Princess Diana’s Death

Apr 11, 2010 - by Marilyn Z. Tomlins

Princess Diana

Was her death really an accident, or was there a hidden hand at work? Many still say that she was assassinated. Not long before her tragic end, she predicted in a letter to her loyal butler that she would be murdered in a car accident. 

By Marilyn Z. Tomlins 

The telephones started ringing in the homes of Paris’s foreign correspondents soon after 1 a.m. on Sunday, August 31, 1997.

It had been a dull Saturday. After a very hot summer when the temperature in Paris had risen to the high 80s Fahrenheit, the sun had that day disappeared behind thick clouds and the city had turned cool so that the Parisians had to wear warm clothing.  There had also been a degree of languor in the city; the summer vacation was over but no one as yet felt like returning to work, school or university.

The journalists shared the Parisians’ languor; what they called the “silly season” was ending and with the rentrée – the return or reopening – would arrive new political shenanigans, disasters and wars to report.

The callers were editors from the world over. All asked the same question of their correspondents: “We hear Di’s been in an accident in a tunnel. Can we have a story in the next half an hour for our first edition this morning?”

Not one of the journalists would be able to sleep on what was left of the hours of darkness, or indeed for the next couple of days. They knew that they were working on the biggest story there had been for a long time and would probably be for some time. Later, some of the most hardened among those who worked as freelancers would admit that they had earned so much money that night that they had been able to set off on a luxury vacation afterwards.

For that August night, Diana, Princess of Wales, died from injuries she had sustained in a car crash in a Paris tunnel.

If before that night, you had asked anyone – man or woman – who was the most beautiful, most elegant, most compassionate woman in the world, the one they would love to have dinner with, they would have replied: Princess Di.

But that night she lay dead in Paris aged just 36.


Noble titles are important in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It assigns a British national’s status in society – establishes who supersedes who, who curtsies to whom, who can marry a member of the royal family. That kind of thing.

The highest title on the noble hierarchy is that of King (currently Queen) and then the ranking descends until the noble or ennobled one is only an Honorable. Diana was a Lady (her father having been an Earl) which was just one title above that of Honorable, but it was a prefix that all the same enabled her to marry Queen Elizabeth’s eldest son, Prince Charles, the heir in line to be King.

The marriage, although it produced two sons, an heir and a spare, as Diana used to say, had not been a happy one. Also as Diana would say, there had been three people in the marriage; her husband had loved another woman. Diana’s way to cope with such a humiliation had been to throw up the food she had eaten only minutes before, and to shout four letter words out the palace windows, shocking her mother-in-law’s guests.

In August 1996, the marriage which had begun on July 29, 1981 and which had been watched by millions on television had ended officially. Diana, after some negotiation between her legal team and that of Charles, had received a lump sum divorce settlement of 17 million pounds ($25 million).

A single woman again, she had become free to date, and that she had not failed to do. “Having boyfriends” was something that she had even indulged in during her marriage. As the British tabloids had not failed to headline often, the angelic Diana, the woman who could hold a child dying of AIDS in her arms, her eyes swimming in tears, had had quite a few lovers. There had even been a rumor that Charles was not the biological father of the couple’s younger son, Prince Harry, third in line to the throne after his father and older brother, William.

Among Diana’s lovers had been a wealthy and married London art dealer, a captain in the Life Guards, the married captain of the English national rugby team, a pop singer, a car salesman, a captain in the Household Guards, a London-based Pakistani heart surgeon and a married body guard. The latter, a police sergeant, had been removed from his post as Diana’s personal bodyguard when Charles and others in their circle had noticed that she was spending rather a lot of time with the Royal Protection Squad cop. He would die in a mysterious road accident; the driver of a motorbike on which he was a passenger would crash into an oncoming car because the headlights of a car which had suddenly turned from a side street had blinded him. That second car would never be found and the accident would convince Diana that the bodyguard had been bumped off because of his friendship with her.

Then, Dodi Fayed had come along and had whisked her off her feet.

Dodi’s full name was Emad El-Din Mohamed Abdel Moneim Fayed. Born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1955, he was the son of one of the United Kingdom’s wealthiest men, billionaire Mohamed Abdel Moneim Fayed, known as Mohamed Al-Fayed, and Samira Kashoggi, sister of billionaire arms dealer Adnan Kashoggi. (Kashoggi fell out with Mohamed Al-Fayed in the 1970s when the latter divorced his sister Samira although Dodi remained close to his uncle.)

Mohamed Al-Fayed was the owner of the luxury London department store Harrods, and of Fulham Football Club. And also of the Hotel Ritz in Paris, one of the world’s top hotels.

The Ritz Hotel on Place Vendome in Paris
The Ritz Hotel on Place Vendome in Paris

Dodi, educated in the prestigious Swiss private school, Le Rosey on Lake Leman (Lake Geneva) – its 2010 annual boarding and academic fee is SF 91,200 ($86,500) – and with a military officer’s training received at England’s Sandhurst Royal Academy, was an executive movie producer with box-office successes like Chariots of Fire (1981) to his name. He was divorced from the American model Susanne Gregard – it was a marriage that had lasted just eight months in 1987 – and his name had since then been linked to several beauties; Brook Shields had been one, and Koo Stark once lover of Diana’s brother-in-law, Prince Andrew, had been another.

That summer of 1997 he was yet again spoken for. Aged 42, he was engaged to another American model, Kelly Fisher. And the two of them had plans to cruise the Mediterranean on one of his father’s two yachts, the Cujo, a former U.S. Coastguard cutter.


D and D:

“The English Rose,” as Elton John would call Diana in his song tribute to her at her funeral in Westminster Abbey on Saturday, September 6, 1997, and the dashing Dodi with his dark eyes, dark hair and tanned torso – and free to use his father’s billions – had already met before that fateful summer of 1997.

They had first come face to face some 10 years previously, in the summer of 1986, at a polo match which was played in Windsor Great Park close to Windsor Castle, one of Queen Elizabeth’s official residences. Playing polo was a must for any young man in England who wanted to become someone, so Dodi played polo. That day in Windsor Great Park his team played against that of Prince Charles and were the victors. It was Diana who handed Dodi the winner’s trophy, the Harrods Cup. After their handshake and his obligatory bow to her, the two exchanged a few words and then he respectfully gave a few steps back as a commoner should do in the presence of a royal.

The polo match might have been the first time that Dodi had had an opportunity to address Diana, but his father, Mohamed Al-Fayed, then 64 years old, and Diana’s father, John Spencer, the 8th Earl Spencer, who would die in 1992 aged 68, had been friends for at least a dozen years. They had been introduced by the Earl’s wife Raine who was the daughter of the English romantic novelist Barbara Cartland (1901/2000); the Earl had married Raine in 1976, seven years after his marriage to Diana’s mother, Frances Fermoy (later Shand Kydd) had ended in divorce.

At that polo match Diana’s marriage to Charles was already in deep trouble.

According to Charles’s own admission in a televised interview, he had in that year resumed a pre-marital love affair with the woman who would become his second wife and who would probably one day become Queen Consort of the Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – the divorced Camilla Parker-Bowles. Diana had however claimed that Charles had resumed the affair with Parker-Bowles in 1984, in other words four years previously. Charles had, said Diana, always loved Parker-Bowles. She said that Charles had married her only for reasons of state; he needed a “good girl, a virgin, who had no seedy past” to provide him with a son and heir, and that his family had chosen her for him.

Yet, despite that Diana was unhappy with Charles when she and Dodi shook hands, 10 years would pass before she would look on him as more than just the son of a friend of her father’s.

That would happen only in 1997 when her marriage to Charles had ended in divorce.


That summer of 1997:

It was the month of June. Each year the royal family took a long summer vacation which they would spend together at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. They would ride horses, fish, have picnics, walk their corgis, play parlor games, imitate the voices and mannerisms of heads of state they had met during the year, or sit and discuss the wet Highlands weather over creamed scones, strawberry jam and tea.

Diana had never enjoyed those summer vacations, but in 1997 she was all the same at loose ends as the royal family’s vacation period approached. She wondered where she would be spending her vacation. Aged 36, and divorced for ten months, she was at an especially low point in her life. That month she had broken off with her latest lover, the London-based Pakistani-born heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan. She had conducted the affair with him in the greatest secrecy because not only would the British people not have wanted her to be the lover of a Muslim, but the surgeon’s family had also objected to the affair; they wanted him to marry the Pakistani girl, a relative, they had chosen for him.

Incredible as this may seem, Diana with nowhere to go, began asking her friends if she could join one of them on their vacation. When no invitation came forth, she decided that she wanted to rent a house in the Hamptons on Long Island, New York. Despite that after her divorce she was no longer an HRH (Her Royal Highness), but “only” a princess, the Royal Protection Squad was still responsible for her security, and it reckoned that the States would be too big a risk to her safety and they told her that she would have to find another place to go. The fact that her two sons, William (15) and Harry (13), would be spending part of their annual summer vacation with her was another factor that made the protection squad forbid a vacation in the States.

In stepped Mohamed Al-Fayed. No doubt having heard from the widowed Raine that her step-daughter-in-law had nowhere to vacation, he invited Diana and the boys to join him and his family at the $15 million Al-Fayed villa in St. Tropez, South of France. So secure would the villa be, guarded by her host’s own burly bodyguards, that the Royal Protection Squad offered Diana no objection.

Al-Fayed, having received confirmation that Diana and the two princes would be coming in July, immediately refurbished his newly-acquired 212ft yacht, Jonikal, should the three illustrious guests wish to go sailing. He had paid $32 million for the yacht which was built in an Italian shipyard in 1990.  (After that fateful summer Al-Fayed would spend another $3 million on refitting the yacht and he then renamed it Sokar, after the Ancient Egyptian falcon-headed god of the afterlife. The yacht is moored in the harbor of the Principality of Monaco. Regularly rumors circulate that the yacht has been sold or that it is on the market, but Al-Fayed denies all such rumors.)

Diana and her sons were at the villa just for three days when Dodi arrived. On July 14, with Dodi in Paris, his father had summoned him down to the villa in the south. He was to help entertain the illustrious guests.  Fisher was with him, an expensive engagement ring on her finger, but she did not join her fiancée at the villa. She was instead flown by helicopter to Dodi’s yacht, Cujo, anchored off the St. Tropez coast. It was there that she would be staying. She apparently found such an arrangement satisfactory. (The Cujo has since been sold.)

Two weeks later, Diana back in London and alone in the apartment in Kensington Palace where she had lived with Charles and their two sons and which her divorce settlement had allowed her to keep as her main residence, she told friends that she and her sons had had the vacation of their lives.

According to Tina Brown’s book, The Diana Chronicles  (Century 2007), Diana said of Dodi that he had “all the toys” and that she felt “looked after” when she was with him. There would be tabloid reports after Diana’s death that her sons did not have a good time staying with the Al-Fayeds, but on Mohamed Al-Fayed’s web site, he writes of the “gracious” letters that William and Harry wrote to him to thank him for the great time they had had.

At that stage of the summer, the tabloids had not yet caught on that a romance had begun between Diana and Dodi; they’d only reported that Diana and her sons had vacationed at the St.Tropez villa of Mohamed Al-Fayed.

As Mohamed Al-Fayed also writes on his web site, while the London papers had remained unaware of the romance, his son and Diana had enjoyed a weekend in Paris staying at his hotel, the Ritz, and back in London they’d gone to a screening of a new movie at a private movie theatre in Soho, and had enjoyed numerous candle-lit dinners in his son’s Park Lane apartment; the apartment was next door to the 5-star Hotel Dorchester,  home to monarchs and Hollywood stars when in London. And he wrote that when the two were not together, they were speaking to each other on their cell phones.

On August 7, the London tabloids finally suspected that there was something going on between Queen Elizabeth’s ex-daughter-in-law and the son of Mohamed Al-Fayed.  Paparazzi, knowing that both Diana and Dodi were back in London, stationed themselves outside the Park Lane apartment. Their time would not be wasted because that evening, Diana, dressed in a figure-hugging blue dress, arrived and she did not emerge again from the apartment until 1 a.m.

Later that day she flew off to Bosnia as part of her campaign against anti-personnel landmines. Dozens of reporters and photographers rushed off to Bosnia too; they knew that there would be more interest than ever before in this beautiful woman; all because of that nocturnal visit to Dodi’s apartment.

On August 15, Diana, back in London, flew to Greece to spend a few days there. She took a friend along. The two women travelled in a private Gulfstream IV jet. The jet’s owner was Harrods, in other words, Mohamed Al-Fayed.

Six days later, on August 21, Diana was yet again back in London. Dodi arrived back in London too that day; he’d been to Los Angeles. The rumor was that he had gone to find a place to buy for him and Diana: They were going to get married and were going to set up home in LA.

The next day the two boarded the Gulfstream; they flew off to France, to the Mediterranean city of Nice to start another vacation together. At Nice airport they boarded the Jonical’s helicopter. Dodi’s father, step-mother and the couple’s children were already on the yacht. Diana and Dodi were joining them to do what the European wealthy and royalty have been doing every summer for ages; cruise the Mediterranean.

On that second vacation of Diana with the Al-Fayed family there was no Kelly Fisher about. In July, while staying on the Cujo alone, she had still been unaware of the princess’s real role in her fiancé’s life, but on Wednesday, August 6, when she returned to the States, she had learned from a friend that there were photos of Dodi and Diana all over the papers and that they were without doubt lovers.

She tried to speak to Dodi but he was not answering his phone. But when she called his Park Lane apartment at the end of that day, Mohamed Al-Fayed picked up and told her that she and Dodi were over. The following day she did get through to Dodi and she taped the conversation. He denied that she and he were engaged to be married, but he also denied that he was having an affair with Diana. At one stage of the conversation, she told him: “Don’t you f*** with me, Dodi. You flew her (Diana) down to St. Tropez and were seeing her all day, and f****** me by night.” Fisher then sued Dodi for breach of promise but withdrew her accusation after his death.

Knowing that Diana and Dodi were on the yacht, the London editors, both those of the tabloids as well as of the serious broadsheets, were going mad. They shouted for copy from their reporters and for photographs from the paparazzi. The reporters and paparazzi were going mad too, with joy; they knew that they could demand high fees for whatever snap or snippet of news they could pass on to the editors. Meanwhile, Diana, her affair with Dodi no longer a secret, wanted to show the world that she indeed had a new man. She, dressed in white shorts and a low-cut black t-shirt, walked beside Dodi along the St. Tropez waterfront. Said Mohamed Al-Fayed about the romance to reporters shouting questions at him from the little boats they had hired to get as close to the Jonikal as possible: “I give them my blessing. They are both adults. She is a lovely girl and he is my son and I love him very much. They seem to enjoy each other’s company a lot and it makes me happy to see them both so happy.”

The circulation figures of the papers and magazines doubled, even tripled, even quadrupled. The subjects of Diana’s ex-mother-in-law wanted to know about every move the lovers made. In London, in the mornings as commuters ran for their tube trains, street vendors shouted out that day’s headlines: “Di’s New Man is Al-Fayed’s Son!”and “What on earth does she think she’s playing at?”

