Third Test Confirms Driver Was DrunkBy Anne Swardson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, September 10, 1997
PARIS, Sept. 9 A third blood-alcohol test on Henri Paul, driver in the car crash that killed Princess Diana, Dodi Fayed and himself, confirmed that he was well over the legal level, Paris judicial sources said today.
The additional test was requested by Paul's family. It showed a blood-alcohol level of 1.8 grams per liter; the legal limit in France is .5 grams. Two tests performed immediately after the crash showed blood-alcohol levels of 1.74 grams and 1.84 grams.
The test was significant because it was likely to sway the debate launched by the Ritz Hotel, Paul's employer, and Mohamed Fayed, owner of the Ritz and father of Dodi Fayed, over the role of paparazzi who followed Diana and Fayed on their drive away from the hotel.
While Paris investigators have been virtually silent about their inquiry into the crash of the Mercedes S-280, the public debate has shaped itself along two lines.
Spokespersons for Fayed and the Ritz, while not denying that Paul could have been drinking, have emphasized the way photographers allegedly pursued the car even after an attempt was made to lure them in another direction with a decoy vehicle.
Today, for instance, Fayed lawyer Bernard Dartevelle told the Associated Press that a photo taken by one of the photographers and found on film seized by police shows Paul and Fayed bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones illuminated by a camera flash. Diana is seen in the back seat looking at a pursuing motorcycle, Dartevelle said. It was not clear where along the roughly two miles between the Ritz and the crash scene the photo was taken.
Rees-Jones survived the crash with severe injuries and has not yet been able to speak with investigators.
On the other side, lawyers for the nine photographers and one motorcycle driver placed under investigation for "involuntary homicide" and failing to aid the accident victims have pointed to Paul and questioned why someone so inebriated should have been allowed to take the wheel. Police have said the car was traveling between 93 and 112 mph.
"It is a fact. The driver drove too fast and had drunk too much," said Jean-Marc Coblence, lawyer for photographer Serge Arnal of the Stills agency. Experts point out, however, that Paul was a stocky man in good health and could have been less affected than men with other body types by the amount he consumed. The amount has been compared to drinking more than one bottle of wine in a short time.
The Reuter news agency reported that a source close to the investigation said traces of antidepressants also have been found in Paul's blood. The source said such drugs could have enhanced the damaging effects of any drinks Paul had had before the crash.
Two investigating magistrates, Herve Stephan and Marie-Christine Devidal, will decide whether anyone should go on trial. They and expert criminal investigators visited the site of the crash this morning, spending about 45 minutes examining the tunnel roadway and the damaged pillar into which the Mercedes plowed.
In an extensive article this morning, Le Figaro newspaper said investigators have decided that the "most probable" theory of the accident's cause is "alcohol and excessive speed."
Reuter reported that police officials said they have ruled out mechanical problems as a cause of the crash. Le Figaro also shed light on reports that the Mercedes had been stolen, damaged and repaired. It quoted Jean-Francois Musa, head of the leasing company Etoile Limousine, which leased the luxury vehicle to the Ritz. He said the car had indeed been stolen last spring and sustained damage to the steering and braking systems. After $22,500 in repairs, it passed regular police inspection, Musa told Le Figaro.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company