A lawyer at the inquest into the death of Princess Diana suggested Friday that British secret agents didn't intend to kill her, only to scare her.
The remark was made by Michael Mansfield, a lawyer for Mohamed Al Fayed, who claims Prince Philip ordered British agents to kill the princess and his son Dodi Fayed in a staged car crash on Aug. 31, 1997
MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, denies any involvement in the deaths.
Mansfield made his suggestion while questioning an MI6 witness, identified only as "E," who directed central and eastern European operations from 1992 to 1994.
The public and reporters were not allowed in court for the testimony of anonymous agents this week.
"If an officer perceives a threat, ... in other words identifies a potential threat in his area of work and then conceives of a way of nullifying the threat, which may stretch from the ultimate, in other words, annihilation, to nullification; in other words, you nullify not by killing, but by frightening, shocking or doing something else?" Mansfield asked.
"One would have to see the detail in such a proposal, but ... I would say, yes, a broad spread of imaginative ideas," E replied.
E had said, however, that he had never been involved in any operation involving special forces.
The coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, interrupted Mansfield's questioning.
"Mr. Mansfield, are you really suggesting that the collision was a plan to scare that went wrong and it was a plan that could have been orchestrated by somebody in MI6?" Baker asked.
"I appreciate it is speculation," Mansfield said.
French and British police both conducted lengthy investigations of the crash and concluded it was an accident. They concluded that driver Henri Paul, who also died, had been drinking and was driving too fast.
Richard Horwell, a lawyer representing British police, seized on Mansfield's suggestion.
"We are moving away from a planned assassination, it seems, to a planned scare of occupants in a car," Horwell said.
"The suggestion now is that the Duke of Edinburgh (Philip) takes against the partner of the Princess of Wales of just some four or five weeks standing, no more than that, and he orders that MI6 scares the occupants of a car in Paris that night and MI6 takes the order and carries it out within a very short period of time.
"What, in your opinion, are the prospects of MI6 getting involved in any such operation?" Horwell asked.
"Nil," said E.