Meanwhile, Diana gave the impression that she was enjoying – no loving – the attention; she raced up in a speedboat to another speedboat loaded with paparazzi and shouted to them: “I will have news for you soon! You are going to be surprised with what I am going to tell you!”

Inevitably, one morning the headline of the tabloid, the Sunday Mirror was, “The Kiss!”

The photo on the front page showed Diana and Dodi sunbathing on the deck of the yacht moored off the coast of Sardinia. Both were in swimwear. The photo had been taken, it seemed, at the moment when the two were moving their faces up close for their lips to touch.

That the couple might not in fact have kissed did not matter at all for the Sunday Mirror used words like “sensual body language” and “physical and spiritual fulfillment” in its report.

But Dodi was the son of Mohamed Al-Fayed, and that meant that for her ex-mother-in-law’s subjects, Diana enjoying such intimacy with the young man was not right. Diana, having a fling with him was something they had found amusing, but she, lying close to him dressed only in a bathing suit and kissing him, was another story.

Mohamed Al-Fayed was the man the Brits loved to hate. He was not of the right stuff. He had money yes, but it was not “old” money, and what was more, he was not British born and bred. He hailed from Egypt. Born in Alexandria in 1933, the son of a school teacher, he and his two brothers had founded a shipping company, the General Navigation Company. When President Gamal Abdul Nasser began nationalizing all privately owned companies he and his brothers had relocated their headquarters to Genoa, Italy. They opened a branch office in London and in the 1960s, realizing the potential of the small Gulf state of Dubai, Mohamed Al-Fayed befriended its ruler, Sheikh Rashid al Makhtoum, and began to play a major role in the little kingdom’s development by encouraging British entrepreneurs to invest in Dubai. He himself founded a second shipping company, the International Marine Services and registered it in Dubai. The company salvaged and repaired oil tankers.

In 1972 he was sufficiently wealthy to buy himself a castle in Scotland, and in 1974, a large estate in Surrey, in the south of England. Until then known as Mohamed Fayed, he had become Mohamed Al-Fayed. The British media accused him of having added the “al” prefix to his surname to make himself out as being from an Egyptian noble family that hailed from the town of Fayed. The satirical London-based weekly Private Eye even gave him a sobriquet: “The Phony Pharaoh.”

In the 1980s he bought Harrods after already having bought the Hotel Ritz in Paris.

Whereas the French government of President François Mitterrand had made him a Chevalier of France’s prestigious Legion d’Honneur (Legion of Honor), the British only belittled him for the way in which he had bought the royal-warranted Knightsbridge-based department store. (A store having a royal warrant means that a member of the British royal family shops there; the royal bestows the warrant on the store. Harrods had several such royal warrants but currently has none because in 2000 Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elisabeth, had withdraw his warrant which had resulted in a furious Mohamed Al-Fayed returning all of the store’s royal warrants).

The method that Mohamed Al-Fayed had employed to become the owner of the store had, by British standards, been irregular. He had first bought 30 percent of the shares in the store’s holding company, the House of Fraser, in November 1984. Next, in March 1985, he had bought the remaining 70 percent paying over $975 million. That purchase was opposed by the man who had built up the shareholding, R.W. “Tiny” Rowlands of the now-defunct Lonrho Group, who himself wanted to buy the shares package but could not match Mohamed Al-Fayed’s offer. For the next seven years, Mr. Rowlands, then also owner of the British Sunday national newspaper, The Observer, ran a vendetta against Mohamed Al-Fayed, using his paper to defame his opponent by writing that the three Fayed brothers had lied about their family background and that they were just Egyptian peasants; he even succeeded in persuading the then British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, to launch an inquiry into the purchase of Harrods, considered a “British institution” which had to remain in the hands of an Englishman.  Nothing came of the inquiry but in 1995 Rowlands would also accuse Al-Fayed of having taken items that included emeralds, rubies, diamonds, rare silver coins and stamps from his Harrods safe deposit box.  Six Harrods’ employees stood accused with Al-Fayed, but in 1998, Scotland Yard announced that they would not press criminal charges against the seven because of no realistic prospect of a conviction. Al-Fayed and the six did though still face a civil claim for damages from Mr. Rowlands and this was settled only in 2000 when Mr. Al-Fayed agreed to pay $1.2 million in compensation to Mr. Rowlands’ widow despite that he continued to deny that he had taken the valuables from the safe; he admitted that the safe had been forced open, but he was explicit in his denial that he had anything to do with it.

There was also another reason for Mohamed Al-Fayed’s unpopularity among the Brits: At the time of the uproar over how he had bought Harrods, he had bribed two members of parliament, supporters of his, to ask questions in the House about the controversy. He had apparently hoped that a parliamentary debate would show that he had behaved with integrity. This had however not happened, and despite the fact that he had brought British entrepreneurs and the Sultan of Dubai together which had earned Britain £8 billion ($12 billion), his unpopularity had remained unchanged.

In fact, so unpopular was he that by that summer of 1997 when he was host to a young boy who would one far-future day be King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the British Home Office had already twice turned down his application for British nationality.


Saturday, August 30:

At 3:20 p.m. Mohamed Al-Fayed’s Gulfstream taxied down a runway at Paris’s Le Bourget Airport.  Le Bourget, once France’s second airport after Orly, had dropped to number three after the construction of Charles de Gaulle Airport, was being used only for air shows and private flights.

On board the jet, which had 90 minutes earlier taken off from Sardinia’s Olbia Airport, were Diana and Dodi, her pale English complexion almost as tanned as his, and two of Dodi’s bodyguards, Trevor Rees-Jones and Kes Wingfield.

On the tarmac waited several vehicles: Two hired black Mercedes 600s and a black Range Rover that belonged to Dodi, two black Peugeots and three motorcycles. The Mercedes would take Dodi and Diana to wherever they wanted to go; the Range Rover was for their luggage, and the Peugeots and motorcycles were for the cops from the Service de Protection des Hautes Personnalités – France’s official protection service for heads of state, royalty and other such VIP’s.  Diana had not let the British Embassy know that she was going to be in town as she should have, but the French Ministry of Interior, aware of the visit having been notified by the Paris Airport Authority, had an escort waiting.

Several men stood around the cars. One was Philippe Dourneau, a self-employed chauffeur and not a Ritz employee, who drove for Dodi whenever he was in Paris. Another was Henri Paul, the Ritz’ acting security chief; the security chief had left the hotel’s employ two months previously but had not yet been replaced. Further away lingered several paparazzi, their cameras ready to take the photos that the editors were screaming for; the paparazzi had learned from their colleagues who had been watching the couple on their cruise that the two love-birds had set off from Olbia Airport and that the pilot had filed a flight plan for Paris’s Le Bourget.

Paul loaded Dodi and Diana’s luggage into the Range Rover that he would be driving. Dourneau directed the couple to one of the Mercedes 600s that he would be driving.

Dodi told Paul to take the luggage to his Paris apartment on Rue Arsène-Houssaye. The street, in the elegant 8th arrondissement (district), runs from the upper end of Avenue des Champs-Elysées, one of the 12 avenues that form Place Charles de Gaulle (formerly Place de l’Etoile) where the Arc de Triomphe monument is. It is a short and narrow street, but it would be difficult to find a more high-class address to put on one’s business card.

Dodi and Diana would however not be heading for the apartment. No. Dodi was not beyond the occasional immodesty, and that day was such a day.

In 1986, his father, had purchased a 50-year lease on a 14-room, three-story mansion at Number 4, Rue du Champ d’Entrainement, a leafy avenue facing the Bois de Boulogne (Boulogne Forest), west of Paris. The mansion bore some bittersweet memories for the English royals. It was there where their ex-King, Edward 8th, who had abdicated in 1936 so that he could marry the woman he loved, the American divorcée Wallis Simpson.  Having chosen, as the Duke of Windsor, in the 1950s to spend his exile in Paris, the city’s authorities seeing an opportunity to cock a snoop at the British, had offered him this mansion at a token rent of less than $30 annually. The Duke had passed away in 1972 and the Duchess, as Wallis Simpson had become known, in 1986. In that year, the then Paris mayor, Jacques Chirac (he would become France’s president) had approached Mohamed Al-Fayed, offering him a 50-year lease on the property; Chirac, the story went, had been impressed with how Mr. Al-Fayed had bought and restored the Ritz; the grand old hotel on Place Vendome on Paris’s Right Bank had fallen into some degree of disrepair and Mohamed Al-Fayed had reportedly spent $12 million to restore it to its former glory. He had not only bought the lease, but also the mansion’s contents, some of which were royal heirlooms, which he had later auctioned at Sotheby.

Chirac, on offering the mansion to Mohamed Al-Fayed, had had the desired effect; Queen Elizabeth and her subjects took a grim view to a man they loved to hate, an upstart who was not even English, living in what had been their Uncle David’s home: The Duke’s full name was Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David and the family had called him David. Not that the new owner moved into the mansion; he had, he said, bought the property so that it would be preserved for history. The property, which will remain his until 2036, can be visited today but only on Mr. Al-Fayed’s special permission.

Dodi, no doubt having been aware of how the Brits felt about his father’s acquisition of the property and of its historical significance to the nation, had been unable to resist taking friends there to show them around. He certainly took his girlfriends there, and just a month before that August 30, he had taken girlfriend Fisher there.

So, Dodi, having a new girlfriend, he yet again wanted to show her the property.

The shortest route from Le Bourget to the Bois de Boulogne is the Paris ring-road (the Périphérique) and that was the one that Dourneau chose, the two bodyguards following in the second Mercedes 600. On a day of light traffic, the distance can be done in 45 minutes. Dourneau, the official French security back-up preceding and tailing the Mercedes 600, he was at the mansion in less than that; he arrived there at 3:45 p.m. – a mere half an hour from the time that the Gulfstream had landed at the airport. He had even succeeded in throwing off the paparazzi on their motorcycles. As Dourneau would tell the French police, when he had pulled up at the mansion, Dodi had congratulated him on having given the paparazzi the slip.

Within 30 minutes after having arrived at the property, Diana and Dodi were back in the Mercedes 600 and Dourneau was driving them to the Ritz. The paparazzi were waiting around the hotel’s main entrance on Place Vendome.

For the following four hours the couple remained at the hotel. They were in the three-room Imperial Suite; rightfully so, the boss’s son never settled for anything but the best. While a hairdresser came to restore order to Diana’s sun-bleached hair, Dodi popped out. He was back in the Mercedes 600, Dourneau again at the wheel and a second passenger in the rear with Dodi. The second passenger was bodyguard Rees-Jones.

This time Dourneau had less than a hundred yards to drive: Dodi was heading for the Repossi jewelry shop across from the Ritz. There are several jewelers on Place Vendome, the creations of each more exquisite and costly than those of the next.

Why was Dodi going to Repossi?

As a step-uncle of Dodi, Hussein Yassin, a former press attaché at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, and that August staying at the Ritz, would later tell the media, he had received a telephone call from Dodi from the yacht when the latter had told him that he and Diana would be coming to Paris because he had to collect the engagement ring he was going to offer the princess. According to Yassin, Dodi had said to him, “Diana and I are getting married. You’ll know about it officially very soon.” Dodi had also told a niece of Yassin that he and Diana were going to get married; the niece was also that August staying at the Ritz. Dodi had said to her, “Our marriage will be founded on true love.”

Dodi’s butler, the Californian René Delorm, would at the 2008 British inquest of Princess Diana’s death confirm that Dodi and Diana were going to become engaged that night. He said that on that Saturday Dodi had told him: “René make sure we have champagne on ice when we come back from dinner. I’m going to propose tonight!” He continued that later that day when Diana and Dodi were at the latter’s apartment, he had walked into the living room and Diana was sitting on the coffee table and Dodi was on one knee in front of her caressing her stomach while she was looking at her hand. He had then heard Diana say “Yes.” (Delorm wrote a book about the couple, Diana and Dodi: A Love Story which was published by Tallfellow Press in 1998).

Diana and Dodi, betrothed, would then fly to London the following day where Diana was going to break the news of her forthcoming marriage to her two sons. Once the sons had been told, the official public announcement was to be made.

For security reasons, spy cameras snap whoever enters one of Place Vendome’s jewelry shops and whatever that person does while in the shop is also recorded on video.

Accordingly, on that Saturday afternoon, first the Repossi shop’s spy camera filmed the arrival of a man dressed in a suit. Next, a few minutes later, Dodi, casually dressed in dark trousers, t-shirt and jacket was filmed entering the shop. The man who had preceded Dodi into the shop was Claude Roulet (46), the Ritz’ deputy manager, or as he was officially known in the trade, the assistant to the Ritz’ president, Franz Klein. The latter was on holiday and Roulet was in charge. He had walked from the hotel with bodyguard Wingfield, but the latter had not gone into the shop. Neither would bodyguard Rees-Jones.

Also captured on the video were Alberto Repossi, his wife Angela, their press officer Alice Valentine, two shop assistants Emmanuelle Gobbo and Vito Giove and the doorman Masud Javved. Once Dodi and Roulet were in the shop, one of the assistants hung a “Closed” sign on the door: Dodi would not be disturbed. The time was 5:40 p.m.

At 5:50 p.m. – 10 minutes later the spy camera recorded Dodi’s departure.  During those 10 minutes Dodi had looked, glanced rather, at the contents of several trays. He had pointed at some of the items, and Alberto Repossi had disappeared through another door to fetch the Repossi catalogue which he had handed to Dodi.

The Ritz too had spy cameras and they recorded Dodi’s return. On the video he was seen walking into the hotel’s ornate lobby and bouncing up the stairs and entering the Imperial Suite where Diana was waiting. Dodi was carrying the catalogue Alberto Repossi had given him.

Roulet had stayed behind in the shop and the shop’s spy camera had continued to film him. He was snapped taking notes and then he too left the shop to return to the Ritz, again on foot and accompanied by bodyguard Wingfield. Dodi and bodyguard Rees-Jones had driven back in the Mercedes 600.

Roulet’s return to the hotel was also filmed. From the lobby he went straight to the Imperial Suite from which he re-emerged at 6:27 p.m. carrying the catalogue. As he had entered the suite at 6:23 p.m. he had spent just four minutes there. He was then filmed walking across the Ritz’ lobby and leaving the hotel, and the Repossi spy cameras took up the story and the time-line by snapping him walking back into the shop. He was tapping on one of his wrists and then at one of his fingers. Mrs. Repossi was then filmed stepping through a doorway and holding up something – obviously a ring – as she slipped the object on the ring finger of her left hand and showed her hand to Roulet.

After a few minutes Roulet was filmed leaving the shop, again carrying the catalogue, but also a small bag. When he walked back into the Ritz’ lobby, he stopped at the cashier’s desk for a piece of paper. He scribbled something on the paper and then he went back to the Imperial Suite, carrying not only the catalogue, the small bag, but also clutching the piece of paper.  Inspector Paul Carpentier of the London Metropolitan police would later tell the jury at the British inquest into Diana’s death that Roulet had scribbled the number 115,000 on the piece of paper. That, said the inspector, was the price in French Francs of a ring, the “Dis-mois oui” (Say Yes) – ring in the Repossi catalogue.

