Princess Diana was only 36 years old when she was pronounced dead at a Paris hospital following a horrific car crash that also killed her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul. Bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones was the only occupant of the car to survive. But 20 years after her death, a cult of conspiracy theories still swirls around those final moments in the Pont d’Alma tunnel. Fayed and Diana were leaving the Ritz in Paris in a Mercedes S230 when the car crashed.
The crash was attributed to a excessive speeds and the alcohol discovered in Paul’s bloodstream. Paparazzi were accused of provoking a high-speed chase, and a British jury found in 2008 that Diana and the others in the car were “unlawfully killed through the reckless actions of their driver and paparazzi.” But for some, the loss of the people’s princess isn’t so simple. Here a few of the explanations conspiracy theorists offer.
Prince Philip ordered a hit
Fayed’s father, Mohamed Al Fayed, suggested that Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband and Prince Charles’ father, arranged for the crash. A decade after their deaths, Al Fayed appeared in a British court, where he presented a three-page statement blasting the royal family and laying out a conspiracy that involved a number of people, including two MI6 officers. Al-Fayed, an Egyptian business mogul, also insisted that Diana was pregnant with his grandchild.
MI6’s ‘flash of light’
Some suggested that MI6 assassinated Diana. Three witnesses recalled seeing a bright flash of light at the moment of impact. Former British spy Richard Tomlinson compared the witness reports of Princess Diana’s death to an MI6 plot to assassinate a Serbian president — a bright flash of light that blinds the driver and leads to a collision. Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, confirmed the assassination plot was considered to kill a “senior Balkan official” but said that the ploy was not undertaken and denied any conspiracy to murder Diana, calling the theory “absurd.”
The disappearing Fiat
A few witnesses mentioned seeing a Fiat Uno emerge from the tunnel shortly before the crash, and Mohamed Al Fayed claimed that French photographer James Andanson was driving the car. There are suggestions that the Fiat grazed Diana’s Mercedes moments before the fatal crash. However, a white Fiat with matching paint marks was never found. In court, Andanson denied those allegations and provided an alibi. He committed suicide in 2000, which only added fuel to the theory that he was a central figure in the crash.
Prince Charles ordered a hit
Diana was fearful of her ex-husband, Prince Charles. In a letter written to her butler, she wrote, “[M]y 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.” She believed that Charles wanted her out of the way so he could marry Tiggy Legge-Bourke, who was a nanny to Princes William and Harry.
Princess Diana is still alive
A number of people suggested that the princess survived, and novelist Monica Ali even entertained that notion, painting Diana as living anonymously in small-town America. Proponents of this theory claim it’s unusual that Dodi’s normal driver was not employed that night and note that Diana gave an interview only a few hours before her death saying she wanted to withdraw from public life.