Britain’s formal inquest into the death of Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi al-Fayed opened Tuesday, nearly six and a half years after the pair died in a Paris car crash. Against the backdrop of intense media interest, Coroner Michael Burgess formally opened the inquest into the death of Diana. He also opened a separate inquest Tuesday into the death of the princess’ companion, Dodi al-Fayed, the son of the flamboyant owner of Harrod’s department store in London. Below is the chronology of the main legal moves leading up to the announcement today of the inquest into the deaths of Diana and Dodi.

September 2 1997: French prosecutors formally open an inquiry into whether six photographers and a photo agency motorcyclist should be charged with causing the crash or failing to help Diana while she was pinned in the wreckage.

Judge Herve Stephan is appointed to head the investigation.

Charges of involuntary homicide and injury as well as failing to come to the aid of Diana and three others in the car would be considered, it is announced.

Judge Stephan puts the seven under formal investigation for manslaughter and failing to aid people in danger after the crash. They are released on bail.

Lawyers on their behalf vigorously reject claims that they were to blame for the crash.

On the same day, Mohamed Al Fayed files a civil action at a Paris court over the car crash.

His lawyer says he had asked for a widening of the inquiry to include possible charges of violation of privacy against Dodi and Diana.

Another lawyer announces that the parents of Henri Paul, the driver of Diana’s car, have launched a civil action.

September 5 1997: It is revealed that the family of the Princess has filed a civil suit in connection with the investigation into her death.

The move allows family lawyers access to the file dealing with the six photographers and the photographic agency motor cyclist.

It is announced that French magistrates have placed three more photographers under investigation for manslaughter, bringing the total number of suspects in the case to 10.

September 10 1997: The Ritz Hotel in Paris could also face legal charges for allegedly allowing a drunk and unqualified employee to drive Diana and Dodi on the night of the crash, police sources reveal.

September 9 1998 Trevor Rees Jones, the bodyguard who survived the crash, is suing his former employer, Mohamed Al Fayed, it emerges.

February 6 1999: A United States judge rejects a request by Harrods’ owner Mohamed Al Fayed for classified government documents he believes may aid the investigation into crash.

Mr Al Fayed filed for the documents after he discovered that the US National Security Agency had 1,056 pages of classified information about Diana.

July 2 1999: A French appeals court rejects a request by Mohamed Al Fayed for further official inquiries into the crash.

Mr Al Fayed had been hoping Judge Stephan would overturn an earlier court ruling to allow three British diplomats based in Paris to be questioned.

August 16 1999: France’s state prosecutor recommends dismissing charges against the nine photographers and the press motorcyclist.

Judicial officials say the prosecutor decided there was insufficient evidence to pursue the charges.

August 17 1999: Defence chiefs in the United States agree to re-open intelligence files which include references to Diana, Princess of Wales, following a request from Mohamed Al Fayed.

September 3 1999: Judge Herve Stephan finally publishes his long-awaited report after an exhaustive two-year investigation.

The nine photographers and the press motorcyclist are formally cleared of manslaughter charges.

The judge finds that chauffeur Henri Paul was mainly to blame because he was drunk and under the influence of anti-depressants.

Mr Al Fayed’s French lawyer announces immediately that he will appeal he decision to drop all charges against photographers involved in the case.

July 18 2000: Mr Al Fayed loses his High Court battle for joint, or concurrent, inquests into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and his son Dodi.

November 7 2001: Mr Al Fayed loses a claim for damages over what he had called a flawed part of the inquiry into Diana’s death.

The Harrods owner had claimed £100,000, saying that two French investigating judges erred when they didn’t immediately investigate a charge of invasion of privacy against the news photographers at the scene.

April 4 2002: France’s highest court – the Court of Cassation – puts a final end to the investigation into Diana’s death, upholding the dismissal of manslaughter charges against nine photographers and a press motorcyclist in the car crash that killed the “people’s princess”.

June 24 2003: Mr Al Fayed launches a court bid in Scotland to secure a public inquiry into the death of his son.

August 29 2003: Royal coroner Michael Burgess announces that inquests into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed will go ahead.

August 31 2003: Mohamed Al Fayed welcomes news of the inquests and reiterates his determination to “discover the truth” of how the couple died.

October 24 2003: Three photographers who snapped pictures of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed at the site of their fatal crash go on trial in Paris accused of invading the couple’s privacy.

November 28 2003: French court clears photographers of invading the privacy of Dodi and Diana.

December 15 2003: Mohamed Al Fayed claims Diana and Dodi were “murdered” as he launches his latest legal bid to have a public inquiry into their deaths held in Scotland at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

December 18 2003: Michael Burgess sets January 6 2004 as date for inquests.

December 19 2003: French prosecutors appeal against the acquittal of photographers accused of invading Dodi and Diana’s privacy.

January 6 2004: Inquests into deaths of Diana and Dodi opened and adjourned.

Scroll to Top