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Monday, March 31, 2008 

The final curtain.

Seeing as Scott Baker has finally commenced his summing up, it should now be safe to end the boycott of mentioning the Diana inquest.

It would be nice to think that this inglorious, ignoble waste of time, effort and money, all for the purpose of flattering the ego and demands of a very rich and very deluded individual, has served its ultimate aim: to let Fayed get his ridiculous theories fully out in the open, where they can be suitably mocked, and then debunked, as they undoubtedly have been. The reality though is the opposite, as Lord Baker himself has said as much, noting that there will always be individuals who believe that she was murdered on the orders of Prince Philip, or alternatively by the Reptilians in league with al-Qaida who are in turn in association with international freemasonry, the Flat Earth Society and the Greys. Nothing you can say to such individuals will ever convince them they're wrong; the most you can hope for is that they betray at least a moment's doubt and think for a second, before returning to the comfort of their original belief.

Does anyone honestly believe then that this is the last of it, that whatever verdict the jury reaches will end the cult of Diana, alter Fayed's mind one iota, or change the view of the guy who's turned up every day with Diana and Dodi painted on his face? While Scott Baker was certainly right, both legally and intellectually to not allow the jury to even consider returning a verdict that the death was connected to a conspiracy, this will almost certainly be where Fayed and the others will home in on; they'll say that the jury didn't have a chance to rule on the possibility, despite it being laughed out of court, through either judicial arrogance or yet again, a conspiracy.

The verdicts offered to the jury itself show the futility of the entire exercise. I'll go out on a limb and predict that the jury won't be able to find a majority on it being the fault of the paparazzi or Henri Paul or the involvement of both, and instead return that it was an accidental death, as we have known for oh, closing on 11 years. You can blame Paul or the paparazzi and say both were culpable, but can't say with any sort of certainty that either directly caused Diana's death. In any case, as we've also known for a while, if she or Dodi had been wearing their seatbelts, they likely would have survived, but that doesn't seem to have come into it at any real point.

All of this was established, if not within hours of the crash, then in the next few months that followed. The inquest hasn't really told us anything about the night that we didn't already: we already knew how the paparazzi had behaved, if not quite in as much detail, and knew that Paul had drank alcohol in combination with medication with which it should not strictly be mixed. We didn't perhaps knew that one of the drinks he consumed was a Ricard, but even that was probably in the more verbose accounts of that night. Everything else was a sideshow, from the essential revelation that Diana's mother had called her a whore for sleeping with an "effin Muslim man", right down to her menstrual pattern, whether Dodi had bought her a ring or not, to Paul Burrell's sensitive secret information not being sensitive secret information at all. This was wonderful entertainment for the tabloids, who delighted in the whole thing, but did nothing whatsoever for the memory of Diana herself. Perhaps even that was epitomised by the ramshackle inquiry: a woman and a press that were as schizophrenic in their attitudes towards each other as the "evidence" at times seemed.

To the end, there's been a continuation of this almost knockabout aspect of some of the evidence given. Scott Baker has identified three as directly lying - James Andanson, Paul Burrell and John Macnamara, to whom he could have added the former head of MI6, Richard Dearlove, who hilariously said that during his time in the service MI6 had never assassinated anyone. As a Steve Bell cartoon featuring a conversation between the current head and the Duke of Edinburgh retorted, what on earth are we paying you for?

Some will doubtless argue that the whole debacle has, in the horrible cod-psychological neologism, provided some sort of closure. Perhaps it will to some extent mean the end of the incessant, niggling media coverage of the past 10 years, although it was finally starting to abate in any case, only reignited by the inquest itself. For those at the centre of it however, the tragedy of that night will never leave them. Fayed's undoubted anguish at the death of his only son in such circumstances is all too real; what has never been real is his theories for how it occurred, and how he has used it as an excuse to take on and blame the establishment itself for all his subsequent woes. Subconsciously, maybe, this is his way of dealing with the pain that it was in the company of his employees that his son and the princess died, something he seemingly has never faced up to. Fayed has to face up to his own demons, and the state should never have let itself be used as a replacement for him doing so.

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