clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Net keeps Diana conspiracy theories alive

It's been 10 years since Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris. I remember that night well. My husband was at a University of Utah football game, and I was home with the kids. I was glued to the television from the moment I learned of the crash until the last of her funeral procession. I also recall that my husband was a bit disturbed by my obsession with the event. My intense interest wrapped up about the same time as the initial investigation came to a close.

The initial findings were that Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, were killed when the car driven by Henri Paul crashed into a concrete pillar in a dark underpass. Paul was speeding and exceedingly drunk. His blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit. Tests also found prescription drugs, including the antidepressant Prozac, in Paul's system. Fayed's body guard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was the only occupant of the car to survive the crash.

Investigators have all but rejected allegations by Fayed's father, Egyptian-born billionaire Mohamed al Fayed. He maintains that his son and Diana were to be engaged the night they died. Instead, they were murdered in a plot directed by Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II.

It makes for a far more compelling story than drunken driving, but investigators don't concur. They believe Paul was very drunk, he was driving too fast and crashed the car.

Doubts about the cause of the fatal crash persist, though. So much so that a British inquest is under way. Jurors have been empaneled in Paris to retrace Diana's final moments and determine how she, her boyfriend and driver died on Aug. 31, 1997. The inquest is expected to last no more than six months.

Will the world accept their findings as the end-all explanation for this horrible tragedy?

Not such luck.

In many respects, Diana's death is another JFK assassination. To this day, there is tremendous speculation over the particulars of the death of President John F. Kennedy. And that was nearly 44 years ago.

For that matter, there are people who insist that Elvis Presley's death was faked — that he's working at a convenience store somewhere in the Midwest.

And rumors persist that the United States never landed on the moon. If this is true, boy do I have a bone to pick with my mother for waking me from my lazy summertime slumber to watch Neil Armstrong allegedly walk on the moon.

Given that, and this nifty tool called the Internet that enables like-thinking people to find one another and spin conspiratorial webs to their hearts' content, the Diana crash will be with us for a long time to come.

Even her grown sons, in an interview with NBC "Today" show host Matt Lauer earlier this year, acknowledged that Diana mania will never cease. "I can't really see it ever ending really," Prince Harry said. "I think people will always have a fascination about her, and journalists believe that the people — there's a need to read about her, a need to sort of be reminded of her."

Prince Harry, too, wonders what happened to his mother. "For me personally, whatever happened that night, whatever happened in that tunnel — no one will ever know. And I'm sure people will always think about that," he told NBC.

Prince Harry and Prince William may never know peace over their mother's death. Because they, too, are royals, their every gesture and nuance will be examined under the microscope for the remainder of their lives.

Perhaps that's what is most laughable about conspiracies regarding the rich and famous, whose every daily activity — be it returning home from the gym or picking up the dry cleaning — is fodder for a cable network program, entertainment Web site or tabloid newspaper.

Is it possible for conspiracies to thrive in a time of unprecedented public access to people's private lives? In the age of YouTube and Google, it seems an increasingly difficult thing to do.

Marjorie Cortez, who believes the Internet is also a useful tool for debunking conspiracy theories, is a Deseret Morning News editorial writer. E-mail her at