Operation Paget – the Diana inquiry

Anthony MatsellIncident investigation

User Perspective’s most high profile and sensitive case to date involved the inquest into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and Mr Dodi Fayed. Inconsistencies between eyewitness testimonies and forensic evidence contributed to the complexity of the inquest and fuelled conspiracy theories in the public domain and in the media. User Perspective was asked by the Metropolitan Police to provide insight and guidance during the case based on our expertise in visual perception related to driving as well as limitations in eyewitness testimony.

Through assessing the evidence available and reviewing academic research, it became clear that there was a gap in scientific knowledge regarding colour perception in eyewitness testimony. This was a critical factor in the case as eyewitnesses claimed that a vehicle at the scene of the collision was a different colour than in reality.

By means of an innovative experimental scenario, User Perspective were able to demonstrate through research that in conditions of high arousal due to shock and trauma of witnessing a severe accident, a transfer of a dominant stimulus colour (the black car the victims were travelling in) to a peripheral stimulus (a white car also seen at the scene) occurred. This phenomenon led to inaccurate eyewitness testimony that had suggested the presence of another vehicle. User Perspective’s insight and innovative research into a previously unthought-of psychological phenomenon provided valuable evidence and information to the Court.