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TODAY contributor
updated 10/8/2007 10:23:27 AM ET 2007-10-08T14:23:27

The official inquest into Princess Diana’s death will find no conspiracy behind the tragedy in a Paris tunnel a decade ago, nor should it blame pursuing paparazzi, Diana’s former bodyguard said Monday on TODAY.

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“I don’t think the paparazzi played a role,” Ken Wharfe told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira. “My view is that there are no conspiracies.”

All the paparazzi wanted on that August evening in Paris was a shot of the princess and her new boyfriend, Dodi al-Fayed, leaving the Ritz hotel together and getting into their car, said Wharfe, who was Diana’s bodyguard from 1986-93.

Instead of arranging an opportunity for the photographers to get their picture and then let the couple leave in peace, security personnel for the couple tried to sneak them out of the hotel. A few photographers saw them leaving from a back exit and set off in pursuit.

The couple’s driver, Henri Paul, who was found to have a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit, tried to outrun the photographers and crashed, killing Diana, al-Fayed and himself. Only Diana’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, survived.

“These games are the sort that never work,” Wharfe said of the attempt to sneak away. “What was wrong was the bodyguards failed to communicate with the paparazzi to strike a deal,” Wharfe said. “All they wanted was a picture.”

Wharfe dealt with the paparazzi constantly during the years he was the official bodyguard for Diana and her sons.

“They can be a nuisance,” he said, but, he added, “When the publicity is good, I don’t know any member of the royal family who says, ‘We don’t want that.’”

The reality is that there is enormous public interest in the royal family, which creates the demand for pictures, for which newspapers and magazines pay substantial sums.

British law requires an inquest into the death of any private citizen who dies on foreign soil. Although a jury — six men and five women in this case — hears evidence, it is a civil and not a criminal procedure. The jury must decide four questions: who died, when and where they died, and what caused their death. The last question is the only one that remains controversial.

The inquest was delayed for 10 years while British and French authorities completed police investigations into the deaths. That process was drawn out by the claims of Dodi al-Fayed’s father, Mohamed al-Fayed, that there was a conspiracy to kill Diana and his son to prevent the princess from marrying a Muslim.

“Mohamed al-Fayed, who is the perpetrator of these conspiracies, has produced no evidence,” Wharfe said. Investigators have shown that some of the claims, including that Diana was pregnant with Dodi al-Fayed’s child, were false. The post-mortem exam of Diana showed that she was not pregnant when she died and was taking birth control pills.

The evidence won’t matter to the conspiracy theorists, Wharfe said: “They’re always going to hang on to their belief.”

Blame misplaced?
The omnipresent paparazzi became an issue again last week when Prince William, Diana and Prince Charles’ firstborn son and heir to the throne, was besieged when he went to a club with girlfriend Kate Middleton. Once an item, the couple had broken up but reunited this summer as the two princes were planning a concert and memorial services commemorating the tenth anniversary of their mother’s death along with what would have been her 46th birthday. The paparazzi had come out in force to get pictures of the first public outing for the newly reunited couple.

Buckingham Palace released a statement, purportedly from William, that said: “It seems incomprehensible, especially at this time, that this type of behavior is still going on.”

William and his brother Harry have lived with paparazzi their entire lives, and, Wharfe said, it remains to be seen whether the statement actually came from William.

“There is a huge global market for these pictures,” Wharfe told Vieira. “There’s such a huge global demand for this, the best thing the royal family can do is learn to live with it.”

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