September 5, 1997 in Nation/World

Paris Police Hold Three More Photographers Allegedly Chased Princess Diana’s Car, Then Departed Before Help Had Arrived

Beth Daley Boston Globe
 

French police Thursday night were holding three more photographers suspected of snapping pictures of the car crash that killed Princess Diana and then speeding away before help arrived.

The unidentified men knew they were being sought and turned themselves in Thursday. In two cars early Sunday morning, the photographers allegedly chased Diana’s Mercedes, along with six other photographers on motorcycles. The Mercedes, traveling at a high speed, crashed in a Paris tunnel, killing Diana, her companion, Dodi Fayed, and the driver. A bodyguard was seriously injured.

Police have until Saturday afternoon to decide if the three should be investigated for involuntary manslaughter charges and failing to help at the scene of an accident. Under French law, the photographers can be held for two days without charges.

Scotland Yard has joined the French investigation.

Other developments in the investigation Thursday:

A physician, Frederick Mailliez, who arrived early at the crash, said the 10 to 15 photographers who were at the scene let him have access to the car to treat the victims, contradicting earlier reports that said photographers impeded aid workers.

CBS reported that a witness told police that a car was driving ahead of the Mercedes, possibly attempting to slow it down.

Police confirmed that the driver of the car Diana was riding in, Henri Paul, did not have the special license needed to drive a limousine. Police have said Paul’s bloodalcohol level was at least three times the legal limit. But a neighbor of Paul’s told The Boston Globe Thursday that Paul rarely drank.

Another of the six photographers already under investigation for manslaughter charges publicly defended himself. On French TV last night, Lazlo Veres said he arrived 10 minutes after the accident. Two other photographers who are under investigation have also come forward in recent days to do the same.

Veres, an independent photographer, said he had come upon the princess’s car after most of the other photographers had arrived. Veres said he had not seen Diana’s car leave and was trying to catch up to the other photographers when the accident occurred.

With the photographers’ detention last night, French police seem to move at least a step closer in determining responsibility for the crash. Still, they need to talk to the lone survivor of the crash, Trevor Rees-Jones, who is unable to talk because of his injuries. Police released few details about the three men being held last night. At least one was reported to have attempted to sell pictures of the crash scene to media outlets.

Police and the public are also attempting to find out what role Paul played in the accident. His family has denied he was drunk.

Thursday a neighbor in his apartment building on Rue de Petits Champs, said Paul was known to drink coffee rather than whiskey, contrary to some media reports.

The man, who asked not to be identified, said Paul “might have a few drinks with friends,” but never appeared to drink to excess. Other friends said Paul had stopped drinking about a year ago, although he would visit bars and drink coffee or water.

In a related development, the Ritz officials said the Mercedes-Benz that Paul was driving had been stolen in April from the car leasing company that owns it. It was recovered after three weeks, and Ritz officials said it had been checked for any damage that might hinder its driveability.

In Paris on Thursday, business continued as usual, with schools opening. Some tourists wandered around the tunnel where Diana was killed, reading cards, mostly in English, attached to bouquets of flowers. Jean Prissie, a clerk in a video store, summed up France’s mood on the princess’s death: “We are sad because she was so young, she was just becoming happy,” he said. “But it’s not everything.”

And, two decades after he eulogized another fallen icon - remembering Marilyn Monroe with a sentimental song called “Candle in the Wind”- Elton John has updated it to mourn someone more real to him - his friend, Princess Diana.

The pop star will sing the new version of the song Saturday in Westminster Abbey at the funeral of the princess, a fan of his since childhood.

The revised lyrics, released Thursday, tell of a woman who was “the grace that placed itself where lives were torn apart,” and who leaves behind “a country lost without your soul.”

John and the princess both were AIDS activists and friends of designer Gianni Versace, who was shot to death in July. Diana sat next to the singer and comforted him when he broke down at the designer’s memorial service in Milan.


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