The jury at the inquests into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed will explore 10 key elements supporting the conspiracy theory that the couple were murdered on the express orders of the Royal Family.
Lord Justice Scott Baker, the coroner presiding over the six-month-long inquiry into the fatal car crash in a Paris underpass 10 years ago, said yesterday that it was important that the court "got to the truth".
This, said the judge, would mean that the six women and five men jurors must consider not just Mohammed al Fayed's allegations that Diana and his son were killed because the establishment did not want them to marry, but other conspiracies that might come before the court.
Addressing the jury, the coroner said: "You may think that all the evidence largely points to the collision being a tragic accident... and that the cause was driver error." But he said that, from the night of the crash, Mr Fayed had "not accepted" that explanation and had not wavered from that conclusion.
The judge said that Mr Fayed was not alone in his suspicions. "There are many members of the public who are concerned that something sinister may lie behind circumstances surrounding the events of that night. What we are going to get to is the truth... so we will look at some allegations which have publicly been advanced in support of various conspiracy theories, even if they are not supported by Mr Fayed."
The coroner has isolated what he described as 10 key issues for the jury to consider relating to the alleged Fayed conspiracy. These include that the driver of the Mercedes, Henri Paul, was an informant working for MI6 and the French security services and that "there was a determination to wrongly portray him as a drunk driver". Other central issues include the suggestion that the crash was caused by stun guns fired by MI6 agents in the underpass. The jury will also investigate Mr Fayed's contention that Diana was pregnant when she died and that this fact was concealed by the embalming process.
Later in the inquest, the court will hear evidence of the princess's state of mind shortly before her death.
The coroner said: "There is no doubt that Diana expressed fears from time to time about her personal safety, including the possibility of a staged car accident." But he added that "expressions of these fears " predated her relationship with Dodi Fayed.
Setting out the background to the events leading up to her death, the coroner said that "they took place in a time of Diana's life when things must have been very traumatic and stressful for her. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the breakdown of her marriage, her emotions may have been overriding her more logical thoughts!".
The jury was told Mr al Fayed had said the princess had directly told him of her fears about being murdered by the Royal Family, saying that one day she would "go up in a helicopter and never come down alive".