Diana inquest shown lover buying "engagement ring"

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LONDON, Oct 18 (Reuters) A British jury probing the death of Princess Diana was shown footage today of her lover visiting a jewellers to pick out what his father claims was an engagement ring hours before the couple's fatal 1997 car crash.

A compilation of footage from closed circuit TV showed Dodi al-Fayed visiting the Repossi jewellers opposite the Ritz Hotel in Paris which is owned by his father early on the evening of August 30.

Dodi's father Mohamed claims the couple got engaged later that night and says when British security services learnt of this, and that Diana was pregnant, they were ordered by Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, to murder them.

Diana, 36, Dodi, 42, and driver Henri Paul died in the early hours of August 31 after their Mercedes limousine crashed in a road tunnel as they sped away from the Ritz, pursued by paparazzi.

Major investigations by French and British police have concluded the deaths were an accident caused by an inebriated Paul driving too fast but under British law, an official inquest is needed when someone dies unnaturally.

Grainy footage shown to the inquest today, which has not been publicly broadcast before, showed Dodi and Claude Roulet, assistant to the Ritz's president, visiting the luxury jewellers where he was shown looking at a number of items.

They returned to the Ritz but soon after Roulet was seen going back to the store, later leaving with a bag.

The inquest was shown a receipt, dated August 30, for a ring costing 11,500 pounds or 23,500 dollars described as an engagement ring.

Mohammed al-Fayed claims the couple had picked out a ring earlier that summer from Repossi's range ''Dis-me Oui'', which translates as ''Tell me Yes''.

He believes Dodi had arranged to collect it in order to present it to Diana that night. Detective Chief Inspector Paul Carpenter of London's police said such a ''Dis-me Oui'' ring was found in Dodi's Paris apartment after their deaths.

Earlier this week, the inquest heard a statement from agency photographer Thierry Orban who said he had been contacted by his editor to go to the Ritz on the evening August 30 because of rumours that Diana would announce her engagement or pregnancy.

The jury has also heard from a number of witnesses who saw the couple's Mercedes before the smash or were at the scene after it crashed.

They have reported seeing a bright white flash shortly before the limousine crashed into a pillar in a Paris underpass and also say that it might have been struck by another car.

Mohamed al-Fayed believes Paul had been deliberately distracted by a blinding white light to provoke the fatal accident.

REUTERS RSA RN2252

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