Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Charles and Princes to Be Questioned as Yard Chief Investigates Death; CRASH INQUEST - ROYAL CORONER EMBARKING ON 'SINGLE SEARCH FOR TRUTH'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Charles and Princes to Be Questioned as Yard Chief Investigates Death; CRASH INQUEST - ROYAL CORONER EMBARKING ON 'SINGLE SEARCH FOR TRUTH'

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL CHESTON

THE Royal Coroner today opened the inquest into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales saying he was embarking on "a single search for truth".

But Michael Burgess added that the facts of what happened in Paris on 31 August, 1997, will not be established for at least another year.

Formally opening the inquests into the deaths of Diana and Dodi Fayed, he also revealed he had asked Met Commissioner Sir John Stevens to take charge of enquiries. Detectives are expected to interview every potential witness, including Prince Charles and his sons, for the full inquest, which would take place no earlier than the first quarter of 2005.

In a 30-minute address at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre he said the inquests would not be "a rubber stamping exercise" but "a single search for truth," and "the single-minded aim to find answers to the questions: who the deceased person was and how, when and where the cause of death arose."

Watched by Harrods owner Mohamed Fayed, the coroner went to great lengths to underline his independence and dismiss speculation surrounding the princess's death in the back seat of the Mercedes driven by Henri Paul which crashed in Paris.

Mr Burgess said: "I am an independent judicial officer which means I am independent of the families of those who have died ... and independent of those who have appointed me and support me. Independence means that I take instructions from no one in the conduct of my duties."

He added: "I am aware that there is speculation that these deaths were not the result of a sad but relatively straightforward road traffic accident in Paris .... I have to separate fact from fiction and speculation. Speculation and speculative reports are not themselves evidence, however frequently and authoritatively they may be published, broadcast or repeated."

The coroner stressed he "regretted the untold pain" Diana and Dodi's families might suffer by having to relive the trauma of the deaths.

"The inquest process may give rise to considerable and possibly unnecessary intrusion into private grief which I regret," he said. …

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