Up to £750,000 was spent
by the metropolitan police during the first year of its investigation into
the death of Diana, princess of Wales.
A report on the investigation, codenamed Oper-ation Paget, released under the freedom of inform-ation act (FOIA) shows that it had a team of 14 police officers, each working part time on this case, and another four support staff.
The team is headed by Lord Stevens, the former met commissioner, and includes an assistant commissioner, who spends up to 10% of his time on Paget, a detective chief superintendent, detective chief inspector and a traffic officer who is an “accredited expert in collision investigation”.
The pay for the staff, based on figures published by the met and the home office, is up to £630,000 for the year running from January 2004, with an additional £43,000 spent on overtime and “operational expenses”, £42,000 on travel and accommodation, £28,000 on translation costs and £5,300 telephone charges, all of which brings the total to around £750,000.
The report says that the media had exaggerated the amount being spent on the operation. “This exceptionally high profile inquiry is regularly subject to articles and comment in the media. On many occasions, the details that are published are misinformed and inaccurate and this is the case in respect of comments that have been made in relation to the cost of this [met] inquiry.”
In January 2004, Michael Burgess, who serves as the coroner for both the Queen’s household and Surrey, opened the inquests into the deaths of Diana and Dodi Al Fayed. He said that he had asked the met to investigate their deaths in Paris in 1997.
He said: “I am aware that there is speculation that these deaths were not as a result of a sad, but relatively straight forward road traffic accident in Paris. I have asked the metropolitan police commissioner to make inquiries. The results of these inquiries will help me to decide whether such matters will fall within the scope of the investigations carried out at the inquests.
“The police in England will be asked to see and interview on my behalf those who are identified as possible witnesses. Only once that process has been completed can I consider who can help the inquest process by attending as witnesses.”
The investigation began when Stevens was still commissioner. The met report says that he “undertook to seek out evidence that would sustain, or otherwise, the various hypotheses put forward, including those by Mohamed Al Fayed [Dodi’s father], that Diana, princess of Wales, and Dodi Al Fayed died as a result of a criminal conspiracy.”
It continues: “The focus is on obtaining all avail-able information. This includes technical data such as that obtained to produce a scientifically accurate reconstruction.”
Stevens was retained as a consultant for the inv-estigation following his retirement at the beginning of 2005 as commissioner. A request under FOIA for details of his fee and expenses has been refused.
The met also spent £38,000 on refurbishing offices for the case, which it says would have been undertaken anyway, and £37,000 on computers, which it says will be used by the police after the investigation is finished.
It made an exception to its normal rule of refusing disclosure of costs of an investigation, saying: “The police service considers that it would never normally be in the public interest to release information on current investigations under FOIA as this could have a series impact on any future judicial process.
“However, at this time, and in this specific case, it is not felt that the release of this particular information will have a detrimental effect on the conduct of the inquiry.”
It adds: “The decision should be seen in no way as setting a precedent in relation to the supply of details of costs relating to other on-going inquiries being conducted, now or in the future.”
However, the met says that it will provide updated figures for Operation Paget costs next year.
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