French courts are using an obscure rule to block access to a file on Princess Diana’s death.
It could be kept secret until 2082.
The move has sparked claims of a cover-up of the 1997 car crash.
A source who had viewed part of the 6,000-page dossier told us: “It stinks of a cover up and conspiracy at the highest level, and is typical of French bureaucracy.”
The files contain all the evidence compiled by French police.
The pile of papers put together during their 18-month investigation into Di’s death in Paris stands almost a metre tall.
Many believe the file holds information showing her death was suspicious.
The French only admitted the dossier existed after we spent months asking to view case files.
When it seemed authorities were on the verge of allowing access to the file they mysteriously changed their minds.
They then added it was going to be kept from public view until at least 2082.
Authorities at the Palais de Justice in the French capital – where the documents are locked in a basement archive and guarded by armed cops – said they were using “article L. 213-2” of their “heritage code” to prohibit access.
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The code states certain national archives should be shielded from public view for at least 75 years from their completion date.
As the file was finished in 2007, it will be kept secret until 2082 at the earliest.
It is understood authorities will have the power to review whether to release the file at that time, meaning it may never be seen in full by the public.
A spokesman for the Palais de Justice denied us access after weeks of requests to view it by stating: “The investigation file is placed in the archives of the Paris Court of Appeal.
“In application of article L213-2 of the heritage code, it cannot be consulted before the expiration of a period of 75 years.”
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They added: “There is no online version of this archive.”
When we pressed French authorities to provide justification for using an obscure rule to lock away the Diana evidence file, a spokesman for the Palais de Justice brushed off our request by adding: “Just keep sending letters.”
No further reason was given for the secrecy over the documents.
It was also not made clear if anyone would be allowed to make copies of the file or photograph its contents in 2082.
In 2007, French authorities bizarrely claimed they had lost the 6,000-page file.
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They said it had been misplaced just weeks ahead of the £12.5million inquest into Diana’s death held in Britain that lasted from 2007 to 2008.
The file took three years to compile and was the work of 30 police officers.
Sources told us it contains thousands of pages detailing the statement of around 200 witnesses statements, along with the results of forensic tests on Di’s drunk chauffeur Henri Paul, never-before-seen photos of the crash scene and of those who died, as well as crucial interviews with all those involved in one of the biggest investigations in global legal history.
But lawyer Jean-Louis Pelletier – who represented Paris paparazzi Fabrice Chassery in the wake of Di’s death – said in 2007 when he asked to view the dossier, he was told it had disappeared.
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A search of the court documents archives in the Palais de Justice basement failed to uncover the hundreds of missing files – despite authorities now revealing to us it is being held there.
Mr Pelletier said he needed to view the dossier because his client Mr Chassery, who arrived at the crash scene on the night Diana died on August 31, 1997, was being pursued for manslaughter over the crash.
He said in 2007 “When I went in to the court to ask to see the files, I was told they weren’t there.
“I know files go missing from time to time, but bearing in mind the size and importance of this particular one, it is extraordinary.”
It is believed partial photocopies of the dossier – said to be stacked “floor to ceiling” in a room devoted to the records in the Palais de Justice basement – were sent to Lord Stevens who headed the British investigation into Diana’s Paris crash.
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But the copies were never made public as original documents are often only admissible in court hearings.
In 2006 it was also revealed photos held by French authorities showing Diana and her lover Dodi at the crash scene had also vanished.
The file is being held by the Court of Appeal in Paris, which is housed in the Palais de Justice on the Boulevard du Palais in the Île de la Cité – an island in the Sienne river, central Paris.
A British lawyer working on the Diana inquest said in 2007 when French authorities clamed the mountain of paperwork had disappeared: “It is scarcely believable that such crucial evidence could be lost just weeks before the inquest.”
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The disappearance of the file cast doubts at the time over whether all the evidence gathered by the French authorities was handed to former Scotland Yard chief Lord Stevens who led the Diana inquest in the UK.
It concluded Diana, 36, and her lover Dodi Al Fayed, 42, had been unlawfully killed on 31 August 1997, blaming the S-280 Mercedes crash on grossly negligent driving by pursuing paparazzi and chauffeur Henri Paul, 41, who also died in the smash.
Di’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, now 52, survived the crash but had horrific injuries including every bone in his face broken.
Seven weeks before her death, Diana reportedly expressed concerns she would be killed in an establishment conspiracy.
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For years conspiracy theorists have speculated French authorities helped have Diana murdered then covered it up.
They say their suspicions are supported by the length of time it took French ambulance drivers to rush dying Di to hospital and the speed with which evidence – including the princess’ crumpled Mercedes – was cleared from the crash scene.
In 2010 investigative journalist John Morgan published the book Diana Inquest: The Untold Story, which laid out his theory French authorities faked blood samples so it could be claimed Henri Paul was drunk.
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Dodi’s dad, former Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed has long argued Henri Paul, his security manager at the Ritz hotel in Paris, was not drunk on the night of the crash and insists the Royal Family colluded with spy agencies to have his son and Diana bumped off to stop his son joining The Firm, who he has repeatedly slammed as racist.
Leading QC Michael Mansfield, who represented Mohamed in his quest to prove Di’s death was a conspiracy, has also claimed the princess and Dodi were killed when a plot to put an end to their love affair went wrong.
In September the French driver whose car is alleged to have clipped Princess Diana’s moments before her fatal Paris smash sensationally confessed he was ordered by French cops not to talk about the accident.
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Vietnamese-born Le Van Thanh, 45, spoke on the doorstep of his home in Paris for the first time about claims his white Fiat Uno was seen striking Diana’s Mercedes seconds before it crashed.
He revealed when British police asked him to come to the UK to talk to them about the crash, French officers told him: “Don’t go there.”
His admission sparked calls for the investigation into Diana’s death to be reopened as a cold case.
Van Thanh’s father claimed in 2006 that his son had his Uno car repaired and resprayed later that day.
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Van Thanh, a 22-year-old taxi driver at the time Of Diana’s crash, was questioned by French police in 1997 after forensic experts concluded white paint on his vehicle matched that found on the wreckage of Diana’s car.
He said: “You know what the French police told me? ‘It’s not the same law as in France, don’t go there. Don’t go there to England’.”
When questioned via a translator about his father’s claim that his white Fiat Uno was repainted red, he added: “The police report – they know why I repainted it. When you have no money and you have a damaged old car, what do you do?”
Former Met Police Commissioner Lord Stevens said in 2017 he wanted to interview Le Van Thanh, and added: “What we have said to Mr Thanh is, ‘We believe you were the driver of the Fiat. Talk us through what happened’. We are still trying to interview him.”
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Van Thanh’s claim French police ordered him not to cooperate sparked calls for the investigation into Diana’s death to be reopened.
Michael Mansfield QC said: “There is a real question mark here because the French authorities were particularly anxious to ensure that it was blamed to the paparazzi.
“Le Van Thanh had the car resprayed. The Mercedes obviously did hit the Fiat.
“Whether that was an accident by the driver driving too fast into the tunnel or whether the Fiat Uno was in the wrong lane, I can’t take it beyond that.”
Former BBC royal correspondent Michael Cole said the interview with Van Thanh should be passed to British and French authorities as part of a formal request to reopen the Diana inquest.
He added: “As a matter of urgency, this information should be conveyed to an officer of the court.”
- Princess Diana
- Royal Family
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