October 3, 1997 in Nation/World

Fiat Uno Collided With Di’s Mercedes, Investigators Say Witnesses Say Car, Cycle Weaved In Front Before Crash; Bodyguard Can’t Remember

Craig R. Whitney New York Times
 

French investigators have determined that paint found on the Mercedes in which Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed here Aug. 31 came from a black Fiat Uno that apparently collided with the Mercedes just before it smashed into a tunnel support pillar, officials said Thursday.

Police had previously found fragments of rear directional signals from a Fiat a few hundred feet behind the point of impact. They have not announced if they have leads on who was driving the Fiat.

The discovery of the paint traces on the Mercedes, and the disappearance of the Fiat, lends additional credibility to witnesses who told police that they saw another car and a motorcycle that may have been carrying a photographer weave in front of the Mercedes moments before it went out of control.

Two investigating judges have placed nine photographers under suspicion of having contributed to the accident by chasing Diana and her companion that night, Dodi Fayed.

Fayed also died in the crash along with the chauffeur, who was later found to have been legally drunk and under the influence of drugs used to treat alcoholism.

The sole survivor of the crash, Trevor Rees-Jones, 29, a British bodyguard who, like the driver, worked for the Ritz Hotel, has told investigators that he does not remember the crash. The driver, Henri Paul, 41, was the acting security director of the hotel, which is owned by Fayed’s father, Mohamed Fayed, who also owns Harrods in London.

Herve Stephan, one of the investigating judges, questioned Rees-Jones for the second time Thursday in the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, where Diana died.

French officials familiar with the investigation said Rees-Jones had recovered some memory of events before the crash and had recognized pictures of a few of the photographers, but only “vaguely.”

Apparently he could not say whether there had been a collision with a Fiat that caused the Mercedes to go out of control. Nor, officials said, do investigators know whether the smaller car had any connection with photographers in pursuit of Diana and her escort that night.

Police have estimated that the car carrying the princess and Fayed was traveling at about 90 mph just before the final impact against a pillar of a road tunnel under the Place de l’Alma, on the right bank of the Seine not far from the Champs-Elysees.

Rees-Jones, who underwent reconstructive facial surgery last month, is well enough to be allowed to leave for Britain today.


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