New twist in Diana SAS mystery: Why are detectives examining this image discovered on the elusive Soldier N’s laptop… of snipers from his unit aiming at cars from a bridge in the UK?

Read Time:12 Minute, 59 Second

  • Picture from Soldier N’s laptop has been  passed on to Metropolitan Police
  • The picture was one of 90 images of  Special Forces soldiers found
  • He faces investigation after he was said  to have stored secret documents
  • In all likelihood men in picture were  engaged in counter-terrorism training

By  Sean Rayment and Ian Gallagher

PUBLISHED: 16:10 EST, 5  October 2013 |  UPDATED: 19:41 EST, 5 October 2013

An SAS sniper, lying on a bridge, points his  long-range rifle towards a dual-carriageway and peers into his telescopic sight,  as if poised to open fire. It makes for a startling image – all the more so  since the picture was taken not in a conflict zone or even a training camp but  in a public area in the Welsh countryside.

What makes it more arresting is that the  photograph was found on a computer belonging to the Special Forces marksman  known as Soldier N, who is said to have told his wife that members of the SAS  ‘arranged’ the death of Princess Diana.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that it has now  been passed to the Metropolitan Police, whose specialist crime and operations  command is investigating the sensational, if improbable, assassination  theory.

Startling: The photograph of the marksmen found on Soldier N's computer 

Startling: The photograph of the marksmen found on  Soldier N’s computer


Last photo: Diana, driver Henri Paul and bodyguard Trevor Rees in her car moments before it crashed in Paris 

Last photo: Diana, driver Henri Paul and bodyguard  Trevor Rees in her car moments before it crashed in Paris


The allegation first came to light during the  second court martial of Sergeant Danny Nightingale, who was found guilty of  illegally possessing a gun and ammunition.

Since then it has attracted global press  attention and fuelled conspiracy theories.

It was outlined in a letter, written by the  mother-in-law of Soldier N, who was a key witness for  the  prosecution.

The picture was one of 90 images of Special  Forces soldiers found on Soldier N’s home computer.

He faces a Ministry of Defence investigation  after he was also said to have illegally stored secret SAS tactical documents,  videos of operations in Afghanistan and emails to his then wife from Afghanistan  identifying the location of SAS and Special Boat Service units, times and dates  of operations, and tactics used to kill and capture insurgents.

In all likelihood the men in the photograph  taken on the bridge were engaged in a counter-terrorism training exercise,  practising a procedure known as high speed vehicle interdiction. The tactic was  developed to stop vehicles being driven by terrorists or suicide bombers  travelling at speed.

Tour of duty: Ninety images of Special Forces soldiers were found on Soldier N's home computer 

Tour of duty: Ninety images of Special Forces soldiers  were found on Soldier N’s home computer



It is thought that the bridge and a section  of road beneath it were closed at the time. The Mail on Sunday knows the  location of the bridge but has agreed not to disclose it at the request of  senior defence officials.

Author and former SAS soldier Andy McNab said  that although  the exercise would have been ‘as realistic as possible’, the  sniper would not have used either live or blank ammunition.

Even so, it is easy to see how the 2009  image, thought to have been taken by Soldier N, might be seized upon by those  who believe Diana’s death, along with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, in a car crash  in a  Paris underpass in 1997 was murder, not an accident.

Simon McKay, solicitor for Dodi’s father Mohamed Al Fayed, said it not only ‘causes concern and anxiety by  everyone  affected by this case but also the public generally, who are  entitled to  answers not just how it came about, but also how it was  photographed and the  extent to which the military sanctioned it’. The  Ministry of Defence declined  to discuss the picture last night.

Princess Diana hours before she died 

Princess Diana hours before she died


Soldier N is said to have claimed that a  former member of the elite regiment was in charge of an assassination squad  which moved in on Dodi’s driver Henri Paul, who also died in the crash, using a  white car and a motorbike – before flashing  a blinding light into his  eyes. But reflecting the twisting nature of the case, this has now been denied  by Soldier N himself. A source close to the inquiry told this newspaper that he  and his girlfriend gave statements to police last month, and that Soldier N  blamed his former wife for ‘trying to cause trouble’.

Scotland Yard said yesterday it was ‘not  appropriate to give a running commentary on the progress of the  investigation’.

Meanwhile Mr McKay, acting on behalf of Mr Al  Fayed and Soldier N’s wife, has been critical of the Met’s approach to the  case.

He wrote to the Met Commissioner, Sir Bernard  Hogan-Howe,  to complain that the officer leading the investigation,  Detective Chief Inspector Philip Easton, was unlikely to be ‘sufficiently  objective or open-minded’. This, he said,  was because DCI Easton was a  ‘significant contributor’ to the Paget Report, which concluded Diana’s death was  a tragic accident.

