Banned in the UK, the controversial ‘Unlawful Killing’ will have its first public screening this week in Ireland.
UNLAWFUL KILLING is the story of the violent death of Princess Diana, and the alleged cover-up by the British Establishment, culminating (after a decade of delay) in an Inquest held at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Prohibited from being screened in the UK for legal reasons, UNLAWFUL KILLING will receive its FIRST EVER public screening at the Galway Film Fleadh following its explosive private screening to press & industry at The Cannes Film Festival in May. We spoke to Scriptwriter Paul Sparks about the controversial movie.
Q. Can you tell us about the background to ‘Unlawful Killing’? In 1997, Princess Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed died in a car crash in the Alma Tunnel in Paris. The press immediately declared it was a simple accident, caused by a drunk driver and the pursuing paparazzi. But many people (most notably Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi’s father) suspected that they had been deliberately killed. The French police held an inquiry, but have never published the full report. For ten years, the British authorities prevaricated over holding an inquest. At one point, they even tried to hold it in secret, or with a jury comprised solely of members of the royal household. Finally in 2007, a public inquest got underway. The film is our take on what went on in the Royal Courts of Justice during the next six months.
Q. How did you originally get involved in the project? I’m part of a TV company (Associated Rediffusion) that has worked with Keith Allen for the past decade, making documentaries for Channel 4. In 2004, we made one about Mohamed Al Fayed, and found him to be very different from the unflattering way in which he is commonly portrayed by the British media. He’s very funny, very sharp, very stubborn, and very sane. When the inquest took place, my company initially started to follow the proceedings with our own cameras on a self-funded basis, with a view to making a TV documentary about it. Mohamed Al Fayed offered to fund a full cinema doc, giving us a budget that allowed us to film court reconstructions, and to research deeply into the background of the case. We agreed, on condition that we covered the story in our own way. Our film is the result.
Q. What was your initial response when you discovered the alleged cover-up? When we began work on the film, I thought that there were some suspicious circumstances about the crash, but I didn’t believe that there could have been a full-scale cover-up, because it would have involved a great many people. However, as I and my colleagues dug more deeply, we began to find more and more disturbing peculiarities. To take just a couple of examples, a sworn legal note in which Diana claimed that her husband was planning “an accident in my car” was concealed for six years by the Metropolitan police, and blood tests that were used as the sole basis for the claim that driver Henri Paul was drunk were deemed to be “biologically inexplicable” by the police’s own forensic expert, suggesting that the blood tested was probably not his blood at all. If space permitted, I could list a hundred other worrying anomalies, so many that (in my opinion) it has become impossible to argue that this was a simple accident. Indeed, the jury didn’t think it was an accident either. They said it was Unlawful Killing, which means homicide or manslaughter.
Q. What can you tell us about the cover-up as seen in the movie? Who do you feel was behind it? We’ve tried to avoid speculation in the film, and have stuck to the facts. There is strong evidence that Henri Paul was working for the French and British intelligence services. Diana’s involvement in the campaign to ban landmines was known to be causing huge fury amongst sections of the British Establishment (and the arms industry), as was the prospect of the mother of the future King of England being about to marry a Muslim, and perhaps have a child with him. But having a motive is not the same as proof of wrongdoing, of course, and all of us who have worked on the film feel that there is a still a great deal more information to be unearthed, before the finger can be pointed definitively at a single culprit. But there were certainly a lot of powerful people who were very happy that Diana was no longer alive. What we can say is that there was definitely something very wrong indeed about the autopsies and blood tests conducted on the body of Henri Paul. In particular, Professor Dominique Lecomte, the Head of the Institut Medico-Legal in Paris, has been involved in several suspicious cases in France over the past twenty years (if your readers Google “Bernard Borrel,” they’ll find details of another official cover-up in France, one in which she was heavily involved, but which has now been partially uncovered). At the inquest, forensic scientists agreed that Lecomte’s account of the autopsy she had conducted on Henri Paul was untruthful. She refused to attend the inquest, and when the jury asked to see the statements that she and her colleagues had given to the police, the coroner told them “no, you cannot see the statements.” Incidents like that simply reek of an official cover-up.
