Image: Crash in which Princess Diana died
Jerome Delay  /  AP file
Police prepare to take away the car in which Diana, Princess of Wales, died in this Sunday, Aug. 31, 1997 file photo taken in Paris. The crash also killed her companion, Dodi Fayed, and the chauffeur.
updated 12/18/2003 7:21:53 AM ET 2003-12-18T12:21:53

Inquests into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed are to be held on Jan. 6, the royal family’s coroner announced Thursday.

The inquiries will be the first official public hearing on British soil into the deaths of Diana and Fayed, who were killed in a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997.

The inquests will be held separately and no witnesses are to be called to give evidence in person, said Michael Burgess, Coroner Of The Queen’s Household.

The coroner gave few other details but said he would make a statement about the nature and scope of evidence he expected to receive.

A spokesman for Prince Charles’ office at Clarence House said the inquests were "entirely a matter for the coroner."

"We always understood the law required an inquest at some point," the spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity, declining to comment further.

The Home Office said such an inquest is required when "an unnatural or violent death occurs abroad," and the body is brought into England or Wales.

British officials had said a British inquest would be held once legal processes in France were completed.

Chasing the princess
That happened on Nov. 28, when three photographers who took pictures of the couple at the scene of their deadly crash were acquitted of invading the couple’s privacy.

A five-year French investigation previously had concluded that the driver, Henri Paul, who was also killed, had been drinking and was speeding.

Dodi Fayed’s father, Egyptian-born billionaire Mohammed Al Fayed has long contended the crash was part of a murder plot and urged a public inquiry into the crash. That was rejected by the British government.

This week, he began appealing a previous decision by Scotland’s Lord Advocate, Lord Drummond-Young, who refused his application for an inquiry in Scotland on grounds the crash happened outside Scottish jurisdiction.

Burgess is the coroner for Surrey county south of London and responsible for inquests into royal deaths.

"The opening of these inquests has been the subject of discussion and correspondence with the families for some time but because of the complexity of the situation, the final arrangements have taken rather longer to complete than I would have wished," Burgess said.

"These arrangements have been advised to both families," he said.

The inquests will be opened on the same day at two different venues: Diana’s at 10:30 a.m. at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center in London, and Fayed’s at 3 p.m. the same day at Wray Park, Reigate, in Surrey County, south of London.

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