PARIS (AP) – A decade after Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed were killed in a Paris car crash, a British coroner’s jury comes to the French capital this week to retrace the lovers’ fatal path in an attempt to put to rest the dark suspicions surrounding their deaths.

Although the events leading up to the deaths have already been dissected in two lengthy investigations, the visit Monday and Tuesday marks the first time an inquest jury has left Britain.

There are concerns over swarming paparazzi similar to those who pursued the couple in their final moments. Where the 11-member jury will stay is top secret, and their exact itinerary while the court is “in session” in Paris will not be divulged in advance.

It is known, however, that they will visit the Place de l’Alma by the underpass where the Mercedes crashed and the Pitie Salpetiere Hospital where Diana died.

“It is very difficult to conduct this sort of visit where you are leaving the protection … offered by your own legal system,” said a spokesman for the inquest, who asked not to be named in keeping with British procedure. “All of a sudden, we are about to walk down streets in Paris with no legal authority over those people around us.”

Under British law, inquests are held when someone dies unexpectedly, violently or of unknown causes.

Diana, 36, and Fayed, 42, were killed along with their driver, Henri Paul, when their Mercedes crashed in the Pont d’Alma tunnel shortly after midnight on Aug. 31, 1997. Bodyguard Trevor Rees was badly injured but survived.

The group was heading from the Ritz Hotel to Fayed’s private Paris home near the Arc de Triomphe. Dodi Fayed’s father, Egyptian-born billionaire Mohamed al Fayed, has said it was their engagement night.

Whether Diana and Fayed planned to announce their engagement the next day – and whether she was pregnant with Fayed’s child – are questions the jury must try to clear up.

Mohamed al Fayed claims the couple was murdered in a plot directed by Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, to keep a Muslim out of the royal spheres.

The inquest, headed by Lord Justice Scott Baker, is to determine when, where and how they were killed. It opened last Tuesday and was expected to last no more than six months.

A French investigation concluded that the car was traveling at an excessive speed and the driver had a blood alcohol level more than three times the legal limit. Tests showed the presence of two prescription drugs, including the antidepressant Prozac, in his system.

A British investigation left it to the coroner’s inquest to assign blame.

Neither the French nor British investigations have blamed paparazzi pursuing the speeding car for the crash.


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