LONDON (AP) – The former head of MI6 denied Wednesday that the British intelligence agency was responsible for killing Princess Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi al Fayed, in 1997. Sir Richard Dearlove, who was MI6’s director of special operations at the time of Diana’s Paris death, testified at the inquest into the pair’s death that he also believed an operation by rogue agents would have been impossible.
Fayed’s father, Mohamed Al Fayed, has accused MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, of engineering the death of his son and the princess at the behest of Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II.
As director of special operations, Dearlove said it was his responsibility to sign off on any operation that would otherwise be illegal, such as breaking into an office or receiving a stolen document.
The operation would then have to be approved by the foreign secretary, a senior member of the government.
Dearlove said no assassinations were approved while he was director of special operations from 1994-1999, nor was he aware of the agency carrying out any during his entire MI6 career from 1966 to 2004.
Ian Burnett, a lawyer for the coroner’s inquest, asked Dearlove whether he could confirm that “no authorization was sought in respect of any activities concerning Princess Diana.” “I can absolutely confirm that,” Dearlove said. Burnett asked later whether that denial included “such things as eavesdropping, surveillance, bugging, anything that anyone can think of?” “Everything,” Dearlove said.
Burnett asked: “And it would plainly have been outside the functions of (the agency) to do so?” “Had it been done, it would have been outside the function of the service,” Dearlove said.
Burnett asked if it was possible for rogue elements to mount an operation outside the chain of command. “I would have regarded that as an impossibility,” Dearlove said.
Dearlove, who headed the agency from 1999-2004, said he did not authorize any slayings, and denied a claim by former agent Richard Tomlinson about a proposed plan to assassinate ex-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
Dearlove said he believed the idea involved another target, but that it was immediately rejected at a low level. He said the proposal was “killed stone dead.”
Al Fayed’s claim that Philip directed MI6 was “utterly ridiculous,” Dearlove said. There was no formal relationship between the agency and the prince, although Philip had visited the agency’s offices in the queen’s company, he said. He also dismissed Fayed’s claim that Philip and the intelligence agencies effectively ran the country. “I am tempted to say I am flattered, but once again it is such an absurd allegation. … It is completely off the map,” he said.
Michael Mansfield, Al Fayed’s attorney, said the incident described by Tomlinson raised questions about how tight MI6’s controls were.
Mansfield said he was asking the jury “to consider … the possibility that elements within the security services in 1997 were responsible not just for drawing up a plan, but the possibility that one or more of them may have been responsible for what happened.”
“So Prince Philip bypassed the top people and went to someone else?” asked the coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker.
In testimony on Monday, Al Fayed allegations went far beyond a few rogue agents. He alleged that those involved in the plot and its cover-up included Prince Charles; then-Prime Minister Tony Blair; Diana’s sister, Sarah McQuorquodale; Diana’s brother-in-law Robert Fellowes; her butler Paul Burrell; two former chiefs of London police; driver Henri Paul; Diana’s attorney, the late Lord Mishcon; two French toxicologists, members of the French medical service, and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Mansfield pressed Dearlove about the training given to agents about assassinations.
Dearlove acknowledged that the “no assassination” policy was not put down in writing in training manuals during his time, but would have been communicated orally. Dearlove’s appearance before the inquest was an extraordinary exception to agency policy of neither publicly confirming nor denying any allegations about its activities. He was the first MI6 director whose name was publicly confirmed. Previous directors were known only as “C.”