At Cafe Diana, theories of princess's death die hard

LONDON Tue Apr 1, 2008 10:36am BST

Customers are seen inside Cafe Diana in central London March 31, 2008. In the years since her death, Cafe Diana, its walls plastered with photographs of the princess and letters from her to the proud owner, has become a pilgrimage spot for tourists who hanker after the ''queen of hearts''. A coroner said on Monday there was no evidence that Prince Philip ordered the ''execution'' of Princess Diana in a 1997 car crash, dismissing the conspiracy theories of her late lover's father. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico (BRITAIN)

Customers are seen inside Cafe Diana in central London March 31, 2008. In the years since her death, Cafe Diana, its walls plastered with photographs of the princess and letters from her to the proud owner, has become a pilgrimage spot for tourists who hanker after the ''queen of hearts''. A coroner said on Monday there was no evidence that Prince Philip ordered the ''execution'' of Princess Diana in a 1997 car crash, dismissing the conspiracy theories of her late lover's father.

Credit: Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico (BRITAIN)

LONDON (Reuters) - Ten years after she died, and with an estimated 10 million pounds spent trying to establish what led to her death, there are those who will always believe what they want to believe about Princess Diana.

"Somebody was behind it, I tell you," murmurs Abbas Ali, an Iraqi who has lived in London for nearly 30 years, fixing his questioner with a steely gaze as he sipped coffee in Cafe Diana, a sandwich-bar-cum-temple to the late princess.

"There are powers that do these sorts of things. She was killed, I tell you. Wait another 20 years and maybe we'll finally know the truth. Somebody was behind it."

His friend nods and breaks off a telephone conversation to throw his opinion into the ring.

"It's like the Iraq war," he says, shrugging his shoulders as if the connection were obvious. "They tell you there are weapons of mass destruction and then there are no weapons of mass destruction. The same with Diana. How do we know for sure?"

Lord Justice Scott Baker, the coroner who has spent six months heading the inquest into her death in a high-speed Paris car crash, appeared sure of one thing on Monday at least.

Summing up after listening to more than 250 witnesses, he ruled there was no evidence the Duke of Edinburgh was behind Diana's death, something Mohamed al-Fayed, the father of Diana's lover Dodi, who also died in the crash, has long maintained.

TOURIST PILGRIMAGE

And yet, it seems, the conspiracies will not so readily be stamped out.

"Of course someone killed her," says Dalilur Choudhury, a waiter at the Mahal Indian restaurant, which sits next door to Cafe Diana opposite Kensington Palace, Diana's old residence on the edge of London's Hyde Park.

"There was jealously because she had a lover and so they had her killed -- everybody knows that."

In the years since her death, Cafe Diana -- its walls plastered with photographs of the princess and letters from her to the proud owner -- has become a pilgrimage spot for tourists who hanker after the "queen of hearts".

Waiter Fouad Fattah has seen them come and go for more than a decade and wearily heard them expound all their theories.

"We get French, British, Americans, Germans -- they all come and they all have their opinions," he says. "Most of those who come in believe the conspiracies."

On Monday a few tourists sat staring at the pictures on the walls, but mostly the cafe was full of construction workers and taxi drivers getting stuck in to plates of fried bacon, eggs and chips.

Owner Abdul Basit, an Iraqi who opened the cafe in 1989 and decided to name it after Diana -- rather than Abdul's -- after spotting her crossing the road, became a friend of the princess's and was hugely saddened by her death.

But when it comes to digging in to how she died and whether anything nefarious might lie behind it, he is adamant:

"It was just an accident," he says, answering a question he's clearly been asked a thousand times before.

"It was misfortune -- the driver was drunk, was going too fast and crashed. That's all there is to it."

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