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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 October 2007, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
Eleven people, one daunting task
By Angus Crawford
BBC News


Mohamed Al Fayed arriving at the inquest
Mohamed Al Fayed was met by a global press pack at the inquest
It began with a pack of cards being shuffled. Each card had the name of a potential juror on it.

Eleven times a name was called out by the court clerk. Eleven times a juror stood up and took their place in the jury box.

Each one then swore to "diligently enquire on behalf of our lady the Queen into the deaths".

And so, more than 10 years after the car crash in Paris, a British court was ready to hear about what happened the night Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed died.

There was no glamour or fanfare in court 73 at the Royal Courts of Justice, just the dignified voice of Lord Justice Scott Baker.

He wears a dark suit and sombre tie and has white hair carefully combed away from his side parting.

When talking to the jury he looks over a pair of silver-rimmed spectacles.

Behind him on the wall sits the royal coat of arms with its inscription, "Dieu et mon droit" - "God and my right"- written in gold leaf on a blue background across the base.

Press gang

Lord Justice Baker is one of the most senior judges in England and Wales, but he now sits as the assistant deputy coroner of inner west London.

Facing him is an army of barristers. Among others, they represent the Metropolitan Police, the Ritz Hotel, the security services and Mohamed Al Fayed.

You will be in the public eye as no inquest jury has ever been before
Lord Justice Scott Baker

Mr Al Fayed arrived at court to be met by a swarm of reporters and camera crews from around the world. They moved in a pack down the pavement towards the entrance.

The Harrods owner paused to tell them that now there was a jury looking at the case he hoped to get justice for Diana and Dodi whom he says were killed by MI6 on the orders of the Royal Family.

He then strode into the court pursued by yet more journalists, a select band of whom sit in the court, clutching a gold pass.

The BBC, Sky, ITN, CBS News and many others, including the Shropshire Star, squeeze into the press box, but such is the worldwide demand that in the courtyard of this historic yellowstone building there now sits a marquee.

'Pap rats'

The marquee is home to all those reporters not deemed worthy of the gold card.

It is the size of two tennis courts and along one wall there is a bank of screens. One shows live shots of the coroner, another the documents and photographs of the case.

The third screen carries a live text update of what is being said, which occasionally throws up some interesting spelling mistakes - the paparazzi become the "pap rats" at one point.

The reporters here are separated by a narrow partition from members of the public.

Surrounded by rows of empty chairs sit just three people although there is room for 150.

Back in the courtroom, Lord Justice Baker tells the jury it is not their job to apportion blame.

Instead, they are to decide four things: who died, where, when, and most significantly, how.

He also warns them: "You will be in the public eye as no inquest jury has ever been before."





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