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UK to hold Diana death inquest

Dodi, Diana
Dodi and Diana died in a car crash in a Paris underpass.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The first official public hearing into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed is to be held next month, according to the royal family's coroner.

Michael Burgess, coroner Of The Queen's Household, said separate inquests for the couple would be opened on January 6.

British officials had said an inquest would be held after legal processes in France, where the Princess of Wales and Dodi died in a car crash in 1997, were completed.

On November 28, three photographers who took pictures of the couple at the scene of their crash in Paris were cleared of invading their privacy, completing the French process.

A two-year French investigation had previously concluded that the driver Henri Paul, who was also killed, was drunk and driving too fast.

Dodi Fayed's father, the Egyptian-born Harrods owner Mohamed al Fayed, has repeatedly claimed the crash was no accident, suggesting it was a murder conspiracy plotted by those who disapproved of Diana's relationship with his son.

He has repeatedly called for a public inquiry into the deaths -- but that was rejected by the British government.

This week, he began appealing against a previous decision by a senior Scottish judge, who ruled it would be inappropriate to open a public inquiry Scotland into an accident that took place in France. Fayed owns a castle in Scotland. (Full story)

On news of the announcement on Thursday, a spokesman for the office of Diana's former husband Prince Charles said: "It's entirely a matter for the coroner.

"We always understood the law required an inquest at some point," he told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, declining to comment further.

The Home Office said such an inquest was required when "an unnatural or violent death occurs abroad," and the body is brought into England or Wales.

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