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Candles light a dark night of grief for Princess Diana

AP Photos LON150-174;PAR144-145;NY112-120

By SUE LEEMAN

Associated Press Writer

LONDON (AP) _ With flowers, candles and tears, Britons kept up a vigil of grief for Princess Diana today as the body of the country's most popular royal was carried to a chapel in her former husband's palace.

``We are all praying for her because she was such a special person,'' said Maureen Holden, 59, who brought two grandchildren to the gates of Buckingham Palace, where bouquets were piled high.

The palace, faced with the tricky protocol of honoring a woman who had left the royal family, indicated that funeral plans would be announced today.

Diana _ who captivated the world as she moved from a fairytale romance and marriage to a painful divorce and then a struggle to rebuild her life _ was killed early Sunday in a Paris car crash that also claimed the lives of her new boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and their chauffeur.

Police have yet to reveal the name of the driver of the Mercedes sedan, but Europe 1 radio said today that he was an employee of the Ritz Hotel in Paris, where Diana and Fayed had dined earlier Saturday evening, and was not a professional chauffeur.

Europe 1 gave his name only as ``Monsieur Paul'' and said he was a security employee. A man who answered the phone at the Ritz Hotel, which is owned by Fayed's father Mohamed, declined to elaborate today.

Investigators increasingly were focusing on speed as the main factor in the crash in the concrete road tunnel beside the River Seine, just north of the Eiffel Tower.

A source close to the investigation said the car carrying the princess entered the tunnel at well over 60 mph, and the daily Le Parisien quoted witnesses today as saying the vehicle was going 90 mph or more. The speed limit was 30 mph.

Her body was examined by a coroner at a private mortuary before being taken early today to the Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace, the London home of her ex-husband, Prince Charles.

Sunday night, Mohammed Al Fayed attended a 25-minute prayer service at the Regent's Park Mosque for his son.

Up to 20 mourners rushed to help lift the coffin, which was draped in black cloth with gold lettering, said muezzin Raafat Maglad, ``because any person who helps carry the deceased believes they receive a blessing.''

Fayed, 41, was buried immediately at Brookwood cemetery, 25 miles southwest of London.

Diana and Fayed, a film producer whose credits included ``Chariots of Fire,'' had become close during a series of holidays together in the past five weeks.

They died when their Mercedes, pursued by a swarm of paparazzi, slammed at high speed into a wall of the tunnel. A bodyguard was seriously hurt. Police hope that when he is able to talk, he can shed light on the cause of the crash.

A somber Charles flew to Paris Sunday evening with Diana's two elder sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, 41, and Lady Jane Fellowes, 40, to accompany Diana's body on its homeward flight.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and a military honor guard were at a Royal Air Force base west of London to meet the coffin, draped in the royal standard.

Charles returned immediately to Scotland to comfort his sons, Prince William, 15, and Prince Harry, 12.

World leaders praised Diana for an international humanitarian role that included a campaign to ban land mines and vocal support for AIDS victims.

President Clinton said he and his wife, Hillary, ``knew Princess Diana and we were very fond of her.''

Ordinary folk spoke of the extraordinary warmth and compassion shown to them by a privately troubled woman.

``Her smile made me feel so comfortable and at home,'' said 15-year-old Shelly Foti, who has nursed her sick mother and was recently presented with an award by the princess.

Former employees also remembered her with fondness.

Patrick Jephson, her private secretary from 1988 to 1996, said she ``very successfully combined an extraordinary glamor with a very deep sense of responsibility towards her royal duties and her humanitarian work.''

Richard Kay, royal reporter for the Daily Mail, said in today's edition that he had spoken to Diana a few hours before the accident, and that she was considering withdrawing from public life.

``She was going to complete her obligations to her charities and to the anti-personnel landmines cause and then, around November, would completely withdraw from her formal public life.

``She said she would then be able to live as she always wanted to live. Not as an icon _ how she hated to be called one _ but as a private person.''

However, Kay said, Diana also talked about setting up hospices for the dying around the world and added despairingly: ``I sometimes wonder what's the point? Whatever I do, it's never good enough for some people.''

At St. Paul's Cathedral, where Diana was married 16 years ago, nearly 2,000 people, most in casual weekend dress, crowded into the vast nave for a special evening service.

At Buckingham Palace and Diana's Kensington Palace home, the stream of flowers became an avalanche. Many mourners added notes of condolence, pictures of Diana, poems or stuffed toys.

The sudden, violent end of the popular royal figure _ and news that someone is trying to hawk pictures of the crash _ ignited a fresh debate about press freedom.

In their grief, both Al Fayed and Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, accused elements of the media of hounding her to death.

But Simon Jenkins, former editor of The Times, said it was impossible ``to produce a privacy law that protects only the privacy that merits protection.''

``There are laws in some American states that enrich lawyers and curtail legitimate press inquiry,'' he wrote in today's Times.

``Nobody could pretend that yesterday's horror is anything but a stain on the journalistic escutcheon. Yet I cannot think of a remedy.''

Paris police are investigating whether photographers who were trailing her car on motorcycles may have contributed to the fatal accident.

Authorities have confiscated 20 rolls of film shot by the photographers and are hoping that when developed the film will provide clues to what _ and possibly who _ caused the car crash.

Seven photographers were placed into formal custody as authorities tried to determine whether they were in any way responsible for the crash.