Roulet had entered the Imperial Suite at 6:43 p.m. and had left it at 6:46 p.m. – three minutes later. He was then filmed returning to the cashier’s desk, carrying the small bag, but not the catalogue. At the desk he filled in a form and signed it, and then he went to the hotel’s strong room. When he re-emerged he was no longer carrying the small bag.

Ten minutes after Roulet had left the Imperial Suite – at 6:56 p.m. - Diana and Dodi were filmed leaving the suite and the hotel. They got back into the Mercedes 600 and Dourneau drove them to Dodi’s apartment on Rue Arsène-Houssaye, the paparazzi in hot pursuit. Walking across the wide sidewalk outside the hotel to their car, both Diana and Dodi had been visibly upset at the sight of the horde of disheveled, shouting photographers.


The ring:

In March 2000, two years and seven months after Princess Diana’s death, Alberto Repossi released to the media the videos his shop’s spy camera had taken of the visits of Dodi and Roulet on the afternoon of August 30. He also spoke to the U.K. Sunday national, News of the World, and, as proof that Dodi had bought an engagement ring for Diana from him, he showed the paper a signed receipt. (It must be pointed out that Mohamed Al-Fayed had threatened to take legal action against Repossi if he did not release the videos; Mr. Al-Fayed wanted the world to know that his son and Princess Diana had been set to marry, and the buying of a ring, he considered was proof of that.)

Repossi told News of the World that that month of August, while he was in his villa in Monte Carlo, he had received a telephone call from “a director” of Paris’s Ritz Hotel. He was told of the interest that Diana and Dodi had in a ring they had seen in the display window of his Monte Carlo shop on Saturday, August 23. They wanted to know whether they could have a look at the ring in private. “Some days later I met both Dodi and the Princess Diana in St. Tropez to show them the ring. It was from my Dis Moi Oui, or Say Yes, collection. It was an engagement ring,” he said.

Where Dodi bought Diana an engagement ring
Where Dodi bought Diana an engagement ring

At the British inquest it was revealed that the “director” of the Ritz Hotel in Paris who had contacted Mr. Repossi was Franz Klein. As a follow-up to Klein’s telephone call, Mr. Repossi had faxed a document to the Ritz which noted the details and price of three rings as well as some other items of jewelry. The fax was dated Saturday, August 23 – the day that, according to Repossi, Diana and Dodi had seen the Dis Moi Oui ring in the display window of his Monte Carlo shop. The couple had indeed been in Monte Carlo on that day as the Jonikal log book showed.

As Repossi wanted to deal with the couple personally, and they had told him that they would pick the ring up in Paris on August 30, he had set off for Paris to be at his shop when they called in. He said: “On August 30, 1997, I was pleased to contribute to the happiness of this legendary couple and Mr. Dodi Al-Fayed told me that the princess was particularly attracted by my creations.”

The receipt that Repossi referred to was presented at the British inquest. It was numbered 01554 and dated 30.08.97. The document was not a receipt as such, but the kind of docket that top jewelers give a client when an item of jewelry has been taken from a shop on “appro” – on approval. This kind of thing – a jeweler allowing a trusted client to take an item of jewelry on approval – happens all the time; sometimes a jeweler would be so eager to make the sale that he would trust the wrong person and would be a victim of a thief.

The signatory on this docket was Claude Roulet; his surname was misspelled Roullet on the receipt. After his name were written the words “Hotel Ritz.”

Two rings were recorded on the docket.

The ring mentioned first on the docket bore the reference number 4/7014 and was described with the words bague etoile or brilliants diamants – ring star gold brilliant diamonds. The entry was scratched through twice.

The second ring bore the reference number 97/326, and was described with the words bague fiançailles or brilliants diamants triangulaire – ring engagement gold brilliants diamonds triangular. The words Baque fiançailles were encircled in red ink.

The price of the first ring on the docket, Ring 4/7014, was given: FF 600,000 ($124,000). The price of the second ring, No. 97/326 was also given: FF 115,000 ($24,000). (That was the number that Roulet had jotted down on his return from the shop and before he had gone up to the Imperial Suite where Dodi and Diana were waiting.)

Beside the first ring was written: Rendu le 03.09.97 – returned 03.09.97. In other words three days after Diana and Dodi had died.

Columns at the bottom of the docket where the name of the person who had accepted the rings, that person’s passport number, and whether he or she was a new or returning client, had been left blank.

The docket bore another signature below the words Rendu le 03.09.97. It is illegible.

A top Paris jeweler told this writer that the docket’s interpretation was that the first and more expensive ring had been returned to Repossi, but that the second, the engagement ring, of FF115,000 was bought, or at least it was not returned to the shop with the other ring on September 3.

Therefore, was that second ring meant to be an engagement ring Dodi was going to offer Diana that night of August 30?

Mohamed Al-Fayed said certainly, yes, that ring was meant to be an engagement ring; his son and Princess Diana were going to become husband and wife.

Repossi said yes too. Then, Repossi said no. Then, Repossi said yes again. In October 2007, before the British inquest was to open, he explained his changes of mind to the Italian newspaper La Stampa as due to intimidation from Scotland Yard investigators. He said that the Yard had questioned him three times, each interrogation recorded over several tapes, and that it was during the final interrogation session that they had told him it would be better for your reputation if you changed your version of events. He also told the paper that he had learned from the British investigators that there was no such threat on any of the tapes. His explanation for this was that the Yard had wiped that tape clean.

Butler René Delorm, in his testimony at the British inquest, also said that Dodi and Diana, when they were in Monte Carlo, had been to a jeweler shop, but he said that he could not remember which one it had been; he said that they had been in that shop for about 15 minutes.

Bodyguard Rees-Jones said at the British inquest that the couple had never gone near a jeweler while in Monte Carlo. He also said that as he had not gone into the Repossi shop in Paris with Dodi, he had no idea what Dodi had bought there, if he had bought anything.

All those in Diana’s entourage said that she had no plans to marry Dodi.  One inquest witness, Lady Annabel Goldsmith, a friend of Diana’s, said that the princess had told her that she needed marriage like a rash on the face.

But no one could deny that Dodi had been to the Repossi shop in Paris and that Roulet had returned to the shop and on leaving it was carrying a small bag.

Did Dodi therefore plan to propose to Diana? Propose to Diana that night? Or had he already done so while they were on the yacht and all he had to do was to collect the ring when in Paris? They were scheduled to remain in Paris just that one night.

The only two people who would know the true reason for why Dodi had taken two rings, one an engagement ring, on “appro” from Repossi, would be himself and Diana, and they would not now ever be telling us.


The night:

A few drops of rain were falling on Paris at 9:35 p.m. when the door of the apartment building where Dodi lived on Rue Arsène-Houssaye flung open and Diana and Dodi stepped out on to the sidewalk and into what had developed into an excited pack of paparazzi.

Diana and Dodi got back into the Mercedes 600 and Dourneau set off for their destination; they were going to dine at the Alain Ducasse Group’s restaurant Chez Benoît. The restaurant, in central Paris, which has a one-star Michelin rating, is famous for its traditional French dishes like cassoulet made from pork, duck and beans. Whereas the menu is fairly reasonable, a bottle of Nuits St Georges from Burgundy could cost almost $150.

Dourneau steered the car through the heavy Saturday-night traffic of Avenue des Champs-Elysées – by then the French security escort of the afternoon had gone off duty on the couple’s request – the media following noisily behind. Half-way down the mile-long avenue, Dodi told Dourneau to take them to the Ritz; because of the circus behind them, he had decided that he and Diana would dine at the hotel. The maitre d’hôtel at Chez Benoît would only later learn that the table he had held for “Monsieur Roulet from the Ritz” and which was then cancelled had been for Diana and Dodi. The “Monsieur Roulet” – Claude Roulet – had been waiting outside the restaurant for the Mercedes 600 to pull up when he had received a call from the hotel on his cell phone that Diana and Dodi would not be dining at the restaurant but were heading back to the hotel. By the time Roulet received that telephone call, the Mercedes 600 was already approaching the hotel. Considering himself off duty from then on, Roulet had gone home.

At 9:53 p.m. Dourneau pulled up in front of the Ritz and Diana and Dodi pushed their way through the pack of paparazzi and to the hotel’s L’Espadon restaurant. According to Tina Brown in The Diana Chronicles, Dodi, angry at the way the paparazzi would not leave them alone, shouted at the Ritz’ night security officer, François Tendill, that the entire Paris visit was a “f***-up.”  Because the restaurant was packed, the couple did not wait for the food that they had ordered, but quickly left, Diana in tears. It was a few minutes after 10 p.m. and they returned to the Imperial Suite.

Meanwhile, Tendill telephoned Paul. Like Roulet, Paul had considered himself off duty at 7 p.m. when Dodi and Diana had left for the Rue Arsène-Houssaye apartment, but Tendill wanted him to return to the hotel because Diana and Dodi had returned to it. Paul did not complain about having been called back to the hotel.

What Diana and Dodi had said to each other, what they had done other than eat the meal the restaurant had sent up to the suite – Diana had an asparagus and mushroom omelet and a grilled sole – we also do not know, but at 14 minutes after midnight, the two stepped from the suite into the corridor outside where Rees-Jones was standing guard. They were going to go back to Dodi’s apartment on Rue Arsène-Houssaye.

Roulet would that Sunday tell the French police that he had phoned Paul at 11:15 p.m. to ask what the situation was at the hotel and that a perfectly calm and normal Paul had told him that there were no problems. When the police asked him whether Paul had told him what the couple’s plans were for the rest of the night, he said that Paul had not mentioned anything about the couple going to Dodi’s apartment that night.

Between that 11:15 p.m. conversation and six minutes past midnight when Diana and Dodi left the Imperial Suite, it had though been decided that they would not remain at the hotel for the night but would return to Dodi’s apartment; their clothes and toilet articles were there after all. Who had made that decision has not been established, but Rees-Jones told the French police that it had been Dodi’s decision.

The plan was that Diana and Dodi would leave the hotel from its back door on Rue Cambon while, out on the square in front of the hotel, Dourneau and Wingfield would pretend to be preparing the Mercedes 600 and the Range Rover for the couple’s departure. According to Rees-Jones, Dodi was also the one who had worked out this plan. 

But in which car would Diana and Dodi leave the hotel?

The Ritz had a fleet of cars it hired from a luxury car rental company, Etoile Limousine.  The company’s owner, Jean-François Musa, had once been a Ritz chauffeur and that August he still occasionally chauffeured for the hotel. Late that afternoon Paul had telephoned him to ask him to come to the hotel as he wanted him to drive Dodi’s black Range Rover as a back-up vehicle on Diana and Dodi’s nocturnal sorties that night. Therefore, at 7 p.m. he had driven the Range Rover to Dodi’s apartment and then back to the hotel when Diana and Dodi had decided not to dine at Chez Benoît.

According to what Musa told the police during several interrogations, that Saturday night at 11:50 when he was still at the hotel, Roulet had telephoned him to ask him if he had another Mercedes available that they could use. He had gone to a panel in the hotel’s office area where the car keys always hung and on seeing that a Mercedes S 300 was free, he had told Roulet that, yes, he had another Mercedes. He had six cars available in fact, the six of which the Mercedes S 300 was one, were parked in the hotel’s basement car park.

According to Musa he had also told Roulet that he was willing to stay at the hotel to be available to drive the Mercedes S 300 during the night but Roulet had told him that it would not be necessary, that he only had to drive the car from the car park to the hotel’s back door on Rue Cambon. The street, a narrow one, runs into the one-way Rue de Rivoli, which in turn runs into Place de la Concorde from which leads Avenue des Champs-Elysées with Rue Arsène-Houssaye at its upper end, close to the Arc de Triomphe monument.

Confusion remains over whether Roulet was the one who had asked Musa whether he had another car or whether it was Paul. Roulet told the police that he had no knowledge of a car swop scheme. Rees-Jones would also say that Dodi was the one who had decided that Paul would drive him and Diana back to the Rue Arsène-Houssaye apartment.

Musa was in the hotel lobby when one of the security guards told him that Diana and Dodi were ready to leave and that it was time to drive the Mercedes C 300 up from the car park to Rue Cambon. Paul, who had been going from the lobby to the Imperial Suite and back to the lobby from the time that Diana and Dodi had returned to the suit to dine there, was again in the lobby and Rees-Jones had to summon him on his walkie-talkie to go to the hotel’s back door because Diana and Dodi were ready to leave.

Tricking the paparazzi seemed a perfect plan, and Diana, who had earlier at the apartment changed into tight-fitting white summer trousers, black top and blazer and sling-backed high-heeled Versace shoes, and Dodi were filmed by the Ritz’ spy camera walking down a corridor and getting into a small escalator.  With them was Rees-Jones.  Another spy camera filmed Paul’s arrival at the back door; he was seen walking down a corridor to the back door and stepping out several times on to the narrow sidewalk of Rue Cambon and looking up and down the street to see if any paparazzi were about; there were and they were waiting at the end of the street on their motorcycles. Diana and Dodi were filmed waiting in the corridor for Musa to pull up in the Mercedes S 300. When the car arrived Paul got in behind the wheel while Rees-Jones escorted Diana and Dodi to the car’s back door and opened the door for Diana to get in first. After Dodi had slipped in beside her, Rees-Jones walked around the car and sat down in the front passenger seat. Dodi therefore sat behind Paul and Diana sat on his right behind Rees-Jones. Not one of the four fastened the obligatory seat belts.

Musa had meanwhile returned to the front of the hotel where he, Dourneau and Winfield continued the charade of preparing the Mercedes 600 and the Range Rover for departure. In France a chauffeur needs a special driving license which Paul did not have. That was something that Musa knew but he did not point out that night.

At seventeen minutes past midnight, the bespectacled Paul, neatly but casually dressed in jacket and pants, colored shirt and tie, pulled away from the curb at normal speed.

There are several routes from Rue Cambon to Rue Arsène-Houssaye. The one Paul chose was not the quickest or the least complicated. The quickest and least complicated from Rue Cambon is the one-way Rue de Rivoli and then into Place de la Concorde and from there into Avenue de Champs-Elysées and on to the Arc de Triomphe monument but just before reaching it turning right into Dodi’s street. But Paul chose to ignore the Ave des Champs-Elysées and to drive across Place de la Concorde to the road – the Cours Albert 1er – that runs along the River Seine and parallel to Avenue des Champs-Elysées.

When the Mercedes S 300 sped across the very wide Place de la Concorde both Diana and Dodi turned around, probably to see whether there were any paparazzi behind them. Dourneau and Musa had meanwhile set off from in front of the hotel, a few bewildered paparazzi following them. As Paul had accelerated on reaching Place de la Concorde, Rees-Jones had fastened his seat belt.

On the Cours Albert 1er there is the 328ft-long two-way Pont d’Alma (Alma Bridge) tunnel that runs underneath Place d’Alma (Alma Square). The tunnel’s only purpose is to ease traffic on the square. This means that to take the tunnel when the traffic is not heavy is not necessary. Paul chose to take it. From the tunnel he was to exit into Avenue Marceau with the Eiffel Tower behind him and the Arc de Triomphe monument ahead of him. The logical continuation of his route would have been to continue to the monument, to drive around it and then into Avenue des Champs-Elysées.  It is a distance of little over a mile and would not have taken more than seven minutes, but Paul never exited the tunnel. Or at least, not alive.

