Investigating Diana and her death in Paris

Princess DianaPrincess Diana
Princess Diana
Sunday: Investigating Diana: Death in Paris - (Channel 4, 9pm)

On August 31, 1997, the world was shocked by the news that Princess Diana had died in a car crash in Paris.

That means it’s also now 25 years since the conspiracy theories started, with some arguing that her death was not a tragic accident but the work of the British establishment, who were alarmed by the possibility of the heir to the throne having a Muslim stepfather.

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The new four-part documentary Investigating Diana: Death in Paris returns to the controversial crash and the two police investigations that followed – one by the French Brigade Criminelle in 1997, one by the Metropolitan Police in 2004.

Martine Monteil Head of Brigade CriminelleMartine Monteil Head of Brigade Criminelle
Martine Monteil Head of Brigade Criminelle

Even a quarter of a century after her death, Diana continues to have a strong hold over the public’s imagination. Last year marked what would have been her 60th birthday and brought a new string of documentaries looking back at her tragically short life.

That wasn’t the only reason she was back in the headlines in 2021 – in May, the BBC made an apology following an inquiry into how Martin Bashir was able to secure the infamous 1995 Panorama interview with the Princess, in which she declared there were three people in her marriage.

The fourth season of The Crown and the offbeat biopic Spencer, starring an Oscar-nominated Kristen Stewart as Diana, also helped to keep her in the public eye.

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Some people may be wondering if it isn’t time to let her rest, but the makers of this series point out that Investigating Diana: Death in Paris isn’t just about going over old ground.

Henry Singer, executive producer for Sandpaper Films says: “This was a really important series to make — not only because we hope it will lay to rest the conspiracy theories that continue to obscure the truth of what happened in the Alma tunnel that night — but because the story is a window into the world today, where conspiracy theories no longer reside in the dark corners of the internet but have gone mainstream and are actually pushed by people in positions of real power.”

Drawing on interviews with the top detectives on both sides of the Channel — most of whom are speaking for the first time – the documentary finds out how the detectives tried to separate fact from speculation, all while dealing with unreliable witnesses and fallible memories. It also examines what was fuelling the conspiracy theories and why they were able to flourish.

The first episode begins the story in the immediate aftermath of the deaths of Diana, Dodi Al-Fayed and their driver Henri Paul.

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France’s elite Brigade Criminelle, led by female chief Martine Monteil, was first on the crash scene in Paris on August 31, 1997, and to them it initially appeared to be a fairly straight-forward traffic accident.

When it became clear that one of the passengers was arguably the most famous woman in the world, they realised they were dealing with a high-stakes operation.

The series continues tomorrow, as the police hunt for a white Fiat Uno that allegedly collided with Diana and Dodi’s Mercedes comes to nothing, and the calls increase for an independent British inquiry.

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