Diana inquest halted over new sample from driver Henri Paul's bodyhttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/04/01/ndiana301.xml&CMP=ILC-mostviewedbox
The inquest into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales has been dramatically halted after the discovery of potential new evidence.
The coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, adjourned the hearing after receiving an email from Paris referring to a possible sample from the body of Henri Paul, the driver of the Mercedes in which the Princess was fatally injured.
Tests on blood and other samples from Mr Paul showed that he was three times over the French drink-drive limit when the car crashed in Paris in August 1997.
But Mohamed Fayed, whose son Dodi also died in the crash, has always maintained that the samples were faked or switched, pointing to question marks over the labelling of vials of blood.
One of the questions the coroner has asked the jury to answer when they retire to consider their verdicts later this week is the degree to which Mr Paul’s driving was impaired through alcohol consumption.
It had been believed that the samples were lost or destroyed and questions remained over a DNA test on one which appeared to show it was from Mr Paul.
Lord Justice Scott Baker was well into the second day of his summing up of the six-month hearing when he received word of the email, and decided to break off while further investigations were carried out.
After briefly adjourning for legal argument, the coroner brought the jury back into court to send them away for an early lunch while an accurate translation of the email from France was obtained.
He told the jury: "The cause of asking you to retire was that this morning we received an email from the French giving information in relation in very broad terms, although we have not been able to get a proper translation of it yet, to do with samples and Henri Paul.
"Whether this contains anything that is new seems very doubtful.
"Whether it does contain anything that is relevant also seems pretty doubtful.
"But having gone six months down the road it seems desirable that we should bottom out this problem before we go any further."
The inquest, which has been running since October 2, has heard from around 250 witnesses giving evidence at the High Court in London as well as by video link from France, the US, Nigeria, Kenya and Australia.
But yesterday, beginning his summing-up, the coroner told the jury that there was "not a shred of evidence" in support of Mr Fayed’s conspiracy theory that Diana was murdered by MI6 on the orders of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Earlier today the coroner launched a devastating attack on Paul Burrell, telling the jury it is "blindingly obvious" that he lied in the witness box.
Lord Justice Scott Baker suggested Mr Burrell - who has made large sums cashing in on his Royal link - had tailored his evidence to make sure what he said did not "impact on his future enterprises".
He branded Mr Burrell's behaviour "pretty shabby".
The coroner suggested the jury should "proceed with caution" in considering the former butler's evidence, as it may have been that he "only told you what he wanted you to hear".
The relentless attack on Mr Burrell's character followed on from the coroner's comments on Monday that Mr Burrell and several other witnesses were "liars by their own admission".
As he began the second day of his summing up at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the coroner referred to a tape recording, published in a national newspaper last month, in which Mr Burrell admitted to a friend he had included "red herrings" in his evidence to the inquest.
Lord Justice Scott Baker said: "You have heard him in the witness box and even without what he said subsequently in the hotel room in New York, it was blindingly obvious, wasn't it, that the evidence that he gave in this court was not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."
Mr Burrell, 49, refused to return to the inquest to explain the comments he made on the tape.
Since Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris in August 1997, Mr Burrell has written two books about his time working for her and appeared on reality TV shows here and in the US.
During his evidence in January he was upbraided by the coroner for secretly copying Princess Diana's private correspondence before publishing it in his books, and he was humiliated by a barrister who mocked his claim to have been the Princess's "rock", accusing him of being "a porous rock" because of the number of secrets he had leaked.
Lord Justice Scott Baker suggested a possible "thread" running through Mr Burrell's testimony was that "whatever he said might have an impact on his future enterprises".
He said: "I advise you to proceed with caution especially if you are left with the impression that he only told you what he wanted you to hear.
"On the other hand he was close to Diana and was particularly well-placed to hear information that others were not.
"The fact that he has not told you the truth on some occasions does not mean you cannot accept anything he has told you but you should proceed with caution."
Mr Burrell had a private conversation with the Queen in December 1997 in which he claimed the monarch told him "there are powers at work in this country of which we have no knowledge".
The coroner told the jury that, assuming the words were said, it "stretches one’s imagination to breaking point" to conclude they had anything to "do with a staged collision in a tunnel three and a half months before".
Mr Burrell made copies of Diana’s correspondence to him and did the same with letters the Duke of Edinburgh wrote to the Princess, without asking the permission of the original authors, the hearing was reminded.
"All in all, you may think that Mr Burrell’s behaviour has been pretty shabby," said the coroner.
"But beyond the extent to which it reflects his honesty, on whether other matters are true you may think this - it has no impact on the means by which those came their death."
Commenting on one conspiracy theory, that the Princess was killed because of her anti-land mine campaign, Lord Justice Scott Baker added: "You may think even if her support was an embarrassment, any connection between this and her death is a bridge too far."
The jury was reminded how British policy towards land mines changed when Tony Blair’s Government swept to power a few months before Diana’s death.
The coroner added: "You may think it is a bit difficult to understand why the Establishment should have a motive for getting rid of Diana when her campaign was... to some extent in line with Government thinking."