At approximately12:20 a.m., the Mercedes S 300 entered the tunnel. Despite the late hour, there were a few cars on both carriageways of the tunnel and a few cars on the roads in the area, and from what their drivers and passengers would later say, the Mercedes was moving at a very high speed.

There would be several media assessments of the car’s speed. Some journalists would write that the car had been going at about 110 mph. Others wrote that it was going at 87 mph, while others would say that it had gone at no more than 65 mph. There were also journalists who would report that, according to their police sources, the car’s speedometer had stuck at 121 mph; in other words that was what the car’s speed had been. Mohamed Al-Fayed’s lawyers would say that the smashed speedometer had stood at zero. The speed limit in France in built-up areas, of which Paris is one, is 30 mph, but in bad weather the speed limit can be lowered; that night, in Paris, the speed limit was 30 mph.

The drivers and their passengers would also say that the car’s driver had a problem controlling it; the car was making zigzag movements. Behind it, but a little distance away, followed several motorcycles.

Benoît Boura was in the tunnel and about to exit it when he saw the Mercedes S 300 approaching him on the other carriageway. He said that there were two French Peugeots ahead of his car and a “dark car” ahead of the Mercedes. His attention was drawn to the Mercedes and the dark car because of the screeching tires of the first. He said that the driver of the Mercedes then lost control of the car which hit one of the pillars that divided the two carriageways and the car came to a halt facing in the direction it had come. At that moment he had become aware of a motorcycle of the 125cc type, in other words not a large and powerful one, close to the Mercedes. He said that he thought that the Mercedes and the dark car had touched and it was because of that that the Mercedes’ driver had lost control of the car. The motorcycle did not stop but accelerated to continue on its way and out of the tunnel.

Mohamed Medjahdi and his girlfriend Souad Moufakkir were driving through the tunnel when they heard the screeching of car brakes behind them. In his rear-view mirror Mohamed saw a Mercedes being flung across the carriageway. He told the French police that just before he had heard the brakes, a motorcycle with two people on it had passed his car. He said: “I remember the noise that the bike’s engine made as it passed me going very fast and then I heard the Mercedes’s breaks.”  Having concentrated on the Mercedes and the motorcycle he could not recall having seen another car in the tunnel. Moufakkir said that she had swung round to see what was going on behind them. She said that she had seen through their car’s rear window that the Mercedes was out of control, but she’d so feared that it was going to hit them that she had not focused on anything else. She had, she said, therefore not seen a motorcycle.

Those who were above the tunnel did see the motorcycle. They told the police that it had sped from the tunnel at about the same time or immediately after they had heard the noise of a car crashing. They could not say whether there were one or two people on the bike because it had all happened so very quickly. And it was night and dark.

Another witness, identified only as Georges D., a 42-year old Parisian financier who was driving across Place d’Alma, his wife in the car with him, told the police that he saw an old, rather dirty white, two-door Fiat UNO speed from the tunnel. The Fiat UNO, he said, was zigzagging so severely that when it came level with his car, he feared that it was going to smash into him. “I told myself that the driver must be drunk. I sounded my car horn. The driver was looking into his rear-view mirror.  He then slowed down so that we were driving side by side. I was going at about 18 mph,” he told the police. He also said that the Fiat UNO did not bear a Paris license plate; the number plate he said ended with either the number 78 or 92. The number plates of cars registered in Paris end with 75; 78 and 92 are of cars which had been registered in the Paris suburbs. The driver was a “European type” (Caucasian) male of between 40 and 50, and he had short brown hair. On the rear seat of the car sat a big dog, either a black Alsatian or a black Labrador. The dog was muzzled; the muzzle was red.

Georges D.’s testimony about a speeding white Fiat UNO would be backed by other eye witness accounts of such a car having been driven from the tunnel as if it had suddenly been metamorphosed into a Formula One racing car.

The tunnel’s carriageways dip fairly sharply for cars entering it. As brake markings showed, Paul had begun to break within the first yards of the tunnel, therefore on the dip. The car had come to a halt facing the way it had come after it had hit the tunnel’s 13th dividing pillar. It had already scraped the 12th pillar.

When it halted Paul was dead. Dodi too was dead. Bodyguard Rees-Jones was breathing but unconscious.

Diana was breathing and conscious.

At Dodi’s apartment waited Dourneau, Musa and Wingfield, the three having arrived safely.



The Pont Alma area of Paris is different at night than in daytime. During the day tourists wander around – the Eiffel Tower is a few minutes walk away – and do what they think Parisians do every day; they sit down on the terraces of the bistros on Place d’Alma and drink red wine. At night, the tourists having left, the area is returned to its inhabitants – middle-agers who can afford the high prices or the high rents of the apartments. If the stillness of the night should be broken it would be by the drone of a taxi taking a woman who lives alone back home after she’d been out with friends for dinner, or by the rumbling of the engine of one of Paris’s green and yellow buses pulling up at one of the bus stops on the square. Some nights the stillness is disturbed by the siren of a police car on its way to a spot of trouble, but the trouble is always elsewhere in the city.

Princess Diana The Mercedes
The Mercedes

In that first hour of Sunday, August 31, the stillness of the night was disturbed in quite a different manner. First, there was the sound of a car braking, then the thump of metal hitting concrete, followed by the continuous blaring of a car horn. Next, a cacophony of the sirens of police vehicles and ambulances had ripped through the night.

In 1997 still few people in France had cell phones but the paparazzi on the bikes behind the Mercedes S 300 did, and once, having gathered their wits, they reached for their cells. Some would say that they had called the police, but those who worked for photo agencies called their offices.  Therefore at 12:31 a.m. Agence France Presse or AFP, the French news agency, broke the news of the accident. The agency’s dispatch marked “Urgent” was sent to its clients worldwide. It read: “Lady Di has been seriously injured in an accident in the Pont d’Alma tunnel in Paris. TheArab prince (sic) who was with her in the vehicle has also been injured according to the police.  The Prefect of Paris is on site. From first eye witness reports some paparazzi were chasing her and were the cause of the accident.”

It was then that the telephones started ringing in the homes of the Paris-based foreign correspondents. Their editors had also received news of the crash from the photo agencies the paparazzi worked for, and of course the editors knew that the Arab prince in AFP’s dispatch was Dodi Al-Fayed. But before the foreign correspondents could even begin to write their stories, the editors would be back on the line to say that the paparazzi were saying that Dodi was dead.  Consequently, the headlines of the first editions on Sunday reported that Diana was safe. The U.K. Sunday national, The People, for example ran the headline Dodi Dead, Diana Hurt In Smash Horror! 

The first person at the mangled Mercedes was the paparazzo Romuald Rat. He worked for Gamma photo agency. With him was his motorcyclist Stephane Darmon also a Gamma employee. The photos taken of the car that night were Rat’s. He also took photos of the dying Diana and the dead Dodi which he, through the agency, would that night, while he was still in the tunnel, offer to the London media. At the British inquest Ken Lennox, who was that night the picture editor of the British national daily tabloid The Sun, would testify that he had agreed to pay Rat and his agency £300,000 ($460,000) for that set of photos. Lennox would explain that at that stage the paper had not yet known that Diana too had died, but when it did know, the deal was cancelled. Rat and Gamma had offered the photos to all the London picture editors who told their news desks who in turn told their correspondents that they had some really sensational “pix of Di in the smashed car.” The photographs which Rat had smuggled from the tunnel via another paparazzo (the photos have since been published and can be seen on web sites) showed Diana lying in the car’s rear foot-well with her back to the car’s open door and blood on her face. Some photos show her with a portable oxygen mask over her face.

The police would arrest Rat and his driver and another five paparazzi that night there in the tunnel and confiscate their rolls of film. The seven were stripped search, photographed and their rolls of film, 20 in total, were confiscated, but although they were placed under formal investigation on the suspicion that they had failed to come to the assistance of a person in danger, a punishable offence under Art. 223-6 of the French penal code, they were released after 48 hours. One of those arrested, Jacques Langevin, who was with Sygma photo agency, and not a paparazzo but an award-winning photographer for his photos of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China in 1989, had arrived at the scene 10 minutes after the crash. He would later speak to journalists about his humiliation on his arrest.

Rat would in future also speak to journalists and book authors about what he had seen and done that night but he would refuse to appear as witness at the British inquest.

He first spoke to CNN of what had happened in those first few minutes of Sunday morning, on Tuesday, September 2 on his release from police headquarters at Number 36, Quai des Orfèvres on the Ile de la Cité, one of the two islands on the Seine in central Paris, and when Diana’s funeral was till to take place, saying:“I went up and opened one of the car doors. I saw Princess Diana, who was seated on the floor with her back towards me. I told her in English not to worry, that I was here to help, the firemen were coming.”

He continued that he had not immediately taken photos but after medical assistance had arrived he had “resumed my work as a journalist. I took some very wide shots of the car. I shot nothing to be sorry about, and when I was taken to the police station, I was in that state of mind.”

His boss, the then Gamma chief editor Didier Contant, would on the next day speak up in support of him. Contant told the media that Rat had tried to help Diana. He said that the paparazzo had a first aid certificate. “He took her pulse and said, ‘Don’t move please. Help is coming’, and when assistance came he instantly stood back and let them do their work.”

The French justice system would eventually clear the seven of wrongdoing. Some of them are still snapping celebrities and earning big bucks. There are some though who have packed away their cameras. In an August 2002 television documentary Secrets d’actualité (News Secrets) the owner of the now defunct LSPresse photo agency, Laurent Sola, said that he was so disgusted with himself for what he had done that night that he had quit the press photography profession.  He now lives in the Normandy region of France and runs a fishing business.

Sola recounted how his photographer Patrice Chassery had phoned him to tell him that Princess Diana was laying seriously injured in the Pont d’Alma tunnel.  “I shouted to Laurent ‘What are you doing talking to me when you should be taking photos! Put down the phone and take pictures! When you get back here, then we can talk!

Chassery, who was not one of those the police had arrested, took up the story from there. He said: “It was incredible. I said s***! I was stunned. Then I pulled myself together. I had my job to do, so I took pictures.”  He said that once he realized the importance of the photos he had taken, he jumped on his motorbike and raced to the office. “Laurent developed the film. He scanned the pictures and distributed them.” He said that Sola chose five photographs and began to phone editors all over the world; “It was at that stage only a car accident and the editors were going mad over the pictures.”

Chassery’s pictures would however not be sold despite that a bidding war had begun. A phone call had come to Sola’s office that Diana was dead too and Sola had cancelled all the orders. “Diana had died and I couldn’t do it. I cancelled the deals,” said he. He locked the pictures away – and he still has them. His final statement on that documentary was: “What I am going to say might sound awful, but she (meaning Diana) was still beautiful.”

In 1998, two investigative journalists from the French weekly magazine L’Express, Jean-Marie Pontaut and Jerome Dupuis, began to work on a book about Diana’s death: The book Enquête sur la mort de Diana was published by Stock in July 2001.

While still working on their book, Pontaut and Dupuis were interviewed by the Paris correspondent of the U.K. Sunday national The Observer. They told the correspondent that the very first person to have reached the car was a passing pedestrian. This person had seen Diana, or rather a woman with blonde hair, lying injured in the rear foot-well of the car. She was crying and murmuring: “My God, my God.”  They said that the paparazzi had next moved in on the car. The first policeman on the scene, Sebastien Dorzee, they said, could not immediately reach the car because of being shoved by the paparazzi and some passersby who had by then gone down into the tunnel to see what was going. He had told them that Diana, or rather the blonde woman in the car because he also had not recognized the princess, was indeed conscious and murmuring words when he reached her. Said he: “The Princess had turned round in relation to her initial sitting position and her head was between the two seats and she could see her friend in front of her. Her eyes were open and she moved, talking to me in a foreign language. When she saw her friend was dead, I think she said, ‘My God.’ At that same time she rubbed her stomach. She must have felt pain.” While he was trying to get her from the car, she again turned her head and looked at Paul and realized that he was dead too. “She became irritated. A few seconds afterwards she looked at me and then closed her eyes,” he said.

According to Pontaut and Dupuis the first medical emergency unit had arrived at 12:33 a.m. That was about seven or eight minutes after the crash.

The first medical person to reach Diana was Dr. Frederic Mailliez. The doctor, working for the private emergency organization SOS Médecins, was passing by in his car after having attended a birthday party with his boyfriend. He had his medical case with him and rushed down into the tunnel and reached the car a couple of minutes after the crash. The car’s back door was already open. Having shot a quick glance over the four people in the car, his first act was to summon the State’s emergency services, the Sapeurs Pompiers – the fire brigade’s medical unit.

Speaking, two months later, to the U.K. national broadsheet The Times of that night, he said: “I began examining the young women in the back. I could see that she was beautiful but at that stage, had no idea who she was.” He ran back to his car parked on Cours Albert 1ere and returned with a portable oxygen tank and mask, but Diana began to struggle against him. “She was moaning and gesturing in all direction,” he said.  He also covered Dodi in a blanket because his private parts were exposed.

It was at that stage that the cop Dorzee arrived at the scene. He and his partner Lino Gagliardone were passing by along Cours Albert 1ere and were flagged down and told of the accident.

The Sapeurs Pompiers arrived in a red ambulance specially equipped for such an emergency and the firemen instantly took over from Mailliez. The medically-trained firemen – there were 10 of them – could see that the car’s driver was dead, so they turned to Dodi and lifted him from the car, laid him down on the ground and began to give him cardiac massage. It was useless; he was dead too. Another two concentrated on bodyguard Rees-Jones. He was lying with his head down over the car’s dashboard and after having lifted his head, they fitted a cervical collar round his neck; the car was so mangled that they knew that they would not be able to lift him from it until the mangled metal had been removed.

Meanwhile, two Sapeurs Pompiers sergeants were working on Diana. (By then the medical men and the cops knew the identity of the blonde woman, having been told by the paparazzi.) Sergeant Xavier Gourmelon and Sergeant Philippe Boyer covered Diana with a metallic isothermal blanket.  While doing so they heard her say something in English; thinking about it later, they said that she’d asked them: “My God, what’s happened?”

During all of this, the Mercedes’ horn was still blasting away, but it was just one of many noises because more police vehicles and more ambulances were arriving from all directions.

Some of the ambulances were of SAMU (Services d’Aide Médicale d‘Urgence), France’s other state-run emergency medical service. SAMU is in no way inferior to the Sapeurs Pompiers; the two services work in unison and which is first at an accident scene depends on which one had first received the emergency summons. General practitioners are though inclined to discreetly advise patients that should they need emergency treatment that they should summon the Sapeurs Pompiers rather than SAMU; the latter might take just a few minutes longer to get to them.  But both services have ambulances that are fully equipped with whatever would be needed to save a person’s life and have fully-trained medics. On a summons both would first send such an ambulance and if the medics think that a specialist is needed, then such a specialist or specialists would rush to the scene in an E.R. ambulance in which an accident victim could even be operated on.

Almost immediately, at least before that Sunday was to end, a controversy commenced over the way the French medics, therefore the French state, had handled the situation.

