Kings College, London, and experts found no trace of pregnancy hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). So based on the evidence, there’s no way she was pregnant when she died.
Prince Charles Allegedly Killed Diana
This is a more recent one. Lord Stevens, who ran Operation Paget, only recently came forward to discuss this shocking turn in the case.
Apparently Diana had written a note which explicitly stated she was afraid her ex Prince Charles was “planning an accident” for her — a car accident. The recently revealed note reads:
“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 him to marry Tiggy.”
“Tiggy” is Alexandra Legge-Bourke, who served as her sons’ nanny and Charles’ personal assistant from 1993 to 1999.
When presented with a copy of the note, Charles told Stevens he didn’t know “why the princess had these feelings.” The full text of the interview is not scheduled to be released to the public until 2038.
As for the claims in the note, well, Operation Paget did not lend them much weight. A source told DailyMail.com this year:
“Paget had found no evidence to support Diana’s expressed fears at that time, October 1995. The note did not materially affect the conspiracy investigation.”
The woman was actually killed in a car accident, and they decided she was being paranoid?
Still, there was plenty of evidence for other causes which had nothing to do with Charles.
Status: Not Likely, See Theories Below
The Car Was Tampered With
Conspiracy theorists have claimed the Mercedes’ speedometer was stuck at 192 km per hour (nearly 120 mph) after the crash — implying it was tampered with.
However, specialists determined the car was not stuck going that fast at all — it had actually only been traveling 105 kph (65 mph) when it crashed. Not only that, the meter was not stuck, it was zeroed out, as would be expected.
MI6 Killed Diana
This theory claims the British government’s own security services were keeping tabs on Diana and chose to assassinate her. Some even believe the operation was requested by Prince Philip (who declined to be questioned by the police).
Witnesses claim to have seen a “bright white flash” in the tunnel moments before the crash. A former M16 officer claimed this is a known security service assassination technique — using just light in the right place at the right time to blind a driver, causing a crash.
Both MI5 and MI6 cooperated fully with investigators. It was determined there were indeed MI6 operatives in Paris that night, but nothing linking any of them to the crash.
As for the bright light, investigators are convinced what witnesses were describing was the flash from the cameras of the paparazzi who were giving chase. And there are reasons to believe there were other causes for the driver to have lost control…
Status: NOT Disproven
The Driver Was A Spy
Conspiracy theorists claim driver Henri Paul, who was also the acting head of security at the Hotel Ritz Paris (which was owned by Al-Fayed), was a spy working for either the British of French governments.
The suggestion is that he was part of a plot to kill Diana — but does that even make sense, as it cost him his own life? Maybe the thinking is that he didn’t know he, too, would not survive?
The initial investigation found that the chauffeur was under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs. That was considered a big part of why the crash happened in the first place. But witnesses say he showed no signs of being intoxicated despite later blood tests showing him to be three times the legal limit.
Theorists are convinced this evidence was faked afterward — with Paul’s blood being replaced by someone else’s — to hide the fact he was an agent. Pretty crazy, right? Well…
Operation Paget performed DNA tests on the evidence, which proved it was for sure Henri Paul’s blood which was tested originally by French authorities.
The report does, however, contain a wild revelation. Paul was a “low level” informant for the French secret services. Not only that, the report confirmed the driver had received multiple large deposits to his bank accounts about a year and a half before the crash, money inconsistent with his salary. In all his bank accounts swelled to about $275,000. The source of the money could never be identified.
There was no evidence Paul was contacted by any of his handlers on the night, however. He wasn’t even supposed to be working — it was Diana and Dodi who changed their plans, requiring his services unexpectedly. The report suggests Paul could not have known he was driving and therefore could not have been part of a scheme to kill the couple. But there are, surprisingly, more questions left open than answered.
There Was Another Car
This one is wild. Some theorists believe the Mercedes did not crash on its own but actually collided with another car — a white Fiat Uno. Why? Apparently evidence at the scene does indeed show evidence of another car, one that could only be that exact make, model, and color.
