Diana inquest jury visits Paris crash site

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PARIS, Oct 8 (Reuters) The British jurors hearing the inquest into Princess Diana's death went to Paris today to see at first hand where she died in a high-speed car crash 10-years ago with her lover Dodi al-Fayed.

The court, ''sitting'' in extraordinary session for two days in France, retraced the last movements of the ill-fated couple -- from the Ritz Hotel where they spent their final evening together to the crash scene in the Alma underpass.

The 11-strong jury accompanied by Coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker travelled the short distance between the two sites on a bus, a French magistrate overseeing the visit said.

Diana and Dodi died shortly after midnight on Aug. 31, 1997 when their driver lost control of their Mercedes limousine in the Alma tunnel, and the jury was due to repeat the trip after dark to get a better feeling for events.

Baker, fearful that the court's Paris visit could provoke the same paparazzi hysteria that greeted the world's most photographed woman when she was alive, has pleaded for media restraint and respect for the jury's privacy.

The jury of six women and five men and court staff were flown to Paris on a private jet with news organisations instructed not to reveal where they were staying.

The trip was planned to give the group a clear idea of all the relevant locations and they were also due to visit the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital, where Diana died. Dodi died at the crash scene and Diana shortly after being taken to hospital.

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

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

Dodi's father Mohamed al-Fayed says the couple were engaged and that Diana was pregnant. He says they were killed by British security services acting on the orders of Queen Elizabeth's husband, Diana's former father-in-law.

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 and who also died in the crash. They have both rejected Fayed's conspiracy theories.

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


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