The French were accused of having taken too long to get to the tunnel.

When SAMU with an E.R. unit ambulance arrived in the tunnel that night it was 40 minutes after midnight. Say the Mercedes had hit the pillar at 1:25 a.m., then SAMU had arrived at the scene 15 minutes later, but the Sapeurs Pompiers were already there having arrived eight minutes after the accident;  Dr. Mailliez had arrived at about two minutes after the accident. Bearing in mind the confusion that had followed the crash – and no matter what the paparazzi would claim afterwards about having summoned assistance immediately – a minute or two must have passed before the phone had rung at the Sapeurs Pompiers call center and a fireman had raised the alarm.

And then also, the French were accused of having made a fatal error by not having rushed Diana to a hospital immediately.

SAMU, having been briefed by the Sapeurs Pompiers on what the situation was in the tunnel, included the two doctors Arnaud DeRossi and Jean-Marc Martino in the team they sent to the tunnel. After a rapid examination of the still-conscious Diana and an assessment of her condition – she was still conscious but incoherent and they suspected severe internal bleeding – Martino, a resuscitation expert, began to stabilize her blood pressure and heartbeat.  DeRossi meanwhile called the SAMU center and discussed with other medical experts what to do. It was decided that she would be taken to the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital on Boulevard de l’Hôpital on Paris’s Left Bank and in the 13th arrondissement, but that her condition should first be stabilized on site – in the E.R. ambulance.  This was the way it was done in France, and so it remains.

At 1 a.m. Dr. Martino had Diana’s blood pressure and heartbeat stabilized with cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), oxygenation, and intubation with 2mgs of the sedative Hypnovel and 150 mgs of the narcotic analgesic Fentanyl (Ref. Lady Died by Francis Gillery, published by Fayard in 2006), and six firemen began the process of removing her from the car.  It was a slow process because several times Diana suffered cardiac arrest. Using special straps, inflated cushions, the firemen first placed her on an isothermal mattress beside the car, then they lifted her on to a gurney to push her to and into the ambulance. The process took 18 minutes.

Once in the ambulance the two doctors connected the princess to a respirator, but her blood pressure was yet again falling alarmingly.  She again suffered cardiac arrest and CPR was yet again applied and Dopamine was added to her intravenous drip.

At 1:30 a.m. the ambulance could finally set off for the hospital, but Dr. Martino had notified the experts at the SAMU center that they would have to go very slowly because a jolt could cause another cardiac arrest.

Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, a university hospital, is one of Europe’s largest. It was founded on the orders of Louis XIV, the Sun King (1638-1715) and its name derives from the word salpêtre – saltpeter – because a gunpowder factory had stood on the site; those days saltpeter instead of sulfur, charcoal and potassium-nitrate were used to make gunpowder.

The ambulance took the shortest route to the hospital. It was a distance of 4.2 miles which would have taken an ambulance going at no more than 20 mph (the recorded speed of SAMU’s ambulance that night) between 10-15 minutes.

The ambulance set off from the tunnel and drove west along the River Seine and, remaining on Paris’s Right Bank, to the Pont d’Austerlitz (Austerlitz Bridge) which it began to traverse to reach Boulevard de l’Hôpital and the hospital on Paris’s Left Bank. Suddenly the ambulance pulled up. Diana had again suffered cardiac arrest and Dr. Martino wanted to increase the Dopamine. Diana’s heart began to beat again and the ambulance could continue on its way. The ambulance had a police motorcycle escort but paparazzi had still managed to follow the ambulance and photograph the white vehicle immobile along the curb. 

At 2:06:58 a.m., the ambulance arrived at the hospital and Diana was immediately taken to the medical team waiting in the hospital’s Gaston-Cordier wing. She arrived in the wing at 2:10 a.m. According to Francis Gillery’s book, Prof. Bruno Riou, head of the hospital’s anesthesia/resuscitation sector got surgeon Dr. Moncef Dahman to open Diana’s thorax while she was still on the gurney. Then, once on the operating table, Prof. Riou, assisted by Prof. Pavie, stitched up her ruptured superior vena cava, the main pulmonary vein that carried her blood to her heart. They lifted her heart from her thorax and massaged it manually hoping to get it to start beating again. It would not do so.

Shortly after 5 a.m., as the first rays of light began hitting Paris’s rooftops, Prof. Riou announced Princess Diana’s death to the dozens of foreign correspondents, local reporters and TV crews gathering outside the hospital’s Gaston-Cordier wing. She had passed away at 4 a.m., said the professor. At the hospital were French President Jacques Chirac and his wife Bernadette, French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement, an extreme-leftist, the British Ambassador Sir Michael Jay and his wife, as well as Mme Maud Coujard, deputy Public Prosecutor for Paris. Earlier she had rushed to the tunnel, dressed in black leather, passenger on a police motorcyclist’s pillion seat.  She was still dressed in the black leather, looking uncomfortably informal compared to the other two women, dressed as if they had been summoned to a funeral. Also present, and dressed elegantly, was Mme Martine Monteil, head of Paris’s criminal police. She too had been summoned to the tunnel and had gone from there to the hospital.

Major Jean-Claude Mulès of the Paris “Prefecture de Police,” police headquarters, had issued a death certificate for Princess Diana at 4 a.m. As is the custom in France, no cause of death was recorded on the certificate.

As Gillery also writes in his book, Diana had not died at 4 a.m. He wrote that the Radio France International journalist, Anne Corpey, on duty that night, had told him that at 2:45 that morning while she was in the tunnel gathering information for her story, she had received a telephone call from one of her colleagues from the radio station who told her that she had had a call from another of their colleagues who had told her that Diana was dead. This colleague had had a telephonic tip-off from a Prof. L. of the hospital, a relative of hers. This Prof. L had, just then, completed some cosmetic surgery on Diana’s face; the deceased Diana’s face. Gillery writes that he had later contacted Prof. L.’s relative but she had told him that the professor has had enough problems because he had talked to her and would say no more.

The foreign correspondents had also known long before the official announcement that Diana was dead. At around two that morning their editors had called them to say that they had just heard that “Lady Di” was “dead too”; dead that is like Dodi and the driver of the Mercedes. The bodyguard was of such little importance that he was not mentioned. How did the editors know? The paparazzi’s bosses had phoned them with the news. And how did they know? A paparazzo has contacts – hotel staff, airline staff, airport staff, hospital staff and cops, lawyers and judges – and either a cop or a nurse or doctor had been indiscreet that night.

So why the discrepancy in the real and announced times of Princess Diana’s death?

The explanation is that when a hospital patient dies, the time of death that is recorded on the death certificate is the time that death was officially established by the doctor in charge of that specific ward on that night, afternoon or morning. It can happen that some time could pass between the moment of death and the doctor’s arrival at the deceased’s bedside; the doctor could be busy administrating resuscitation elsewhere or the nurses would first have to prepare the deceased for examination. This means that a patient could pass away at 8 p.m. but that the doctor would only be able to go to the deceased person at midnight. The death would then be recorded for midnight. It is unlikely that in the case of Diana the doctor would have been busy elsewhere in the hospital, but her body would have had to be prepared and the necessary telephone calls would have had to be made so that should there be a news leak from the hospital, her family would have been informed of her death. As it turned out the British royals were asleep in their castles and stately homes across the English Channel and it would have taken a while to get the dreadful news to them.

Also, the various Western secret services would have had to be informed in order to put them on alert just in case the princess’s death had been an assassination and there would be assassination attempts on other royals or heads of state too.


Was it an accident?

Before the full details emerged about the accident, the editors were already asking their correspondents if there were any indications that “Di has been knocked off.” A journalist always looks for a conspiracy, so while Diana still lay in a hospital robe under a white sheet in a first floor room of the hospital, they were calling each other and their police contacts to ask that very same question: “Was Princess Diana murdered? Murdered because she was about to marry Dodi Al-Fayed, an Arab and a Muslim and what was worse, Mohamed Al-Fayed’s son?”

With the paparazzi still under police investigation and still being blamed largely by everyone everywhere for Diana’s death, the journalists began to try to find out about the man who’d been behind the wheel of the Mercedes S 300. Apart from knowing that he was dead and that his body was at the Institut Médico-Légal, Paris’s municipal morgue, a red-brick building on Quay de la Rapée in the 12th arrondissement, they knew nothing about him. They did not even know his name and it would not be until 48 hours after the crash that the police would reveal it. The journalists would then ask: “Henri Paul? Who’s he?” He was, the police replied, the Ritz’ acting security chief. Ah, that was a lead the journalists could get their teeth into.

Some journalists had contacts at the Ritz, but Mohamed Al-Fayed, grieving, no heartbroken and angry, and having flown to Paris from his estate south of London in the wealthy commune of Surrey, forbade the staff to talk. Anyone who did would be dismissed. Some still did. And from what the journalists learned from speaking to Paul’s friends as well, they were able to fill in the public on who Monsieur Paul was.

Paul was born in 1956 in Brittany, northern France. It made him 41 years old. He had a pilot’s license, and two days before the crash, Thursday, August 28, he had undergone the annual pilots’ physical examination as prescribed by the Civil Aviation Authority. The test had shown that he was a healthy man with no drug or alcohol addiction. He had worked for the Ritz for 11 years. His colleagues liked him. They said that he kept to himself, but as the journalists knew, keeping to oneself was a French characteristic.

He had 15 bank accounts. That too was not unusual; in France the more accounts a bank branch has, the higher is the classification of that branch’s staff which means that a branch will open as many accounts for a client as possible, some accounts having a credit of as little as €15. For this reason it is difficult for a client to close an account; a client’s counselor will give several reasons why it would be very unwise to do so. The French also like to leave their money in different banks, not to put all their eggs in the same basket, so to speak.

Paul had a large amount of money in those 15 accounts. The exact amount has not been revealed but some reports said that the amount was 1,700,000 French Francs ($350,000) while others moved the decimal point and said that it was FF170,000 ($35,000). In 1997 $350,000 could have bought him a Paris penthouse. And, dead in the Mercedes, he had FF12,565 ($2,600) in cash on him.  That was a lot of money for a man who could not have earned more than FF5,000 ($1,000) monthly. So, how could he have had so much cash on him? (The French Franc was issued in denominations of 5,10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500-franc notes.) It was explained that the Ritz’ guests were all wealthy and tipped big, and it was a weekend and many guests would have been scheduled to book out very early on Sunday morning and would already have handed over their tips. Also, hotel staff like doormen, reception clerks and security guards did “little favors” for guests with “special requests,” i.e., like a guest would ask, “do you know a girl who would be in the mood for a little fun tonight?” and a folded note would discreetly be squeezed into a palm.

No one would succeed in finding the source of Paul’s money, though his family and his friends emphasized that as a single man he had been able to save. And he had several properties for which he received rent. Again though, the question arises of where he got the money to have bought the properties? One explanation was that he was in the pay of various secret services; that he informed on the heads of state, government ministers, oil sheiks and Middle Eastern princes, and the wealthy, who stayed at the Ritz.

Paul had spent Saturday, August 30, as he had spent almost every Saturday for some time. He began the day with a tennis game against his best-friend Claude Garrec. The two played at a club in a Paris suburb and after the game at 11 a.m. the two called in at a bistro, Le Pelican, close to where Paul lived in a small apartment on the 5th floor of a building that was without an elevator. Garrec would tell the Paris daily Le Parisien that Paul had told him that Princess Diana and Dodi were arriving by air from Sardinia that afternoon and that he would be meeting them at the airport. The two usually had a beer at le Pelican, but that day, because of the arrival of the princess and his boss’ son, Paul drank only a couple of cans of Coca Cola. At 12:30 Paul left Le Pelican and Garrec.

After having driven to Le Bourget Airport and dropping Diana’s and Dodi’s luggage off at the latter’s apartment, Paul had returned to the Ritz where he had stayed until 7 p.m. In his free time he could do as he wished, and leaving the hotel at 7:05 p.m. that was what he did. There are several conflicting versions of what that was. One version was that he had gone straight to Harry’s New York Bar, a watering hole for Americans living in Paris where he had “two or three whiskeys,” and then to a lesbian bar, the Champmesle where he was well-known as he often popped in for a chat with the owner, a friend of his, and while there he received a call on his cell phone. At the end of the call, he told one of the waitresses “Must go to work. See you later.” She told the police that Paul had not drunk any alcohol and was not inebriated. Roulet, in one of his testimonies to the French police, would say that at 7:30 p.m. he had seen Paul in the bistro, Le Bar de Bourgogne on Rue des Petits Champs, the street where Paul lived.  Paul was not drunk and not drinking. (These bars are all within a few minutes walk of the Ritz.)

After having been summoned back to the hotel while at the Champmesle, Paul got into his modest black Austin Mini and drove to the hotel where his arrival on Place Vendome was recorded on a spy camera. The time of arrival was recorded as 10:08 p.m. The video would be released to the media and it showed that he made several back-and-forth maneuvers parking the car in front of the hotel.

There are also conflicting reports on what Paul did from the time he had arrived back at the Ritz and the moment, two hours later, when he had driven off with Diana and Dodi.

As written in Lady Diana, L’enquête criminelle (Lady Diana, The Criminal Investigation) by Jean-Michel Caradec’h and published by Michel Lafon, Paul joined the two bodyguards Rees-Jones and Wingfield in the hotel’s Hemingway Bar where the two were having a meal.  According to the book, the bar’s maître d’hôtel, Jean-Pierre Alidière, had served the two bodyguards lobsters, but that Paul had not wanted to eat or drink anything, but had asked whether he could smoke and when told that he could he had lit a cigarillo. The two bodyguards were drinking Schweppes; they were on duty and therefore not allowed to drink.

But, as Caradec’h also wrote, Alidière had told the French police that one of the bartenders, Alain Willaumez, had told him that he had served Paul two double shots of Ricard. Willaumez also told the police that when Paul rose from the table he had briefly lost his balance and had bumped into another barman.

What the two bodyguards and Paul consumed that night was charged to the account of Roulet. The check numbered 4891 for the amount of FF1260 ($260) and which was registered for 10:06 p.m. showed that they had ordered lobster, French fries, toast and the day’s dessert – two of all – and that they had drunk 4 Schweppes, 2 espressos and two Ricard.

Ricard, distilled for the first time by the Swiss Henri-Louis Pernod in Switzerland in 1797, is a colorless liquid that turns milky-white when water is added to it. A neat shot of Ricard is 45° proof, which means that a normal 2cl shot to which 10/14cl water has been added will be 7.5° proof, not enough to make an adult man, one who daily consumed alcohol, even if only in small quantities, drunk. Two double shots of Ricard would not do that either, but it would have if other liquor had already been consumed. The two bodyguards would however claim in their testimonies to the French police of not having known that what Paul was drinking was Ricard. Rees-Jones said that Paul was drinking something that was yellow. There is no way that someone who lives in France could fail to identify Ricard; made from aniseed, licorice and a variety of herbs, it has a very recognizable smell and look.

