For the jury at the inquests into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed, the next six months could be the longest and most confusing half-year of their lives. As the coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker wrapped up his opening statement on Wednesday, the men and women tasked with deciding, once and for all, how the couple died finally have a full picture of the road ahead. And it's not going to be smooth.
On Day Two, the jury heard and saw the first of pieces of evidence. Referred to by Baker as "uncontroversial," these are the facts that nobody is contesting: a basic chronology of events leading up to the crash; a video of a car retracing the route from the Ritz to the Pont de l'Alma tunnel; and security tape footage of Diana and Dodi at the hotel. There's more chronology to come on Thursday, then a visit to Paris to see the tunnel and the hotel early next week. After that, the inquest gets into the details, and things get more complicated.
Ten years on, everyone thinks they know what happened on Aug. 31, 1997. But Baker's statement, peppered with phrases like "contradictory evidence" and "perhaps we shall never know," promises a flood of unreliable testimony, conflicting expert opinion and unexplained anomalies that could force everyone to think again. Here are the three key questions that will probably only lead to more questions:
Was Diana pregnant?
On Tuesday, Baker dismissed the rumor that Diana was carrying Dodi's baby by pointing out that photos which show the Princess sporting a rounded belly were taken before they met. But that doesn't rule out the possibility that she was pregnant only that Dodi was the father. A physical examination of Diana's body didn't reveal any signs that she was pregnant. But a pregnancy in its early stages would be difficult to spot without an autopsy, Baker conceded, which was never performed. The French didn't run a pregnancy test before the body was embalmed, because they didn't see the need, and afterwards it was too late. Yes, Diana was believed to be on the Pill and, true, she never mentioned being pregnant to any of her friends or family. But, Baker said, Diana's pregnancy "is not a matter that can be proved one way or the other." Which means it also can't be disproved.
Was Henri Paul drunk?
The accident theory relies on the jury believing that Henri Paul, the security guard who was driving the Mercedes the night of the crash, was under the influence of drink, drugs or both and lost control of the car. The murder theory depends on the jury agreeing that he was sober and that more sinister forces were responsible. On the one hand, blood tests performed on Paul's body put his blood alcohol level way over France's drink-driving limit. On the other, the same tests carried out on the same day by two different doctors came up with two different levels, and while records show that five blood samples were allegedly taken, only three were ever sent for analysis. Nobody knows what happened to the other two, or if they even existed. Other factors about Paul's blood like the presence of prescription drugs that none of his doctors remember prescribing for him, and high levels of carbon monoxide that nobody can account for have some observers questioning the reliability of the tests. The legal team representing Dodi's dad, Mohamed Al Fayed, are claiming that the blood tested wasn't even Paul's, which Baker responded to but not really when he said that DNA tests "appear" to show that it was.
What happened to Prince Philip's letters?
Several people, including Mohamed Al Fayed and Diana's longtime butler Paul Burrell, have already said that the Princess was convinced the Royal Family was planning an "accident" to get rid of her. And Al Fayed is pointing to her father-in-law Prince Philip as the one who ordered her alleged assassination. But the one piece of evidence that could reveal Prince Philip's true feelings about Diana is missing: a set of letters that he wrote to her. Burrell, who Baker "hopes" will give evidence during the inquest, says he saw them. And Diana's sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, says she had conversations with Diana about them. But nobody knows where they are. "It seems probable that there were such letters, but where they went and whether they still exist remains a mystery," Baker said. And then, touching on what could become the theme for the entire inquest, added: "We shall have to see whether the mystery unfolds in the coming weeks."