Mr McKay said last night: ‘It is important to  bear in mind that it is not disputed that Mr Al Fayed’s  son, Dodi, was  unlawfully killed and that he is entitled to the same treatment that any father  facing such a tragedy expects from the police in this country. The reality is  the police have approached this new material with scepticism before exploring  its truth. They have  issued press releases without first speaking to the  family. They have failed to meet promises that Mr Al Fayed would be kept up to  date  with inquiries.

‘All of this fails to meet the basic  requirements of their own victim support policy and minimum legal standards.  There is now an incurable lack of confidence in how the Met have approached the  matter and it should be dealt with by an independent police  force.’

‘It is important to bear in mind that  it is not disputed that Mr Al Fayed’s son, Dodi, was unlawfully killed and that  he is entitled to the same treatment that any father facing such a tragedy  expects from the police in this country’ 

– Simon McKay, solicitor for Dodi’s father Mohamed Al  Fayed

Scotland Yard insisted its officers are  ‘looking for new evidence that is credible and relevant’. A spokesman added:  ‘The officers doing the assessment are a combination of those with a detailed  knowledge and those not previously involved. Their work is being overseen by  Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt who was not previously  involved.’

Other documents said to have been stored on  Soldier N’s computer include files containing classified information revealing  covert operations in which senior members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban were  killed and captured.

Soldier N also sent a series of emails to his  then wife from Afghanistan identifying the location of SAS and Special Boat  Service units, times and dates of operations and the tactics used to kill and  capture insurgents.

Defence sources last night described the  security breach as a huge embarrassment to the SAS, which prides itself on  secrecy and professionalism. It is forbidden for members of the SAS to keep  highly sensitive information on personal computers and those doing so face  charges under the Official Secrets Act. A security breach on such a large scale  is understood to be unique within the SAS, and a Ministry of Defence  investigation is trying to establish the extent of the problem.

One source said: ‘The cardinal rule is never  to talk about operations to anyone outside the SAS. To send emails over the  internet naming members of the SAS, troop locations and details of forthcoming  operations potentially endangered the lives of dozens of his fellow soldiers.  Had this been known at the time, this individual would have been thrown out of  the regiment and probably court-martialled.’

Letter: The allegations of SAS involvement in Diana's death first emerged in a seven-page letter written in September 2011 by Soldier N's mother-in-law 

Letter: The allegations of SAS involvement in Diana’s  death first emerged in a seven-page letter written in September 2011 by Soldier  N’s mother-in-law


The MoD said in a statement:  ‘The MoD  takes any allegations of data loss or breaches of security extremely seriously  and we will always take appropriate action when these are brought to our  attention.

‘While serving, all military personnel should  uphold the high standards and values the UK Armed Forces insist  upon.’

Soldier N is alleged to have made the claim  about Princess Diana  after Prince William visited the regiment’s  headquarters in 2008 to undertake a special driving course.

The conversation took place at Soldier N’s  home in Hereford in 2008 when he and his former wife were still  together.

Princess Diana and Dodi al-Fayed wait at the rear service exit of the Ritz Hotel in Paris on August 31, 1997  

Princess Diana and Dodi al-Fayed wait at the rear  service exit of the Ritz Hotel in Paris on August 31, 1997


When Soldier N’s wife said how sorry she felt  for William because he had lost his mother in such tragic circumstances, her  husband is alleged to have said ‘it was the SAS who killed her’.

He reportedly claimed the Princess was killed  by an SAS hit team which flashed a high-powered  light into the face of  chauffeur Henri Paul, who was driving Diana and Dodi through Paris on August 31,  1997. The couple’s car crashed into a pillar of the Pont de l’Alma  underpass.

The allegations of SAS involvement in Diana’s  death first emerged in a seven-page letter written in September 2011 by Soldier  N’s mother-in-law. Copies of the letter were sent to the SAS’s commanding  officer and to Dyfed Powys Police. But the contents were only disclosed  following the court martial of Sgt Danny Nightingale.

The letter states that Soldier N made a  series of violent threats against his wife and her family following the collapse  of the couple’s marriage. The reference to Diana appears on page seven when  Soldier N’s mother-in-law writes: ‘He  [Soldier N] also told her [his wife]  that it was the SAS who arranged Princess Diana’s death and that has been  covered up. So what chance do my daughter and I stand against  his  threats?’

The letter led to the arrest of Sergeant  Nightingale and Soldier N after police found illegally held firearms and  ammunition at a house they shared in Hereford. Soldier N admitted the offences  and was sentenced to two years at the Military Corrective Training Centre in  Colchester, Essex.