Q. How much of the alleged cover-up has been reported by the media and how much has disappeared? In Britain, quite a lot of the suspicious detail was reported by sections of the media between 1997 and 2006. But strangely, as soon as the inquest was announced, the press fell into line, and suddenly all began saying that this was a simple accident, and that the inquest was really a waste of time and money. Put simply, the British press like the royal family (the senior ones anyway), and they don’t like Mohamed Al Fayed, and their coverage of the inquest reflected that.
Q. Do you think the truth of the cover-up will ever come out and what will be the implications of this? I would defer in this to Michael Mansfield QC, who represented Mohamed Al Fayed at the inquest. He told me that, during his long career, he has been involved in many cases where evidence has been suppressed, and that sooner or later, at least part of the truth always emerges. So yes, I’m optimistic that we will learn more, although we may never know everything.
Q. The movie is not about a conspiracy before the crash, but about a provable cover-up after the crash. Are you able to speculate an opinion about what happened before the crash? The most important point is that the paparazzi had nothing to do with the crash. The jury understood this, and their verdict made no mention of the paparazzi. It blamed unidentified “following vehicles” for causing the crash. The single biggest disservice to the truth that the British press has committed was to misreport the verdict, by claiming that the jury had blamed the paparazzi. All over the world, people now think that that’s what the jury said, but they didn’t. Apart from that, we know that Diana’s Mercedes was surrounded by unidentified motorcycles, and collided with a white Fiat Uno. At first, the French police denied the existence of this car, even though white paint was found on the Mercedes where the collision took place. Why did they try to deny its existence? Perhaps because it was driven by James Andanson, who worked for French Intelligence, and was later found dead in a burned-out car in a French Ministry of Defence field, apparently with two bullet holes in his head. The French said he had “committed suicide.” Shooting yourself twice in the head, then setting fire to your own car before dying? That doesn’t sound very likely, does it?
Q. Who made the decision to ban the movie in UK? Will it be shown at many other festivals around the world? We have been warned by British lawyers that, unless we make 87 cuts, we will be liable to prosecution for contempt of court if we screen it in the UK. As the main point of our film is that the inquest was rigged, and that the coroner (who had sworn an oath of allegiance to the Queen) was not impartial when presiding over a case that involved the royal family, it’s impossible for us to make our case without falling foul of that law. However, the film can be shown everywhere else in the world, and should be released during the autumn. It’s also being shown at the San Sebastian film festival in September, with others also in the pipeline (but not yet officially announced).
The letter written by Diana, Princess of Wales, to her butler Paul Burrell
Q. What was your opinion of the Royal Family before getting involved in the movie? How much has that changed as you learnt more?
I have never had much interest in royalty, but I had no ill-feeling towards them. My opinion of Prince Philip has certainly changed for the worse since I found out more about his early years. The film contains images of him marching at a Nazi funeral in Darmstadt in 1937, alongside his high-ranking Nazi brothers-in-law and in front of a Sieg Heiling crowd. He was never a member of the Nazi party, and it should be noted that he fought on the Allied side in WW2, but if his early history had not been sanitised by Mountbatten (and glossed over by the British press ever since), I doubt if he would ever have been allowed to marry the British Queen.
Q. Why do you think people are still fascinated by the story of Princess Diana to this day? The story of the girl who grows up to marry a prince is a recurring one in fairy tales, and Diana seemed to have walked straight into a fairy tale when she married Charles. But within a few years, the fairy tale had turned into a nightmare. And rather than stay in a miserable marriage, she rebelled and broke free. I think that she was a role model and an inspiration for many women (especially unhappily-married ones), and for anyone who identifies with an outsider. I don’t believe the myths about how saintly she was. Indeed, in many ways, she was a spoiled and vain woman. But there was something admirable about her defiance, and her willingness to confront the British Establishment. She knew full well that she would be bumped off as a result. But she did it anyway.
UNLAWFUL KILLING plays at Galway Film Fleadh on July 6th in the Town Hall at 7pm – Followed by a Q+A with the filmmakers in Town Hall studios.