Diana inquest jury to visit Paris crash site

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PARIS, Oct 7 (Reuters) British jurors probing Princess Diana's death are to see for themselves in Paris where she died in a high-speed car crash with her lover Dodi al-Fayed.

The jury, which has been meeting in London in an inquest to decide if the Paris crash 10 years ago was an accident, will tomorrow and Tuesday retrace the last day of the couple -- from the Ritz Hotel where they spent their final evening together to the crash scene in the Alma underpass.

The judge, concerned the court's Paris visit could provoke the same paparazzi hysteria that greeted the world's most photographed woman when she was alive, has called on the media to respect the jury's privacy.

Lord Justice Scott Baker, acknowledging the intense media coverage of the case, said: ''I believe this interest will most likely intensify when the court visits Paris.'' He told the London court last week that the six women and five men jurors were performing a public duty ''under considerable pressure''. He urged media not to identify any of its members.

Diana, 36, Dodi, 42, and chauffeur Henri Paul were killed when their Mercedes car crashed in a road tunnel as they sped away from the Ritz Hotel in Paris, pursued by paparazzi.

Under British law, an inquest is needed to determine the cause of death when someone dies unnaturally.

Major investigations by French and British police have concluded the deaths were a tragic accident caused by a speeding chauffeur, who was found to be drunk.

They both have rejected the conspiracy theories of Dodi's father Mohamed al-Fayed who alleges the couple were engaged and that Diana was pregnant.

He claims they were killed by British security services acting on the orders of Queen Elizabeth's husband, Diana's former father-in-law.

At last week's dramatic opening to the long-delayed inquest, the jury was shown security camera pictures that pieced together the couple's last day in August 1997.

Shots from the corridors of the Ritz Hotel captured a relaxed and smiling Diana in the arms of her lover, head tilted sideways in a characteristic gesture.

The camera captures Diana and Dodi running for the car shortly after midnight to start her fateful journey.

Al-Fayed, owner of London's luxury Harrods store, said in a string of accusations listed in court by the judge, that the royal family could not bear the idea of Diana marrying a Muslim.

Reuters JK RS1454

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