London, April 8 : Princess Diana and her lover Dodi al-Fayed were killed by the "grossly negligent" driving of chauffeur Henri Paul and the pursuing paparazzi, a jury at London's High Court has ruled.
The jury, which had listened to about 250 witnesses from around the world, also blamed the paparazzi photographers that pursued their limousine in a Paris road tunnel in 1997. Lord Justice Scott Baker, the presiding judge, had specifically instructed the jury to reject conspiracy theories that the accident was staged. The inquest into Diana's death, estimated to have cost millions of pounds, began almost six months ago.
After hearing evidence for six months, the jury retired on Apr 2, and spent a total of nearly 24 hours deliberating five possible verdicts: unlawful killing by Mr Paul, the paparazzi or a combination of both; accidental death; or an open verdict. Lord Justice Scott Baker, the coroner, directed them to ignore Al Fayed's theories of a murder conspiracy.
On Apr 7, the jury concluded that Diana and her lover Dodi died because of gross negligence by both driver Henri Paul and the pursuing photographers.
The paparazzi, 10 of whom were arrested after the crash, will not face fresh legal proceedings in France, as a police inquiry there cleared them of any criminal responsibility.
The couple were killed alongside Paul when the Mercedes he was driving crashed in the Alma Tunnel in Paris on August 31, 1997.
Mohamed al-Fayed, Dodi's father and the owner of London's Harrod's department store, had charged that his son and Diana were killed by British security services on the orders of Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth's husband and Diana's former father-in-law.
Fayed said her killing was ordered because the royal family did not want the mother of the future king having a child with his son who was a Muslim.
He also alleged that Diana's body was embalmed to cover up evidence that she was expecting a baby.
But Scott Baker said Fayed's conspiracy theory was "without substance".
After the verdicts Al Fayed and his legal team went into a deep huddle, but said afterwards they had not decided whether to seek a judicial review in an attempt to overturn the jury's verdict.