LONDON -- The ravings of a “deluded” special forces soldier, “hogwash” and “utter nonsense.”
Those were just some of the judgments passed on the claim that members of U.K.’s elite special forces regiment, the SAS, were behind the murder of Princess Diana. Even the reporter who broke the news said Monday that he doubted the allegation was true.
But it was a story that caught the imagination of the many in the U.K. - where Diana's death had an impact similar to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy - jumping to the top of most popular lists on media websites.
And the claim is being taken seriously enough to prompt police action.
When asked to comment on whether they were looking into alleged SAS involvement, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed officers were “scoping information that has recently been received in relation to the deaths and assessing its relevance and credibility.”
“This is not a re-investigation,” police stressed in a statement, noting a jury had decided in 2008 that Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed were unlawfully killed because of the “grossly negligent driving of the following vehicles and of the Mercedes” in which they were travelling.
The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, pictured in July 1997 a few weeks before the car crash that killed her, led to an outpouring of national grief in the U.K.
Driver Henri Paul was found to have been over the legal alcohol limit when the car crashed in a tunnel in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997, while it was being followed by paparazzi photographers. Paul also died.
The claim that the SAS was involved in Diana’s death emerged over the weekend in a report in the Sunday People newspaper.
It was allegedly made by a member of the SAS, known as Soldier N, according to a letter sent to his commanding officer by the parents of his wife.
In the letter, they complained Soldier N was threatening to kill them and intimidate their daughter.
The letter emerged during a court martial of a former SAS soldier who was found to have illegally possessed a gun. However, the abbreviation "SAS" - for Special Air Service - was redacted and replaced with Xs before it was given to the court.
“He also told her [the daughter] that it was the XXX who arranged Princess Diana’s death and that has been covered up,” the letter said, according to the respected Channel 4 News, which has seen the letter. “So what chance do my daughter and I stand against his threats?”
The letter went on to say that the soldier had admitted killing women and children while serving with the SAS.
“He insists on telling us about his killing escapades whilst working in his job. How he has killed women and children and a priest, whose big toe kept on wiggling although he was dead,” it said.
Jobson told NBC’s TODAY on Monday that “there’s no evidence” to support the idea Diana was killed by the SAS.
“If Princess Diana had been wearing a seatbelt, she would have lived. So how on earth could this be an assassination?” he said.
“The reality is Princess Diana wasn’t murdered. She was driven by a drunk driver at high speed being chased by the paparazzi.”
On Twitter, Jobson said Soldier N had “let his regiment down by talking such hogwash,” describing him as “clearly a deluded member of the SAS who needs a little TLC.”
Jobson and Sean Rayment, a respected defense and security journalist who wrote the story in the Sunday People, were embroiled Monday in a Twitter spat over the story.
“This really is ridiculous. Secret services bumped Diana off. No they didn’t,” Jobson tweeted at Rayment, slamming it as “tabloid hype.”
Rayment responded with “Did you read the story?” and defended it by saying he was simply reporting the SAS soldier’s claim.
“Nothing personal Sean,” Jobson replied. “But just my view. It is August. There has been 16 years of this rubbish.”
“I don't think anyone actually believes the SAS killed D. But the claim was made by a member of the Reg,” Rayment said.
“Actually Sean after your story there will be some people who believe it. That is the point,” Jobson hit back.
Dai Davies, former head of the royal protection team, told ITV News that the deaths were “an accident by any definition, and three separate inquiries ... have come to the same independent conclusion.”
“I am absolutely convinced this was an accident so I'm mystified, after 13 years, how any new information can possibly allege anything other than this was a tragic accident,” he said.
And Colonel Tim Collins, a former SAS officer, told the Mirror newspaper that the claims were “utter nonsense.”
However, there are some who insist there was a conspiracy, chiefly Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi's father.
The wealthy former owner of London's Harrods department store has accused British spy agency MI6 and Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth, of being behind the deaths of Diana and his son.
A spokeswoman for Al Fayed said in an emailed statement that he had “no comment to give” on the latest claims.
However, she added: “He notes the Metropolitan Police's statement that it is investigating and trusts that their investigation will be thorough and awaits the outcome with interest.”
First published August 19 2013, 8:19 AM