After a very public divorce from Prince Charles in 1996—amid scandals of cheating, emotional abuse, and mental health difficulties—Diana “Princess of Wales” reportedly fell in love with Egyptian film producer and billionaire’s son, Dodi Fayed. Friends of Dodi claim he was smitten with the Princess as well, even telling them that Diana was the woman he wished “to be with for the rest of his life” fairly early into their relationship.1 It is believed that the two were actually engaged at the time of the accident that took both of their lives, as Dodi had purchased an £11,600 engagement ring just prior, and planned to announce the good news following their return to London from their vacation in Paris. Unfortunately, that announcement would never come.2
On August 31, 1997, the couple had spent most of their day in Paris hounded by French and British paparazzi. According to his father, Mohammed, it was Dodi’s idea to try and outrun the press by leaving their hotel in a decoy car. Four people piled into the Mercedes: Diana, Dodi, their driver Henri Paul, and bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones.3 While at first it seemed that they had been successful in evading the crowds of photographers, several members of the press were tipped off and managed to catch up all too quickly; as the Mercedes entered into an underpass, two vehicles, believed to be driven by overly ambitious paparazzi, drove up on either side of the car. On one side was a white fiat, and on the other a motorcycle, equally desperate for up-close shots of the private pair. Officials conclude that because of the crowding of the vehicle, the danger of the underpass, and the chauffeur’s reported intoxication, the Mercedes ended up veering violently into a pillar, ending the lives of Henri Paul and Dodi Fayed instantly. Trevor Rees-Jones was injured though ultimately survived, and Diana eventually passed away two hours after she reached the hospital by ambulance; her haunting last words were to the press, begging to be left alone as the flashes of cameras continued to overwhelm her.4
Diana was pregnant at the time of the crash. At least, that’s what Dodi’s father believed. The following investigation into the deaths was the largest in French history; however, its conclusions left many skeptics suspicious, and none more so than Mohammed Fayed himself.5
Fayed’s distrust in British authority led him to speculate of a cover-up early on, especially when Diana’s butler, Paul Burrell, eventually came forward with a letter she’d entrusted to him ten months prior to the crash. The note itself brought forth some public scrutiny and questioning of the British crown, as it was revealed to have read with uncomfortable foresight: “This particular phase of my life is the most dangerous. My husband is planning ‘an accident’ in my car…in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry.”6 Along with the letter, Burrell claimed Princess Diana had been wracked with anxiety the months leading up to her death, at one point even having him help rip up her apartment’s floorboards in an attempt to find whether she’d been bugged.
In an effort to build a case for conspiracy to murder, Fayed demanded that a test be made to prove Diana was indeed pregnant—something that would further complicate the British monarchy’s image and, to Fayed at least, serve as motive to kill—but it was soon revealed that the Princess had been embalmed, twice, the first time being illegal. Jean Monceau, the doctor who administered the Princess’ embalming, explained that the summer heat had been deteriorating Diana’s body, and that she couldn’t be moved to a refrigerated morgue as there was not enough security there. So they were supposedly left with no other choice to preserve her than with an embalming—a procedure that would have wiped away any evidence of a pregnancy.7
However, the investigation didn’t stop there. The two vehicles that crowded the Mercedes at the underpass were never traced, despite scratches from one of them found alongside the car. And driver Henri Paul’s reported intoxication has been long disputed. Despite tox-screens repeatedly showed a mix of alcohol and antidepressants in the chauffeur’s system, those close to him insist his reported actions the morning of the crash were an “unsettling puzzle,” and not at all like the man they knew; and it had also been found that there were several conflicting accounts concerning Mr. Paul’s state the hours leading up to the crash, with some claiming he appeared totally out of it and others saying he seemed completely and totally sober.8
Though what appears to grab more popular conspiracy thinkers’ attention is the incident of celebrity photographer and paparazzo, James Andanson, who had followed Diana and Dodi the entire week before their deaths. Three years after the incident, he too was found dead among the wreckage of his burning car in the French countryside. While the crash itself was ruled as intentional by means of suicide, responding fireman Christophe Pelat claimed of the body, “I saw him at close range and I’m absolutely convinced he had been shot in the head, twice.”9 Conspiracy theorists have pounced on Pelat’s claim of Andanson’s possible murder as suggesting that Andanson had seen, or had been holding on to, evidence that would’ve furthered the idea that someone had orchestrated the accident that killed Diana.