The journalists, some of them perhaps trying to help the paparazzi who were being blamed for the princess’ death, reported that Paul had been drunk, in fact, dead drunk when he pulled away from the curb on Rue Cambon that night, and that because of his inebriety he had lost control of the Mercedes. He was therefore the one responsible for Diana’s death. The police would do nothing to clarify the situation; they would only say that Paul had descended into the Pont d’Alma tunnel at an “excessive” speed.

Was Paul drunk, and would Diana and Dodi, and bodyguard Rees-Jones, have got into a car with a drunk driver? Rees-Jones has no recollection of the accident: having suffered serious head injuries he was put into a medically induced coma, and coma (medically induced as well as natural) wipes out the memory of the event which had caused the injury. Such memory loss can last a week, a month, years and even forever. All that Rees-Jones, 29 at the time, can therefore remember is getting into the Mercedes S 300, but he did say at both the French and British inquests that in his dealings with Paul that day, evening and night, Paul was not drunk. Currently (2010), Rees-Jones lives in England and works for a security firm that sends him regularly to Iraq to protect foreign visitors and workers. Born Trevor Rees, he added his wife’s surname of Jones to his. The marriage was breaking up at the time of the tunnel accident and ended in divorce in 2003 when he changed his surname back to Rees by deed poll. He has remarried and is the father of two children. (He resigned from his job with the Ritz and so did Kes Wingfield. Deputy Manager Claude Roulet remained at the Ritz for a few more years and then he too left to become the deputy manager at another hotel in Paris.)

Paul’s autopsy report bore the number 2147 and the signature of Prof. Dominique Lecomte (female) of Paris’s municipal morgue. She had carried out the autopsy in the presence of Major Claude Mulès of the Paris police.

Prof. Lecomte noted Paul’s height as 5’6” and his weight as 160 lbs.

She drew altogether 15 blood, tissue, urine, eye fluid, bile and hair samples from his body. Five of the samples were of blood which she had drawn directly from Paul’s heart. She sent a phial containing a sample of the heart blood which she coded “IML Specimen 11 Code D.1306” to Prof. Ivan Ricordel, Head of Toxicology of the Paris police. (IML is the acronym for Institut Médico-Légal.) She sent a second phial also containing a sample of the heart blood to a private Paris analytical laboratory of which Dr. Gilbert Pépin (Doctor of Pharmacy and Doctor of Science, and a toxicology expert at the Court of Appeal of Paris) was the head. That phial she marked “IML Specimen 12 Code D.1307.”

Later that day, Prof. Ricordel reported to her that the blood sample had a 1.87 g/l level of alcohol. His report identified the blood sample he had received as “IML Specimen 13 Code D.822.”  Later that day, Dr. Pépin sent his report to her as well. He identified the blood sample he had received as “IML Specimen 14 Code D.828. His analysis had shown a blood alcohol level of 1.74 g/l.

Both the levels of 1.87 g/l and 1.74 g/l meant that Paul would have had to consume 12 alcoholic drinks in the hour before his death if he’d eaten a meal, or 24 alcoholic drinks in the hour before his death if he had not eaten a meal. Or he would have had to drink 10 normal shots of Ricard. The legal limit of driving in France is 0.5g/l.

The analyses carried out by Prof. Ricordel and Dr. Pépin also showed that Paul had a “"therapeutic level" (the dose normally prescribed) of the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) and the tranquilizer tiapride (Tiapridal) in his blood.  His doctor (female) would confirm to the French police that she had been treating him for two years for depression that had been caused after a long-term love affair had ended and that she had prescribed the two drugs to him. She said that she had also prescribed the drug Aotal that contains acamprosate to him. Aotal is prescribed to people with a drinking problem who wish to stop drinking; the drug makes them vomit on drinking alcohol. She explained that Paul was not alcohol-dependent but he feared that he would become so. According to her he would though not always take the drug so that he could drink. An empty packet of the drug was found in the waste paper basket of his office yet acamprosate was not found in his blood. And his liver did not show any sign of alcoholism.

The two’s analyses furthermore showed a very high level of carbon monoxide (CO) in Paul’s system. Carbon monoxide is colorless, tasteless and odorless and toxic: A 100 PPM (Parts per Motation) is fatal. Paul’s level was 2000 PPM (20.7 percent) which is what the level is of someone who had committed suicide by gassing. When carbon monoxide combines with a human being’s hemoglobin, carboxyhemoglobin is formed and the symptoms that this has happened are headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, confusion, disorientation, visual distortion, syncope and seizures. If one is behind a wheel of a car and this happens, one will lose control of the vehicle. (For further details see below under section “The ring, alcohol, carbon monoxide, pregnancy and white Fiat UNO.”)

Why was Paul’s blood tested for carbon monoxide?

No explanation was ever given, but the practice in many countries when testing for alcohol and drugs in the blood of accident fatalities is to check for carbon monoxide too. This is the practice in France too, but not the law. A pathologist told this writer that Paul’s body tissues might have had a cherry-red color instead of the normal brown, which happens in cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, and that that might have decided the pathologists to do a carbon monoxide test. In the British inquest the presence of the carbon monoxide was explained as having emanated from one of the Mercedes’ airbags that had burst. That Paul had died on impact and could not have inhaled anything was ignored. Two other facts were also ignored. (1)The Mercedes Benz Company said that its airbags did not contain carbon monoxide and (2) France’s firemen wear carbon monoxide detectors and not one detector had that night registered the deadly gas. No test had been done on either Diana or Dodi for carbon monoxide. It is therefore not known whether they had also inhaled the poison gas. Bodyguard Rees-Jones, on life-support in Pitié-Salpetrière Hospital, was also not tested for the gas.

Professor Dominique Lecomte had begun her autopsy on Paul’s body at 8:20 a.m. that Sunday, August 31. She finished at 10 a.m.

It must be pointed out that before Prof. Lecomte carried out the autopsy on Paul’s body, she had examined that of Diana at the Pitié-Salpetrière hospital, and had also examined that of Dodi at the municipal morgue. (The word “examine” is appropriate because the French police would say that they had not carried out a full autopsy on Diana’s body “in accordance with instructions received,” and that, apart from the tests which Prof. Riou had carried out on the princess’s blood, urine and other body tissues, no complimentary analyses had been done. As for Dodi, as he was not the driver of the crashed car but a passenger, the law did not require that a full autopsy should be carried out on his body.)

The professor had commenced her examination of Diana’s body soon after the doctors had ceased to try to resuscitate her, and she had concluded it at 5:30 a.m. In her report, she had sketched a front and back outline of the princess’s body and indicated even the smallest bruise and wound. (The two sketches have been reproduced in the Jean-Michel Caradec’h book.)

An hour later, at 6:30 a.m., the professor had started her examination of Dodi’s body – the hospital and the morgue are half a mile or four minutes drive apart – and she had ended at 7:15 a.m. Then, after a break of little over an hour, she had started her autopsy on Paul’s body.

On Thursday, September 4, the man who had been appointed by the Prefect of Paris to lead the investigation into Diana’s death, Examining Magistrate Judge Hervé Stéphan, went to the municipal morgue and watched while a police surgeon drew another two blood samples from Paul’s body. Those two blood samples were sent to Dr. Pépin, who had already analyzed Paul’s blood on August 31, for a new analysis. The blood of this sample was femoral; it was drawn from the femoral artery which is in the thigh.

Six days later, on Wednesday, September 10, Dr. Pépin handed in the result of that second analysis. It showed that Paul’s blood had a 1.75 g/l level of alcohol whereas his previous analysis of August 31 had shown a 1.74 g/l level. Medically such a fluctuation – from 1.87 down to 1.74 and then up again to 1.75 – can be caused by various factors like contamination of the blood by postmortem fluids or instruments, room temperature where the body has been stored, body decay, or miscalculation by the laboratory. The alcohol content of femoral blood is also lower than heart blood. For that second analysis, the phial of blood had been sent from the Paris municipal morgue to Dr. Pépin’s laboratory by chronopost, a fast delivery service offered by the French post office. Chronopost means that a same day delivery can be made, but only if a parcel is handed in before 2 p.m. and the sender and the recipient live close to one another.

The cause of Diana’s death was given as a massive internal hemorrhage which had occurred because her heart and both her lungs were torn from their sockets.

Dodi died of a massive hemorrhage in his ruptured thorax and he had numerous fractures all over his body which included four in his right leg and three in his left.

Paul too died of a massive hemorrhage in his ruptured thorax and he too had numerous fractures, some in his cervical vertebrae and his spinal cord was crushed.

Early that afternoon of Sunday, August 31, the municipal morgue released Dodi’s body to his father. Mohamed Al-Fayed wanted his son to be buried before nightfall as was required by the family’s Muslim faith. Therefore, when Mr. Al-Fayed’s helicopter set off from Paris for England at the end of the afternoon, his son’s body was on board and the burial took place before nightfall on the family’s estate in Surrey. Mohamed Al-Fayed had been informed by the French police that the body could not be cremated in case exhumation for further analysis would be needed.

Paul’s parents, Jean and Giselle Paul, buried their son on Saturday, September 20, in the cemetery of Loriot, the Brittany town where they lived and where Paul had grown up. His funeral had been originally scheduled for Saturday, September 6, until it was pointed out to his grieving parents that Diana was going to be buried on that day and that they might appear disrespectful towards Diana’s family should they bury their son on the same day. The couple had then decided on Saturday, September 13, for the funeral, but Examining Magistrate Judge Hervé Stéphan had asked them to wait yet another week in case further analyses of their son’s blood would be required.

Princess Diana was laid to rest on an island on a small lake at her family’s estate of Althorp on Saturday, September 6 after a televised service at Westminster Abbey in London which had been watched by 2.5 billion people worldwide.



At seven on the morning of Sunday, August 31, the Pont d’Alma tunnel was open to traffic.  At that time on a Sunday there would have been little traffic, but not that morning: The Parisians wanted to see where “Lady Dee,” as they pronounced Di, had died. Taxi drivers would report that their clients all asked to be driven through the tunnel and as the taxis drove over the white and yellow police markings in the carriageways the cameras of the clients were clicking away.

Respecting French judicial procedure, the French investigation would be carried out by several high-ranking officers from Paris’s criminal police. At the head of the team of detectives would be Joseph Orea, and the team would be known as the Joseph Orea Group. Orea would report to Police Major Jean-Claude Mulès, who had been present when Prof. Dominique Lecomte had carried out the autopsy on Paul’s body. Major Mulès would report to Commissioner Jean-Louis Martineau. Martineau would compile a dossier to be handed to the examining magistrate, Judge Hervé Stéphan, who would decide whether any criminal indictments were warranted.

The team faced immediate criticisms from the English editors on how quickly it had decided to re-open the tunnel. The editors feared that the French police might have missed some important evidence. The French would defend themselves saying that they had fine-combed the tunnel and had not overlooked anything: They had measured the tunnel and the pillars; measured, photographed and then removed whatever were lying in the tunnel; they had removed the Mercedes S 300 and it was under lock and key and secure at the police’s vehicle depot for examination and analysis.

Their first conclusion, said the police, was that the Mercedes S 300, which had been pursued by paparazzi, had smashed into the tunnel’s 13th dividing pillar at an “excessive” speed, and the car’s driver was intoxicated as he’d been drinking for all of the first part of the night.

The editors were not satisfied. Neither were the English, nor the French public. In fact, all over the world people believed that the French police were hiding something and hiding it in cahoots with their Scotland Yard colleagues. It was being said and written that Diana had been assassinated. She was going to become engaged to an Arab Muslim who would have become the step-father of the princes William and Harry and one future day he would have become the step-father of a King of England. That was unthinkable – unacceptable. In England the state religion is Christian Protestantism. Accordingly, only a Christian Protestant can ascend to the British throne and if a non-Protestant wants to marry a royal in line to the throne, that person must convert to Protestantism. (There has been much criticism of this constitutional law over the past years.)

But who had assassinated the princess?

Calmly, Judge Stéphan filled his dossier with 6,000 pages and at the end of 1999, at the inquest at Paris’s “Palais de Justice”, he presented his case.

The Joseph Orea Group had found strips of white paint on the right side, in other words on the side where Diana and Rees-Jones were sitting, of the Mercedes S 300. The Mercedes’ red front indicator light on that side had been smashed; the broken light was found at the entrance of the tunnel. Another red indicator light was also found on that spot. A long and meticulous investigation had identified that second red indicator light as a “Seima Italiana” left-rear indicator light from a Fiat UNO manufactured between May 1983 and September 1989. Paint experts had found that the white paint on the right side of the Mercedes bore the reference number Bianco Corfu 224 and the Italian car manufacturer FIAT used it on its Fiat UNO model assembled at the two Italian car assembly plants in Rivalta Torrino and Mirafiori between 1983 and 1989. After a study of the position of the white paint on the Mercedes, police forensic experts had concluded that the Mercedes S 300 had scraped against the Fiat UNO. The brake lines on the tunnel’s floor indicated that the Mercedes S 300 had travelled at a speed faster than that of the Fiat UNO. The impact between the two cars would not however have been powerful enough to have made the cars crash. As the Mercedes had crashed, it meant that its driver had not been able to keep the car on the carriageway whereas the Fiat UNO’s driver had been able to keep his car on its wheels and to continue on his way from the tunnel. The Mercedes had failed to do so because its driver was under the influence of alcohol and subscription drugs.

The verdict of the French inquest was that Princess Diana had died as a result of a car accident caused by a drunk and drugged Henri Paul. The paparazzi had been imprudent but they had not caused the accident.

The identity of the Fiat UNO’s driver had not been established, but at the most he had been only a hit-and-run driver.

Diana was therefore not assassinated.

Oh, she was, said the assassination theorists.

Among them was the grieving Mohamed Al-Fayed. He would over the years blame the secret services of France, Britain and/or the U.S. of having killed Diana and his son and Henri Paul. He would also at one stage name Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, as the man who had ordered those secret services or one of them to kill his former daughter-in-law.  He would even unsuccessfully go to court in France to have the verdict of accidental death reinvestigated. He would also unsuccessfully go to court in France and in Britain to have Paul’s blood and urine samples re-analyzed. His last court action was in 2009 against the French police accusing them of having botched their investigation of the accident and requesting compensation. He was victor: The judge ruled that there had been serious mishandling of the investigation but that it had not affected the verdict. But Mr. Al-Fayed received only a fraction $6,800 in damages and $4,000 in legal fees of the $1.4 million compensation he had claimed.

Oddly, there was another assassination theorist: Princess Diana.

In October 1997, 10 months before she died, she had written a letter to Paul Burrell, the man whom she had unofficially promoted from butler to her confidant and friend that she was going to be killed in a car accident.  Burrell wrote in a book in 2004 (published by Penguin), A Royal Duty, that Diana had told him that she was writing him the letter, saying: “I’m going to date this and I want you to keep it. Just in case.” She slipped the letter into an envelope which she marked “Paul.” He not only kept the letter but also the envelope. She named the person who was going to kill her: The UK national daily The Mirror published a photograph of part of the letter but in fear of a lawsuit blacked out the name of the person who Diana was saying was going to kill her. Diana wrote: “I am sitting here at my desk today in October, longing for someone to hug me and encourage me to keep strong and hold my head high. This particular phase in my life is the most dangerous.” She then gave the details of how she would be killed and the name of the person who would be doing so. She wrote: “--- is planning ‘an accident’ in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry ---.” She named the woman Prince Charles would be marrying and it must be pointed out that she was wrong about the role that this woman played in Prince Charles’s life. The woman would be named during the British inquest as Alexandra (Tiggy) Legge-Bourke. In 1993 shortly after Charles had separated from Diana he appointed Legge-Bourke, an English aristocrat and owner of a London nursery school, as a part-time nanny to his sons. She had remained the two princes’ nanny until 1999 when she married a childhood sweetheart and she is today the mother of two children of her own. There were rumors at the time of Diana’s death that Legge-Bourke played a more intimate role in the life of the three princes – Charles, William and Harry – but these were rumors which had since been dismissed by all involved as malicious untruths.