Nightingale also admitted the charges and  received an 18-month sentence. Following a public campaign he was freed and the  conviction quashed. But at a fresh court martial in July, he was found guilty  and sentenced to two years suspended for 12 months.

Solicitor Simon McKay, acting on behalf of Mr Al Fayed (pictured) and Soldier N's wife, has been critical of the Met's approach to the case 

Solicitor Simon McKay, acting on behalf of Mr Al Fayed  (pictured) and Soldier N’s wife, has been critical of the Met’s approach to the  case

Nightingale was largely convicted on the sworn evidence of Soldier N. The claims concerning the SAS involvement  in  Diana’s death are now part of a ‘scoping exercise’ being conducted by Scotland  Yard.

Detectives  have interviewed the estranged  wife of Soldier N, who  is understood to  have given police  a  ‘detailed and compelling’ account of the claims  allegedly made by  her  husband.

Found on his computer were presentations on a  series of SAS tactics describing how troops enter enemy territory undetected.  Other documents refer to the intelligence snipers should be able to glean by  observing targets.

One document refers to a technique called  ‘Free Drop Air Despatch’ which is described as ‘an extremely effective method of  long distance insertion using CH-47 (Chinook helicopters) to insert small teams  into hostile areas’.

Another document is entitled: ‘Intelligence  Required From Snipers’ and details everything a sniper should look for when  assessing a target. There are documents revealing how snipers identify targets  hidden inside buildings.

Also on the computer were a series of videos  shot in Afghanistan showing members of the SAS and SBS firing high-powered  sniper rifles from a Chinook helicopter. The videos identify members of  the  SAS, their equipment and tactics. Other videos show SAS snipers  practising on ranges believed to be in Britain.

One source last night said: ‘Had this fallen  into the wrong hands the damage done to the SAS would have been  horrendous.

‘The identity of members of the Special  Forces is never meant to be disclosed. Tactics, techniques and procedures – the  building blocks of every SAS mission – would have been  compromised.’

‘A kid got shot, but the bad guy was  sorted’: How Soldier N broke rules by revealing sensitive details in crass  emails

In one email sent to his wife, Soldier N  writes about an SAS mission in which a child was  shot and an elderly woman  hit  by shrapnel.

In other emails written during  a tour  of duty in Afghanistan in 2009 he describes – sometimes gleefully – how  insurgents  are killed.

Elsewhere he mentions the names of colleagues  and locations where the SAS and Special Boat Service are based.

One email discloses that the  SAS were  killing insurgents with missiles that had been fired  from  drones.

Investigation: Soldier N faces an MoD investigation after he was also said to have illegally stored secret SAS tactical documents 

Investigation: Soldier N faces an MoD investigation  after he was also said to have illegally stored secret SAS tactical  documents

Crucially, Soldier N also reveals the dates  when he and the rest of his unit were returning to  Britain on leave. In  one  message written in August 2009, Soldier N tells his wife: ‘We have  arrived in Kandahar, the next  part is to get to Camp Bastion  but our  plane broke so we’re staying here tonight with the  guys from Poole [the  Special  Boat Service].

‘Don’t you worry about me. You know that I  shoot first, ask questions later.’

In another, written in the same month, he  says: ‘We had a good morning today.

‘One kid got shot though and an old  chick got fragged [injured by shrapnel] but the bad guy and his oppo  [colleague] were both sorted’  

‘1st we tracked a bad bomber but couldn’t get  him but an hour later 2 more bastards took over from him and were up to badness  so we keeeeelled them with a missile. They made like jam and spread themselves  all over the place! tee hee. We are watching you and we have missiles!! A good  start to  the day.’

Three months later, he writes: ‘The place I’m  in now is quite alright, a bit like a massive villa in the mountains, no  greenery though, it’s better than anywhere else I’ve been so far, the lads are  all cool, the boss is well switched on but chilled, not like A Squadron boss  who’s a total ******. I was glad the job went well last night, especially as I  was Squadron Sergeant Major for it and we got a big player and a  financier,  so all is well.’

Later that month Soldier N writes: ‘We were  out last night,  so that’s probably why you  couldn’t  sleep.

‘It was a good job. We got  the bad man  we were after and  a few others.

‘One kid got shot though and an old chick got  fragged [injured by shrapnel] but the bad guy and his oppo [colleague] were both  sorted. Two less bastards.

‘I’m off to Kandahar tonight  for a  planning meeting, then  the guys will follow in a  few days.

‘I should be able to keep in comms  [communication] there.’

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