But perhaps most infamous of these circumstances, is the case of Soldier N. Over a decade after the crash, in September of 2011, a letter from the soldier’s mother-in-law was received by “military bosses,” as the woman claimed concern for her daughter’s safety. In the letter the mother explained Soldier N—who remains unnamed for security reasons, as well as several others involved with the claims—had confided in his then wife about various missions over the years, most notably on what was known among officials as the “Diana Problem.”10 According to the letter, the soldier had repeatedly talked about the event, telling his wife that an SAS squad flashed a blinding light at the driver to cause the fateful crash—a technique often used by special forces to tackle terrorists. The former special forces sniper’s wife backed these claims, adding that she had been offered £500 in “hush money” but had felt very uncomfortable and suspicious about the whole situation. As Scotland Yard took to investigating the claims, they eventually arrested Soldier N for hiding illegal firearms and ammunition in his home. As some tried to pass the soldier off as a ‘loose cannon’ and prone to attention-seeking behaviors because of this, his reputation and demeanor is reported to have strongly suggested otherwise. Despite this, British authorities ruled that the evidence presented still wasn’t credible enough to issue a new probe into the deaths, resulting in more fuel to the fire of Fayed’s determination to find out what might have actually happened to his son and the woman he loved.11
Concerns over the timing of the ambulance were also eventually brought forth, as it was reported that the vehicle had taken a full hour to depart from the scene of the crash, and another forty minutes to arrive at the hospital—claiming the ambulance must have moved at a “snail’s pace” in reaching the Piete-Salepetriere hospital, which was an estimated five to ten minutes away from the scene of the accident.12 Some theorists suggest the delay had been an attempt to ensure that the Princess wouldn’t make it on time to be helped. However, medical officials refute that idea, claiming the only reason for Diana’s slow arrival was due to her critical condition, which at one point even required the ambulance to make a full stop in order to revive her.13
Other related phenomena have found plausible explanations, such as the reasoning for Diana’s embalming, the witnesses to Henri Paul’s intoxication, and the fact that several psychologists agreed that Diana likely had Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) though she was never officially diagnosed—a disorder that, among other things, makes one prone to paranoia.14
Yet despite these explanations, conspiracists insist that there is more to the story. They point to the many investigation reports that have continue to remain closed to the public, and cite the one by the British embassy in France as being heavily censored upon its release; a friend of Diana even claiming “If there was ever a blatant attempt to hide the truth about Diana’s death, this is it.”15
However, it’s believed that had Diana simply been wearing her seatbelt, she would’ve survived. Prompting the question as to why anyone would go to such lengths to assassinate a beloved icon when their plans could have been foiled by a single, simple, decision—whether or not to wear a seatbelt.16
Despite this, theories surrounding the event continue to vary, sometimes drastically so. Some claim that it was actually Dodi who was the intended target, due to his father’s allegedly questionable connections—and that Diana had simply been caught in the crossfire of a revenge plot. Others believe it was indeed Diana who’d been the intended victim, not by the British government, but by arms dealers who would have lost a “small fortune” had her campaigns to end landmines in the African country of Angola continued.17 A few of the less favorable, yet simultaneously popular, theories include Dodi and Diana faking their deaths and running away to live on an island free of stress, whilst continuing to FaceTime with their closest family.18
For decades now, it has been an ongoing battle between officials and skeptics. With every theory an explanation, with every explanation a new theory.
According to Fayed, one thing is certain, that the future King of Wales having an Egyptian-Muslim step-father and half-sibling would usher in an unprecedented wave of optics and politics for the royal family to tackle; and with motives ranging from politics to sex scandals to simple, blatant, racism—it’s likely that whatever the true story is, it will always remain under close scrutiny. After Fayed’s last inquiry into the deaths once again concluding the only responsible parties to be a drunk driver and ravenous paparazzi, he reportedly backed down out of respect for Diana’s sons, stating, “Enough is enough, and for the sake of the two princes…I am leaving the rest for God to get my revenge. But I am not doing anymore.”19
Today the theories continue strong, despite Fayed’s surrender.