Scotland Yard has launched an investigation into new claims that Diana, Princess of Wales, was murdered by a member of the British military. It said last night (Saturday night) that it had asked specialist detectives to examine new allegations and evidence passed to it "recently".
The claims were given to the force in the last few days by the Royal Military Police, who were told of them by the parents-in-law of a former soldier, sources said.
The dossier is said to include a reference to the SAS and to the Princess's "secret diary" according to one report. Scotland Yard declined to confirm the content or origin of the material.
Officers from the specialist crime and operations command will carry out the "scoping" exercise to assess if a full-scale investigation is justified into whether the Princess, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul were murdered.
Last night's disclosure comes in spite of the inquest into the death of the Princess and Mr Fayed dismissing any claims of murder made by Mohammed Fayed, Dodi's father, and conspiracy theorists.
Since then murder claims have continued to be made but have never been looked into by British police - making last night's move unprecedented.
The decision to examine the new claims suggests that officers believe they cannot be dismissed out of hand but need to be looked at by detectives to assess whether they have any weight.
Scotland Yard emphasised last night that it was not reopening the previous investigation into the deaths, Operation Paget, and highlighted the verdict of the inquest held after that inquiry was completed.
The decision to examine the evidence will have been taken at senior levels. Officers will have to assess whether the information has not been investigated previously and can potentially shed new light on the deaths.
If they conclude that it does, it would open the prospect of a full inquiry, a decision which would be made by Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe in consultation with other figures.
The development comes ahead of next week's 16th anniversary of the Princess's death as a result of injuries she suffered when the Mercedes in which she was travelling crashed in a tunnel in Paris.
A spokesman said: "The Metropolitan Police Service is scoping information that has recently been received in relation to the deaths and assessing its relevance and credibility. The assessment will be carried out by officers from the specialist crime and operations command. This is not a reinvestigation and does not come under Operation Paget.
"The deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed were thoroughly investigated, and examined by an inquest led by Lord Justice Scott Baker at the Royal Court of Justice in 2007 to 2008.
"On April 7, 2008, the jury concluded their verdict as 'unlawful killing, grossly negligent driving of the following vehicles and of the Mercedes'."
Detectives are understood to have contacted the former soldier's estranged wife. A royal spokesman said there will be no comment from the Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry or Clarence House. Mr Fayed was said to be watching developments "with interest".
The jury at the inquest returned a majority verdict in April 2008, which indicated that paparazzi photographers who pursued the Princess were to blame for her "unlawful killing". Mr Paul was also culpable for her death due to his "gross negligence" in driving while three times over the drink-drive limit, the jury found.
An earlier French police investigation cleared the photographers of being directly linked to the tragedy.