An unfinished story:

Two inquiries – one, French, and the other, British – and many books later there are still unanswered questions about that night. Was Princess Diana going to marry Dodi Al-Fayed? Had he already given her the Repossi engagement ring? Was she pregnant with his child? Was Henri Paul drunk – really that drunk? What about the extraordinary carbon monoxide level in Paul’s blood? Was there really a white Fiat UNO in the tunnel that night? Did that white Fiat UNO cause the accident?


The ring, alcohol, carbon monoxide, pregnancy and white Fiat UNO:

The ring: Dodi did plan to give Diana an engagement ring.

The ring was, according to Mohamed Al-Fayed, found in Dodi’s apartment. He found it there on Wednesday, September 3, the day that Ring No. 4/7014 of FF600,000 was returned to the shop as the Repossi shop’s “appro” docket shows. By that day Alberto Repossi had already confirmed to the police and the media that Dodi had collected an engagement ring from his Place Vendome shop and that Dodi had told him that he and Diana were getting engaged. By then too Albert Repossi had asked Mohamed Al-Fayed to either return the two rings to him or to pay for them because if the rings had been lost he would have to put in an insurance claim for them. Mohamed Al-Fayed had then returned the more expensive of the two rings and had kept and paid for the other one, the engagement ring numbered 97/326 of FF115,000.

That one of the rings was at Dodi’s apartment must mean that when the Ritz spy camera had snapped Roulet depositing the small Repossi bag in the hotel’s safe, only one ring was still in it, the more expensive of the two rings because it was not an engagement ring and Dodi wanted to buy an engagement ring.

Yet, as Diana was not wearing the ring at the time of the crash, Dodi had not yet given it to her. Whether he had already by then proposed to her only he and Diana would know. And if he had proposed to her, whether she had accepted it and was going to marry him, only the two of them would know that also.

If she had fallen in love with him, why would she not have married him? She had already manifested that she did not care about a lover’s family background or his religion when she dated the Muslim Pakistani-born heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan; she had been so in love with him that she had written to the South-African heart transplant pioneer, Prof. Christian Barnard, to ask him to help Dr. Khan find a good position for him in South Africa so that the two of them could move to South Africa to live there forever in love and peace. And then Dodi was a good-looking man and wealthy and he was spending money on her like crazy: In the short time of their affair he had given her a Jaeger-LeCoultre gold and diamond watch and a gold and diamond dress ring (she wore both that night and the French police handed them over to the British Ambassador), and also other less expensive, but still expensive, gifts.

The pregnancy: Within 48 hours of the announcement of Diana’s death the Paris foreign correspondents began to receive a fax of a letter typed on the letter-headed paper of the Pitié-Salpetrière Hospital. The letter, dated Sunday, August 31, was written by Prof. Pierre Coriat, head of the hospital’s anesthetic department and it was addressed to French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement with copies to France’s ministers of health and foreign affairs.

According to the report Diana’s blood had tested positive for Beta HCG, the pregnancy hormone, which is present in a woman’s blood and urine from eight to nine days after impregnation. The level of HCG in Diana’s blood meant that she was about nine or 10 weeks pregnant. None of the journalists believed that the report was genuine – nine or 10 weeks previously, in other words mid-June, Diana had not yet started to date Dodi. The editors wanted to see the fax for interest sake, but they did not run it in their papers.

The hospital would immediately deny that Diana was pregnant, indeed, that such a test had been done on her blood.  The letter was a crude forgery which contained grammatical errors, a spokesperson for the hospital said.

Gillery in his book Lady Died writes that the French journalist Chris Lafaille from the French weekly Paris Match told him about the fax’ forger who Gillery identifies only as Professor C. According to Gillery, two paparazzi (he also does not name them) quickly found out where the professor lived in Paris and placed themselves outside his front door. Their tactic produced result: He emerged and they followed him. His destination was Charles de Gaulle Airport. In the vast airport, the paparazzi lost track of him; he had booked in at the El Al counter and beyond that spot the paparazzi could not follow him. They then tricked an El Al hostess to let them see the flight’s passenger list but the professor’s name was not on it. As Chris Lafaille, himself an author who had written books about Diana as well as of other members of the British royal family told Gillery, for a passenger not to be listed on an El Al flight, meant that the passenger had clout.

Neither the French nor the British police investigators took action against the forger, and today no one speaks of him anymore.

The alcohol: Henri Paul did not look dead drunk – not even drunk – on the spy camera videos and on the photo taken by a paparazzo as the Mercedes S 300 pulled away from the curb on Rue Cambon.

Only Alain Willaumez, the bartender in the Ritz’s Hemingway Bar confirmed having that evening served Paul alcohol: the two double shots of Ricard. Had the bartenders of the other drinking holes where he had looked in that evening lied when they told the police that they had not served him alcohol and that he was not drunk? In France, like anywhere else, it is possible to lie to the police, but in France it could be a little harder to keep on lying to the police.

Jean and Giselle, Paul’s parents were adamant that their son was not an alcoholic. In an interview with the BBC’s Today program on Radio Four in 2002 they said that Paul was not a heavy drinker. Asked how they knew, they replied that they had known him from the day that he was born.

Giselle Paul said: “If you think about it, it would have been obvious if he was drunk. Dodi had another driver. He had his personal driver. Would he have used a man who was drunk and was not a professional driver? And also there was a bodyguard there. You would have thought that a bodyguard wouldn’t let a drunk driver take them when there were other people around.”

The two said that on that night there were 30 bodies at the municipal morgue. (The body of anyone who had died in Paris under suspicious circumstances or not in a medical environment is taken to that morgue to be autopsied.)  Thirty cadavers may appear a large number, but it was a summer weekend and there were many accidents on the roads and much drinking in Paris.

Speaking of those other autopsies, Jean Paul said: “You can imagine how they might have been mixed up. There could have been a mistake.”

They admitted in the interview though that they were unable to prove that their son was not an alcoholic. Said Giselle Paul: “We can’t prove it.  He’s dead. It is easy to attack a dead man. They said his liver was in perfect condition. And we would have known, we would have seen if he’d been drinking. On the 28th of August he passed his medical exam for his pilot’s license. Everything was fine. And three days later he was labeled alcoholic.”

The two also spoke of the carbon monoxide in their son’s blood. Said Giselle Paul: “They found 20 percent of carbon monoxide in his blood. We’re not experts obviously, but whenever we talk to people who know about this, they say it’s impossible. He wouldn’t have been able to stand with that level in his blood.”

Therefore, could there have been a mix-up in the morgue that night with blood, urine and tissue samples of 30 cadavers?  Jean Paul thought that there certainly could have been confusion. “I made a mistake. No one says that easily. Especially when important people are involved,” he told the BBC.

At the time of the interview the couple was in a legal battle with the French authorities to be given the blood samples that were drawn from Paul, in order to disprove, with a DNA test, that it was their son’s blood that showed the high level of alcohol and carbon monoxide.  Two years later, in 2006, such a DNA comparison was carried out using the DNA profile of Giselle Paul and blood from the jacket that Paul wore that night. No other samples of his blood were available because the police had not preserved the samples they had drawn from him, but legally only the blood on his jacket had a direct link to him. The test showed that there was a 99.9997 percent probability that there was a maternal link between the two DNA profiles.  It also showed that the alcohol level in Paul’s blood was within the legal French limit. It must be said that the jacket had been returned to Jean and Giselle Paul after the police had done with it. It had therefore been handed by many and stored without special protection at the Paul’s house in Lorient.

The test also showed no carbon monoxide in the blood. The French inquest had by then attributed the level of carbon monoxide in Paul’s blood as having been due to the very built-up area where he had lived and that he was a cigar smoker and had smoked at least one (in the Hemingway Bar) that night shortly after ten o’clock. 

A non-French toxicologist told this writer that with 30 cadavers waiting to be autopsied, it would not have been impossible for a mix-up with the samples. The person who draws the samples from a body is not the person who does the analysis; the analysis is done by a medical subordinate in the laboratory who would be working with sample after sample. So, yes, mistakes can be made and when the analysis involves someone as important as Princess Diana, then, a cover-up would be more than possible. Should the accident happen today then Princess Diana and Rees-Jones would have been taken to Paris’s military hospital, Val de Grace, where France’s high-ranking politicians and visiting foreign politicians are treated, and the bodies of Dodi and Paul would also have been taken there for autopsies.  The life of Diana was beyond saving, but there might have been quite a different autopsy result for Paul. The writer of this article is not implying that the Paris morgue is incompetent, but at Val de Grace there would probably have been no other autopsy done there that night which would have eliminated the possibility of a mix-up.

Why had the police not preserved Paul’s samples?  It is the normal French modus operandi not to preserve such samples once their investigation had been completed and the case had been closed. In the first place, should they keep all samples, France would by now have run out of space, and secondly, there are laws in France that protect the identity of individuals and make DNA testing illegal unless the individual concerned or his/her next-of-kin had given permission for such a test to be undertaken. By not having preserved the samples, the French eliminated the possibility of future random testing which might have compromised their competence.

It was a competence which was already compromised because of several anomalies. (1) The codes attributed to the phials that contained samples of Paul’s blood that had been sent to Prof. Ivan Ricordel of the police’s toxicology department and to Dr. Pépin, and the codes they referred to in their reports. (2) Paul’s name was not on the municipal morgue’s documents that accompanied the phials of blood. The documents bore no name, just the letter X followed by the word, masculin - X masculine. (It is the custom in France for an unidentified corpse to bear the classification X masculin or X feminin.)  Later, the X masculine was scratched through on faxes that circulated between the municipal morgue and the police, and the name PAUL Henri had been written in. When the media became aware of that anomaly, Major Mulès would explain it as a “bad computer manipulation.” (3) Prof. Lecomte gave the same number to Paul’s autopsy report that she had given to Dodi’s autopsy report - 2146. When others at the municipal morgue noticed this, Paul’s number was changed to 2147. But for a large part of that Sunday, August 31, and Monday, September 1, both the autopsy reports bore the same number.

The white Fiat UNO: Very early on the morning of Sunday, August 31, a French paparazzo boarded a plane at Orly Airport for the Mediterranean island of Corsica; the island is governed by France and politically a part of metropolitan France although a sea separates the two. The name of the photographer, a wealthy man (the media described him as a millionaire and so would the police too), was James Andanson, 54, plump and balding. He was French, born Jean- Paul Gonin, but on his marriage to Elisabeth Andanson he had adopted her surname and changed Jean-Paul to its English version of James. He was working for SIPA Press Agency, but 30 years previously he had been one of the founders of the SYGMA Photo Agency which was one of the world’s largest. (SYGMA was taken over by Corbis in 1999 and has since ceased to exist.)

Andanson is dead.  Officially he killed himself in 2000.

He was the owner of a black BMW 3 Series saloon car and a red motorcycle. But he was also the owner of a white Fiat UNO. He used the red motorcycle and the white Fiat UNO when out snapping celebrities at inopportune moments.

Around Christmas of 1997, Diana’s accident four months into the past, Andanson began to brag to other paparazzi and to some of his friends that he had photographs of Diana locked in a secret safe. The photos, he said, would cause uproar should he ever decide to sell them for publication. How did he come by the photos they wanted to know?  He told them that he was in the tunnel that night, but that he was too cunning to have stayed behind for the police to have rounded him up with the other paparazzi. His claims reached the ears of the Joseph Orea Group and its Lieutenant Eric Gigou telephoned Andanson to ask him to come to Quay des Orfèvres, the police’s headquarters in Paris, so that they could speak to him. According to the lieutenant, Andanson’s reply was that he did not have time to waste with the police. He said that he had not been anywhere near Paris that weekend of August 30-31; he’d been in St. Tropez. He also said that he won’t have policemen in his manor. (He lived with his wife in a large mansion in the village of Lignières, 170 miles south of Paris. The couple also had a splendid apartment in Paris.)

But on Major Mulès’ insistence, on February 12, 1998 – almost six months after the tunnel accident -Andanson did go to the police headquarters and the story he told the major was different from what he’d said to the lieutenant. He said that on the night of Saturday, August 30, he was at home and in bed with his wife; he had gone to bed at 10:30 p.m., and that he had to leave home “at around 3:45 a.m.” that Sunday for Paris to catch a plane to Corsica from Orly Airport. He said that he had taken the highway from Lignières to Paris, and he showed the major a receipt for the toll gate payment that he had made with his credit card on exiting the toll gate at 5:48 a.m. about 30 miles south of Paris. He also showed the major the credit card docket for the plane ticket to Corsica. The ticket was bought at Orly Airport at 6:23 that Sunday morning for the 7:20 a.m. flight to Corsica and was paid for with Elisabeth’s credit card. In Corsica he had hired a car with his wife’s credit card to get to his 11 a.m. appointment with a French singer. He had again used his wife’s card to buy an air ticket back to Paris. Elizabeth Andanson confirmed that her husband was home that night and that he had to leave early in order to catch a plane to Corsica.

In Major Mulès’ testimony at the British inquest he said that Andanson had apologized to him for the way in which he had spoken to Lieutenant Gigou. The major said that Andanson thought that he was “above the law.” Asked by the English judge what he meant by “above the law,” the major replied that Andanson had some high-ranking friends – politicians and government ministers and that it had given him the belief that he could do as he wished.

Andanson had an impressive number of important friends, yes. Among them were Dodi’s uncle Adnan Kashoggi, a French prime minister who had died under mysterious circumstances two months after he had left office in 1993, and Frédéric Dard (1921-2000) the French author of over 300 crime novels. Andanson had told Dard too about his Diana photos.

According to the testimony of Dard’s widow, Françoise, at the British inquiry, her husband had told her that Andanson had told him that he had taken “explosive” pictures of the tunnel crash and that those were safely stored in a secret safe. She also said that Andanson had told her husband of how he had managed to hide from the paparazzi and that he had chased the Mercedes S 300 from the time it pulled away from the Ritz and he had stayed with it until right into the tunnel. He said that he was on a motorbike that night and not in his white Fiat UNO. Dard’s daughter, Josephine, also gave evidence in the British inquiry and she said that they knew Andanson as a great story-teller and it was not always possible to believe him.