The vehicular evidence was found on the door, side panel, and mirror, suggesting the Fiat sideswiped the Mercedes, leading conspiracy theorists to believe Diana’s car was intentionally driven off the road.
Innerestingly, there was someone close to Diana, so to speak, who owned such a car — a French paparazzo named Jean-Paul “James” Andanson, who had recently taken photos of her and Dodi in the South of France. Like the driver, theorists claim Andanson was acting as an agent of the government. Again it seems ludicrous, but like with Paul… there are still questions.
According to reports, Andanson’s Fiat was kept in his garage at his home in Lignieres, 170 miles south of Paris, in a state of disrepair. The kind that could hide extra damage from a collision? Not only that, he apparently exchanged it a month after the crash.
Months later, Andanson reportedly bragged about having been in the tunnel and gotten “explosive” photos — even telling friends he’d been too cunning to be rounded up by police afterward.
However, he may have been lying. According to French authorities, the photographer left his home in the early hours of that morning, August 31, to fly to Corsica to interview a musician. He could apparently prove it with receipts and a witness. As an alibi, it didn’t get much better than not being in the country. Besides, no witness ever put him in the area at the right time. And police later examined the car he’d gotten rid of and couldn’t never identified it as being involved.
In one of the most conspiracy theory-fueling twists we’ve ever heard, Andanson himself was also killed shortly after. In a car.
He was found in May 2000 in his burned car in the middle of thick woodlands. He reportedly had carbon monoxide in his lungs, suggesting he was still breathing when the fire started — and he burned alive. Authorities ruled the horrible death a suicide.
But Al-Fayed and other theorists obviously believe he, too, was killed — to silence him.
Diana Predicted Her Own Death
This one is just spooky…
Diana’s royal bodyguard Ken Wharfe told Now To Love in 2017 that the Princess often talked about dying in a car crash:
“When we used to travel down to Highgrove most Fridays on a motorway — she would drive sometimes — and there wasn’t a weekend that went by that we didn’t see an accident and she’d say, ‘Oh God, one of these days that’s going to happen to me.’ It’s quite spooky that she said that.”
He even told one of the investigations about it, telling DM:
“In 2008, I gave evidence at the High Court, at an inquiry into the accident led by Lord Justice Scott Baker. I told the court that Diana would frequently talk about dying in a car crash. Sometimes, I said, she raised the subject as we set out for a weekend away in Highgrove on Fridays. I told the hearing: ‘Diana would begin the conversation by saying something like: ‘Here we go again, I suppose we could be killed in a car accident.’ Her comments, I said, might have been prompted by what she was told by tarot card readers and crystal ball gazers.”
Was Diana into fortune tellers? If so, does that explain her paranoia about her car being tampered with? Hmm.
Ken doesn’t think so; he just chalked it up to her morbid sense of humor:
“The Princess never seemed serious when she spoke of possibly being in a car crash, but joked about it… I told the court I thought it was very much a throwaway line of Diana’s, and added: ‘In all my years of working with Diana she never, even once, said to me that she thought that someone was out to harm her.’”
Still. Spooky stuff. Because as we know, someone did harm her. Whether it was a planned conspiracy or just careless negligence, someone absolutely cost that woman her life, and it was, just as she said, in a car.
Fascinating stuff, albeit so, so sad.
In the end, it truly seems Diana’s death was pure tragedy with no outside causes, though we can see why there are still so many questions among the public. You may need to dig back a quarter of a century, but sometimes you’ll find newsworthy conspiracy theories that actually come from a place of real evidence. These days most conspiracy theories aren’t following the facts, they’re just making them up wholesale to suit some insane premise, like QAnon or mind-controlling vaccines. Remember, y’all — theories can be something sometimes, but you have to actually pay attention to the evidence (evidence you can properly track and source). You can’t just ignore it all to keep playing for your worldview, especially not when it comes to putting lives at risk. Just this year, a father murdered his children because of today’s dangerous conspiracy theories that are completely baseless.
Stay smart, Perezcious readers!
[Image via Alex Jackson/WENN/Sidewalk.]