LONDON – The coroner conducting the inquest into Princess Diana's death said Wednesday the inquiry is unlikely to reach a scientific conclusion on whether she was pregnant at the time — a possibility that is key to the allegation she was murdered.
Lord Justice Scott Baker, laying out the background behind the death of the princess and her companion, Dodi Fayed, on Aug. 31, 1997, said Diana had not given any indication to her doctor, family, friends or associates that she was pregnant.
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The 11-person jury has been told to expect up to six months of wide-ranging testimony before they are to determine whether the deaths were an accident — or murder.
Fayed's father, Mohammed al Fayed, has alleged that Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II's husband, directed British secret service agents to murder the couple, in part because she was carrying Fayed's child.
Baker told jurors no pregnancy tests were conducted on the princess' body, although two British pathologists concluded that there were no visible signs of a pregnancy. However, at an early stage of a pregnancy, there might be no visible signs, he added.
"It is likely pregnancy is not a matter that can be proved one way or the other in scientific terms," Baker said.
On Wednesday, the second day of the inquest, jurors were shown footage of the couple arriving at the hotel and traveling in an elevator, where the happy-looking princess flashes the security camera a smile.
Dodi Fayed later is shown at the hotel's Hall Vendome. Baker pointed out that Fayed was clutching a brochure — said to be from a jeweler he had visited earlier. Al Fayed has claimed his son had bought Diana an engagement ring.
But Baker said there was conflicting evidence about the purchase of an engagement ring and the intention behind it. He quoted al Fayed's spokesman, Michael Cole, as once saying: "What the ring meant we shall probably never know."
The died in a fatal car crash later that evening night. Two separate reports by British and French authorities concluded the crash likely occurred because the driver, Henri Paul, who also died, was drunk and lost control of the car.
Blood samples taken from Paul hours after he died, and again on Sept. 4, showed blood alcohol levels about double the legal limit, Baker said.
However, no one who had been at the Ritz thought Paul was intoxicated, and closed-circuit TV footage showed Paul displaying no difficulty in keeping steady.
Baker said the samples also showed no presence of a drug that Paul's physician had prescribed to alleviate fears Paul had of becoming dependent on alcohol.
He said there were some inconsistencies in the samples that may indicate they had become contaminated.
Baker also spoke of al Fayed's claims that the princess' body was illegally embalmed in Paris to cover up the pregnancy. He noted that none of Diana's relatives authorized the embalming but that it was approved by a Paris police official and British officials.