But the French police believed what Andanson told them and continued to do so even after their forensics had studied his Fiat UNO. That February of 1998 he no longer had the car. In the weeks after the tunnel crash he had the car repainted blue, and in October, two months after the crash, he had sold it to a Lignières second-hand car dealer as scrap metal. The police found the car with the dealer. It stood on wooden blocks and Andanson’s story was that it had not been in running order since June 1997– two months before the tunnel accident. Police forensics carried out tests. Those found that the white paint scratches, referenced Bianco Corfu 210, which were on the Mercedes S 300 were identical to the Fiat UNO’s previous layer of paint which was revealed under infrared spectra analysis.  The police’s report read: The comparative analysis of the infra-red spectra characterizing the vehicle’s original paint, reference Bianco 210, and the trace on the rear view mirror of the Mercedes shows that their absorption bands are identical. The comparative analysis between the infra-red spectra characterizing the black polymer taken from the vehicle’s fender, and the trace from the door of the Mercedes, shows that their absorption bands are identical.

Yet, the French police still did not think that it was Andanson’s Fiat UNO that was in the tunnel that night and that was their conclusion in their official report on the crash despite that Andanson’s death on Friday, May 5, 2000 had been bizarre and raised many questions.

At 9:45 p.m. that Friday of May 5, 2000, firemen had rushed to woods near the town of Nant, 420 miles south of Paris and 250 miles south of Lignières. Soldiers in a nearby army camp had reported to them that black smoke was rising into the air from the direction of the forest. The firemen drove two miles along a potholed country road and another mile alongside a cow pasture before they reached a burning BMW 3 Series saloon car.  The fire had already burnt most of the car into a heap of blackened slivers, but the first fireman to reach it, Christophe Pelat, could still make out a burnt human figure, one that was already almost burnt to a skeleton-like corpse, behind the wheel. Pelat also saw that there was a two-inch hole in the left temple of the skull; the left side of the skull faced the car window. Men from the police’s forensics arrived at the site and did an in-situ examination of the corpse. By then the skull had disintegrated and no hole was visible.

What remained of the car’s registration plates identified it as that of Jean-Paul Andanson, but a month passed before Elisabeth Andanson received confirmation that it was indeed her husband who had died in that blazing BMW; the police had to identify the body with a DNA test and dental records.

An inquest follows all suicides in France and at the one held after the death of Andanson, the conclusion was that he had committed suicide by dousing himself and his car with gasoline and then setting light to it; he had high levels of carbon monoxide in his blood which showed that he had been alive in the blazing car for some period of time.

Many questions however remained about Andanson’s death and these remain to this day.

According to the U.K. national Daily Express of Monday, September 3, 2007, Andanson’s credit card showed that he had paid FF600 ($123) for 22 gallons (100 liters) of diesel at a Geant hypermarket near to where his blazing BMW was found, yet according to the police’s forensics the car had been doused with gasoline. (Geant is one of France’s largest hypermarket chains.) A BMW 3 Series saloon car has a diesel engine with a 14-gallon (60 liters) capacity. Therefore, if he had filled up the tank, had he taken away the surplus of 8 gallons in canisters? But no canisters of diesel had been found abandoned or discarded near the car.  (As hypermarkets sell fuel at lower prices than gasoline stations, it is a habit in France for motorists to buy fuel in bulk in canisters despite that the police and firemen advise against it for security reasons.)

So what had Andanson done with the diesel? The French police could not reply to that, but since Andanson’s death, car manufacturers have explained to journalists that diesel and fuel burn differently and that the way the BMW had burnt, either diesel or gasoline could have been used. They said that: (1) smoke from a diesel fire is black; the smoke the soldiers had seen was black. (2) Petrol when it catches fire explodes; the car did not explode. (3) Diesel needs a very high temperature to burn and it would be almost impossible to set diesel alight with a match or with a burning cigarette or cigar. One would need the equivalent of a blow torch to do so, but no blow torch was found in the car. Yet, the police remained adamant that Andanson had set the car alight either with a match or with a burning cigar. Andanson, like Paul, had been a cigar smoker.

Two other puzzling aspects of Andanson’s death were why had he gone to a part of France that he did not know to kill himself, and, why had he killed himself?

Elisabeth Andanson would tell the UK daily national The Express in June 2000: “It was always very difficult to recall James’s precise movements because he was always coming and going.” On the morning of his death, he had told her that he was off on a photographic assignment. As was her custom, she had not asked him where he was off to. She did not at first believe that her husband had killed himself and told the newspaper: “Police have given me no hard evidence and until they do, I will have no firm opinion. There is no point in my trying to guess if it was suicide or murder.”

The UK Sunday national The Mail on Sunday, would write that month that according to the French police Andanson had committed suicide because he had discovered that his wife was having an affair. Elisabeth had denied that to The Express.

As bizarre as Andanson’s death was, and as much as it appeared to have been a homicide, the police did not look for a murderer. Instead they announced that the fire had destroyed all valuable forensic evidence and there would be no further investigation. There had been media reports in France that the BMW had been locked but that no key had been found inside the car, and there had even been media reports that the car had been locked from the outside. The police did not go into either.

The French police also failed to establish whether there had been a white Fiat UNO in the tunnel.

There were 113,000 Fiat UNOS registered in the two Paris suburbs where license plates ended with the numbers 78 and 92, and there were still also several hundred thousand registered elsewhere in France. It would have been a mammoth task to have meticulously examined each of them, but the police did control 30,000 nationwide. Of those only the owner of one car needed further investigation.   That FIAT UNO belonged to a Vietnamese man of 22. He worked as a night-watchman at a warehouse seven miles or a 25-minute drive from the Pont d’Alma tunnel. He had a Rottweiler and the dog usually sat on the rear seat of his Fiat UNO. He had an alibi for the night of the tunnel crash; he’d been on duty at the warehouse and nowhere near the tunnel.  And there were no scratch marks on the car and its left-rear indicator light was still the original one and it was not broken.

That ended the Fiat UNO search because by then the police knew that they would not be able to prove or disprove that a Fiat UNO had been near the Mercedes S 300 that night. The police had studied the spy cameras on the route Paul had taken that night, and they found that the cameras had not been focused on the roads, but on buildings.

Caradec’h in his book lists the spy cameras as recorded in a police report. The Ritz had two cameras, but they focused on the hotel’s back door and not on Rue Cambon. There were three cameras on Place de la Concorde, but those were focused on the Marine Ministry’s headquarters on the square and not on the square. There were no spy cameras on Cours Albert 1ere. And contrary to reports that a camera at the entrance of Pont d’Alma tunnel had been switched off, there was no camera there.

There was however a camera on Place d’Alma but that one had been switched off at 11 p.m. The spy cameras on the streets of France’s cities, towns and villages are controlled by a special section of the police force, the Direction de l’Ordre Public et de la Circulation (DOPC). In a large city like Paris the DOPC has several control rooms, each watching a particular area of the city. The men in the control room of the Place d’Alma area always stopped work at 11 p.m. when the cameras were switched off. (Not all of Paris’s spy cameras are on all of the time.) Therefore, because the Place d’Alma camera was switched off when the police in the overall control room for Paris, the Salle d’Information et Commandement (SIC), verified that camera after the accident, all that they saw were blank yellow screens. The Place d’Alma spy camera faces in the direction of Place de la Concorde. Had it not been switched off it would have recorded the Mercedes’ approach, and indeed that of a FIAT UNO had there been one. There were also no speed radars (in French a cinémomètre) set up anywhere in the area that night; such radars are not set up each night on each of Paris’s streets.


From the absurd to the plausible:

It was an impossible task for the Paris-based foreign correspondents to keep up with all the assassination rumors that were going around.

One rumor was that Princess Diana had not died. She had crawled from the car, bloodied and confused and then, believing that an attempt had been made on her life, and fearing for her life, she had gone into hiding. The rumor continues that like President Kennedy and Elvis Presley she’s living somewhere in Patagonia.

Another rumor was that Diana’s death had been a religious ritual killing.  One after the other, from all over the world, believers of magic, witchcraft and supernatural phenomena began to say this.

They explained that the name Alma derives from the Latin words for soul – anima – and for nourishing – almus. As the word bridgederives from the Latin pontis which can mean bridge or passage, the spiritual meaning of the name Pont d’Alma is “passage of nourishment of the soul.”

They continued that during the Merovingian period (457-751 A.D.) there was an underground chamber where the Pont d’Alma tunnel is today and disputing monarchs battled each other in that chamber. This means that all current monarchs descend from the final victor, the last of the Merovingian monarchs. But who were the Merovingians? According to these people they were the descendants of the children of Jesus and Mary Magdalene because Jesus had not died on the Cross (The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown) but had escaped from his Roman captors and had lived happily ever after in France with Mary Magdalene and the children she had brought into the world for him. Princess Diana, as a royal and therefore a descendent of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, had to be killed because she had taken up with a Muslim: Dodi Al-Fayed. Her killers, a secret Merovingian cult, had chosen the tunnel as the place of her death not only because of its connection with Jesus Christ but also because during the Merovingian period, followers of Diana, Goddess of the Hunt, had used the underground chamber for their ritual worship.

Those who believed this ignored the fact that Diana had not been a royal on birth.

They also ignored the fact that the name Alma comes from the Battle of the Alma (20 September 1854), considered the first battle of the Crimean War (1853-1856) which took place on the River Alma in the Crimea; the Anglo-French regiments had defeated  the Imperial Russian regiments. The Alma Bridge was inaugurated in 1856. As for the Merovingians, they were Franks who ruled over an empire that today includes France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and northern Italy.

Queens Counsel (lawyer) Michael Mansfield, who represented Mohamed Al-Fayed at the British inquest into the crash, wrote a book in 2009, Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer, in which he claimed that he found it difficult to believe that Princess Diana’s death was “just one of those tragic things.”  He wrote that the crash had not been an accident.

In March of 2010, in an interview with the Spanish daily El Periodico, he confirmed what he had written in his book. He said: “I don’t believe anyone wanted to see her dead. I think there was a plan to sabotage the relationship and to stop her activities.” Diana was involved with an anti-personelle mines campaign and she was saying that Prince Charles was not fit to be monarch. But QC Mansfield told the daily that the investigation into her death had shown that she was preparing to denounce British complicity in the sale of weapons in countries that were not respecting human rights.

Britain sold arms to such countries. So did France and the United States.

The initial media reports that Henri Paul had been in the pay of secret agents which explained the large amount of cash he had on him, were soon embellished with reports quoting sources who wished to remain anonymous that James Andanson had been a secret agent too. He was said to be an informer for MI6, the British Intelligence Service or SIS, and France’s Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST) which operates on French territory in the domains of counter-intelligence, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism. (The DST is often confused with the DGSE, the Direction Général de la Sécurité Extérieure, which operates in those domains international.)

The Andanson spy theory received support when within a year of Diana’s death the former MI6 spy and whistleblower, the New Zealand-born British Richard Tomlinson, began to say that the paparazzo had been a MI6 informer. Tomlinson was a controversial figure. He was at that time living at a secret address in the south of France. In 1997, angry at his 1995 dismissal from MI6 he had sent a four-page synopsis of a book he planned to write about MI6 to an Australian publisher. He was breaking Britain’s 1989 Confidential Secrets Act by writing a book about MI6 and he was arrested. At his trial he admitted that he had broken the Confidential Secrets Act and he was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment. He was released after six months for good behavior when he set off into self-exile. (His book, The Big Breach was published in 2001 in Moscow and then that same year by HarperCollins Australia.)

Tomlinson confirmed his claim about Andanson at the French inquiry into Diana’s death when he also said that two MI6 officers were in Paris on the night of the crash. He also implied that MI6 had used a special “strobe gun” in the tunnel and that the flash had blinded Paul. There had been reports from pedestrians who were at both ends of the tunnel that night that they had seen a very sharp flash in the tunnel. The French police said that the sharp flash would have been several sharp flashes from the paparazzi’s powerful cameras. Tomlinson also said that Paul was an MI6 informer.

In 2006 the U.K. national daily Daily Express carried a front-page story that the DST had raided Tomlinson’s house in the south of France. The DST had, according to the paper, removed computer hard drives as well as many documents from the house. Tomlinson had not been at the house at the time. Six years previously, in 2000, the French media had reported something similar; it had been the Paris office of the SIPA Press Agency which had been raided then. It was reported that armed, masked men had broken into the office, shooting a security guard in the foot. That raid had taken place a few days before Andanson was found burnt to death in his BMW. The armed, masked men had removed hard drives, laptops and cameras, and according to some reports, Andanson’s entire portfolio of photos, including photos he had taken of Princess Diana.

Tomlinson, in his testimony by camera at the British inquest, would retract what he had said about Andanson and Paul having been MI6 informers, and about the “strobe gun” too.  The Daily Express would hint that he had made a deal with MI6: He shuts up about Diana and he drops his case of wrongful dismissal he had against them, and he could return to England without fearing that harm would come to him. He did return to England briefly, but currently his whereabouts are unknown; there are several blogs in his name but these have Tomlinson, in his testimony by camera at the British inquest, would retract what he had said about Andanson and Paul having been MI6 informers, and about the “strobe gun” too.  The Daily Express would hint that he had made a deal with MI6: He shuts up about Diana and he drops his case of wrongful dismissal he had against them, and he could return to England without fearing that harm would come to him. He did return to England briefly, but currently his whereabouts are unknown; there are several blogs in his name but these have been inactive since 2008. His very first blog started in 2006 was suspended by Typepad. On his next blog, a few months later, he posted the message of suspension that Typepad had sent him. It read: Hi Richard, It has been brought to our attention that your weblog located at richardtomlinson dot typepad dot is currently in violation of TypePad's Terms of Service, specifically of sections 7(a) and 7(e).We have received this notification from the London Metropolitan Police and they have requested that the website be suspended and your access to the account discontinued per section 4(3) of the Terms of Service. Unfortunately, when we receive a notification of this type, we have no choice but to comply. For this reason, we have suspended your account and suspended public access to the website. 

The British inquest, like the French inquest, found that Diana had died when paparazzi chased the car that she was in into a Paris tunnel and that the driver of the car had been drinking. They named him: Henri Paul. The princess’ death was described as “unlawful,” in other words it had been manslaughter. By using the word “unlawful” the British judge had avoided the issue of whether it had been voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. As her death had occurred in France, the British courts had no jurisdiction to prosecute the paparazzi.

Mr. Al-Fayed, who is still the owner of the Ritz, had moved briefly to Switzerland but only to return to England describing it as “home.” He writes about Princess Diana and his son on his web site: It was a love affair. Two people who had known each other for years but then came together during a summer that was all too brief. He believes the two are together in heaven.  

And he still believes that they had been assassinated.



Almost immediately after Princess Diana’s death, people – Parisians as well as tourists – began to pay homage to her by visiting Pont d’Alma. They started to leave wreaths and bouquets against the full-size replica of the flame of New York’s Statue of Liberty that stands on a concrete island on Place d’Alma. They also scribbled graffiti attacking the British royals on the flame.

Princess Diana The Flame. Behind it can be seen the exit of the tunnel
The Flame. Behind it can be seen the exit of the tunnel

The Paris municipality, angry at the permanent pile of rotting flowers its dustmen had to clear away, enclosed the flame behind a wrought-iron railing.

Yet, Diana’s fans still go and stand in silence at the flame.

Occasionally a fan has brought a few flowers along.

Sometimes just a red rose. 

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