The rumours won’t go away. And a film premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival – Unlawful Killing – argued that they will persist while so many questions about Diana’s death go unanswered.
As soon as news broke that Princess Diana had died in a Paris hospital after a car crash in the French capital in 1999, a wave of public opinion in Britain held that she’d been killed by the ‘establishment’. From the press and courts in London to the highlands and islands of Scotland – where I happened to be on the morning Diana’s death was announced – millions of people expressed the view that they “they got her in the end”. Everywhere, people recalled that Diana herself had, not long before, gone public with her claim that the royal family were planning to have her killed in a car crash. And it was public knowledge that the royal family and British state were deeply troubled by Diana.
The highly popular princess was a huge obstacle to Prince Charles’ desire to win favour with the British public. While Diana lived, it was highly unlikely the British would ever accept his adulterous mistress Camilla. The princess was also embarrassing the elders in the British royal family by dating Dodi Fayed, an arab muslim. Add to the that the fact that the arms industry was furious that Diana was attracting support for her campaign against landmines and it’s clear that formidable forces were lined up against this young woman in her thirties.
As facts and fiction emerged in the aftermath of the crash, inconsistencies and odd truths piled up. Witnesses reported a blinding flash in the tunnel which caused Diana and Dodi’s chauffeur to hit the tunnel’s wall. The inquest apparently suppressed this testimony. There was a small white car ahead of the princess’s car. This claim was widely rubbished though, again, witnesses insisted it was true. The driver was reportedly, according to the inquest, terribly drunk. Nonsense, said certain witnesses. A professional, he would never drink and drive the princess, never risk his reputation, job, his life or hers. There was talk of blood samples being swapped, or doctored, to ‘prove’ the driver was drunk.
As in the case of Marilyn Monroe, whose death has given perpetual rise to doubt and suspicion that she was murdered, Diana’s death gives rise to the feeling that there’s no smoke without fire. If Marilyn really had committed suicide, wouldn’t it be as clear as most cases of suicide are? How come so many unresolved questions remain? And if Diana’s death really had been a simple car crash, wouldn’t that have been easy to demonstrate conclusively? Most deaths in car crashes are.
The biggest single question over Diana’s death, without doubt, is the one which has had the least satisfactory official answer.
That question is this: why was it an hour and forty minutes before she was taken to hospital?
Badly injured and bleeding from a torn pulmonary vein, the first instinct of any doctor or paramedic would be to get her to a hospital for proper medical care and attention. A significant body of medical opinion asserts that Princess Diana’s injuries would have been perfectly treatable once in a clinical setting. And the hospital was close at hand – just 2 miles from the crash site in the tunnel. There was very little traffic on the streets that night. And she was put into an ambulance which could have taken her to hospital without delay.
Yet apparently the doctor on the scene, Dr Jean-Marc Martino, along with others unnamed during the inquest, decided to keep Diana away from the hospital emergency room for over an hour and a half.
It was an extraordinary decision, at variance with all logical medical and clinical practice, and was certainly a major factor contributing to her death.
There’s no doubt that the death of Diana was extremely convenient for the British establishment. Prince Charles was able to go on to rehabilitate himself to some extent in the eyes of a public who blamed him for his cruelty to Diana and his persistent infidelity. Bit by bit he introduced his mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles, to public life. He went on to marry her and tentatively talk about her becoming queen of Britain. Camilla sat next to Charles at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, in the place Diana would have had, had she lived. Just as Diana’s death meant Charles and Camilla were freed from the presence of his ex-wife, it meant the royal family as an institution has not had to cope with the posssibility that Mohammed al-Fayed would be the muslim step-grandfather of the future King William and Dodi his step-father. Apart from Diana’s relationship with Dodi, she undoubtedly had a great deal of potentially damaging knowledge about the royals and about Charles in particular. As long as she lived, she posed a threat to the institution of British monarchy. Add to that the fact that the Windsors undoubtedly wished to shape the two princes William and Harry in their mould, and it’s clear that Diana’s death, a tragedy for her sons, was very handy for the older royals. The international arms industry is also rid of a thorn in its side.
Unlawful Killing may or may not open up the old debate about Diana’s death. After its premier at the Cannes Film Festival it will be widely shown in other countries. There were immediate official moves in the UK, though, to suppress the film. It cannot be shown in Britain without legal action being taken against the makers and distributors. The UK authorities cannot, however, dodge the fact that there are many open questions surrounding the death of Diana. The inquest was stalled for years and was then entirely unsatisfactory – the royals were not even called to give evidence, evidence was dismissed or suppressed, explanations were unconvincing. Taking legal action to prevent Unlawful Killing being shown will not stop people talking or trying to get at the truth of Diana’s death. Legal action won’t stop the questions and debate. It never does.