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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 December 2006, 13:45 GMT
Princess Diana inquest to resume
Princess Diana
Lady Butler-Sloss must decide if a jury is needed
The inquest into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Al Fayed is set to resume in 2007 - nearly 10 years after their Paris car crash.

A preliminary hearing into the deaths of the pair on 31 August 1997 will begin at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on 8 January.

Coroner Lady Butler-Sloss' first task will be to decide if a jury is needed.

The hearing follows the Met Police inquiry into the crash which found the crash was "a tragic accident".

The princess, 36, and Mr Al Fayed, 42, died when their Mercedes crashed in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel.

They were pursued by paparazzi photographers after leaving the Ritz Hotel for Mr Al Fayed's apartment.

Heavy workload

The three-year inquiry, led by former Met Police chief Lord Stevens, found no evidence there was a conspiracy to murder the couple.

The inquiry report said chauffeur Henri Paul, who also died, was speeding and over the legal drink-drive limit.

The police investigation was requested by royal coroner Michael Burgess when the inquests were opened and adjourned in January 2004.

Mr Burgess subsequently stepped down blaming a heavy workload.

Princess Diana's wrecked Mercedes
Princess Diana and Mr Al Fayed died when their car crashed in 1997

Dodi's father Mohamed Al Fayed, who insists the couple were murdered, said Lord Stevens' "highly unsatisfactory" report left questions "unanswered".

Earlier this month, Lady Butler-Sloss announced the preliminary hearing would be held in public.

Mr Al Fayed had mounted a legal challenge for it to be held in public.

UK law states inquests must be held in public but early hearings need not be.

Lady Butler-Sloss was said to have been persuaded to change her mind because of public interest in the case.

If she decides a jury will be needed it will be made up of members of the Royal Household as the princess was still considered a member of the Royal Family when she died.

Lady Butler-Sloss will also decide whether the princess and Dodi Al Fayed's inquests - first opened and adjourned in January 2004 - will be held jointly or separately.


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