Princess Diana's fatal injury was tiny, "in the wrong place" and so rare that a renowned forensic pathologist never saw another one like it, his new book says. The Princess of Wales was killed in a car crash in Paris almost 22 years ago, but she would have survived if she was wearing a seat belt, says Dr Richard Shepherd. Had she been restrained in the back seat, the mum of princes William and Harry would have likely appeared in public just two days later with broken bones and bruises, the pathologist claims.
Dr Shepherd, who reviewed evidence in the case, said the tiny, fatal tear in a vein in one of Diana's lungs was incredibly rare - and he has dismissed conspiracy theories surrounding her death. The pathologist, explaining his findings in his new book Unnatural Causes, which goes on sale on April 18, wrote: "Her specific injury is so rare that in my entire career I don’t believe I’ve seen another. Diana’s was a very small injury – but in the wrong place."
In an extract published in the Mail, Dr Shepherd said the Princess of Wales' death is a "classic example" of an "if only" case. If only she had been wearing a seat belt, if only she had hit the seat in front of her at a slightly different angle or slower speed, and if only she had been put in an ambulance immediately after the Pont de l'Alma tunnel crash, he wrote. Dr Shepherd wrote that the biggest "if only" from the fatal crash in the early hours of August 31, 1997, relates to the seat belt. He wrote: "Had she been restrained, she would probably have appeared in public two days later with a black eye, perhaps a bit breathless from the fractured ribs and with a broken arm in a sling." He added: "The pathology of her death is, I believe, indisputable. But around that tiny, fatal tear in a pulmonary vein are woven many other facts, some of which are sufficiently opaque to allow a multitude of theories to blossom."
Diana, 36, had also suffered a few broken bones and a small chest injury. She wasn't put in an ambulance immediately because she initially seemed stable and was communicating, Dr Shepherd wrote, but the torn vein was slowly bleeding into her chest. She was in the car with wealthy boyfriend Dodi Fayed, 42, driver Henri Paul, 41, and Mr Fayed's bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, who was in the front passenger seat.
Mr Rees-Jones, now 51, was the lone survivor and the only person wearing a seat belt. Mr Paul hit the steering wheel and microseconds later was hit from behind by Mr Fayed, who was travelling at more than 60mph, the pathologist wrote. Mr Paul effectively acted as Fayed’s “airbag”, and both died instantly, he added.
The energy of Diana's impact into the back of Mr Rees-Jones' seat would have been slightly lessened by the fact that she was lighter and the bodyguard's seat belt would have absorbed some of the extra force, the pathologist concluded. The Princess of Wales gradually lost consciousness in an ambulance and was later pronounced dead at the hospital despite emergency surgery.
A British inquest into Diana's death in 2008 found she was unlawfully killed, royal and paparazzi photographers and Mr Paul were to blame. Photographers were chasing the car which was en route to Mr Fayed's apartment from the Ritz hotel. None of them was charged by French police.
A two-year probe by French police, concluding in 1999, found the cause of the crash was due to Mr Paul losing control of the car because he was driving too fast while under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs. He was not licensed to drive passengers in the Mercedes S280 saloon, which was travelling between 73mph and 96mph at the time of the crash, French police found.
Dr Shepherd reviewed the evidence as part of a 2004 police inquiry, led by then-Met Police head Sir John Stevens, to investigate conspiracy theories and find out if there was any reason to doubt they were victims of an accident. Dr Shepherd agreed with the inquiry's findings that it was a tragic accident. Investigators involved in the 2004 inquiry - said to have cost £3million - examined the Mercedes, visited the crash site and brought together about 1,500 witness statements and 20,000 documents.
In addition to Diana's tragic death, Dr Shepherd, who worked on the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the Hungerford massacre, discusses his investigations and conclusions on some of Britain's other landmark cases in his new book.