Sources: Diana's driver drunk while speeding

By Jocelyn Noveck Associated Press Published:

It introduced a major new element in an investigation that had seemed focused on the role that pursuing photographers may have played in causing the crash, which also killed Diana's millionaire boyfriend Dodi Fayed and the driver.

In one damning _ but unconfirmed _ report Monday, the newspaper Le Monde said witnesses saw photographers trying to push police and rescuers away as they snapped photos of Diana and Fayed after the crash.

And in Tuesday issues of London newspapers, there were unconfirmed reports that the driver had taunted photographers before departing from a hotel with Diana and Fayed, suggesting that they wouldn't be able to keep up with the Mercedes.

Police extended the detention of seven photographers taken into custody after the crash. They were expected to be placed under formal investigation Tuesday _ a step short of being formally charged. The precise charges they might face were not known.

Early witness reports had said the car was traveling at excessively high speed, and on Monday a police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the speedometer was found stuck at 196 kilometers per hour _ 121 miles an hour _ an almost certain indicator of its speed at impact.

In a statement, prosecutors said blood tests on driver Henri Paul showed he had an illegal blood-alcohol level. They did not give the level, but a judicial source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was 1.75 grams of alcohol per liter of blood _ more than three times France's legal limit.

France's National Association for the Prevention of Alcoholism said that was the equivalent of drinking nine shots of whiskey _ a shot in a French bar equaling about 1.2 ounces.

Under French law, exceeding 0.5 grams _ the level after about two or three glasses of wine _ is considered a misdemeanor, while a 0.8 level is considered a greater offense.

The limit translates to a blood alcohol content of about 0.065 percent, and Paul's reported level to a content of 0.23 percent. Most U.S. states consider a driver to be legally drunk when a blood alcohol content of 0.1 percent is reached, although some have recently lowered that to 0.08 percent.

France's law, toughened in 1995, is one of the strictest in Europe.

Le Monde reported Monday that Paul was trying to skirt around a slower-moving vehicle when the car crashed inside a Seine riverside tunnel, beneath the approach to a bridge, the Pont de l'Alma.

Paul, 41, a former French air force pilot, was the No. 2 security man at the Ritz Hotel, owned by Dodi Fayed's family, and the car was owned by the hotel.

Bernard Dartevelle, a Fayed family lawyer, said Paul had been off-duty and was called from home to take the place of the regular driver, who had left earlier in another vehicle as a decoy to throw photographers off the trail.

Regardless of whether Paul was drunk, Dartevelle said, it was the photographers chasing the princess who were responsible for the accident.

"That infraction," he said, "was the first link in a chain ... that ended at the Pont de l'Alma."

Dartevelle has filed a civil complaint seeking damages against those ultimately found responsible for the death.

In London, The Mirror on Tuesday quoted Gilbert Collard, a French lawyer representing Christian Martinez, one of the seven arrested paparazzi, as saying: "It seems there was a short discussion between the photographers, the driver and the bodyguard before the limousine left the Ritz.

"It was along the lines: 'Don't bother following, you won't catch us anyway. ' "

The Times of London cited what it called unconfirmed reports that Paul had taunted the photographers by saying "Catch me if you can," before speeding away from the hotel.

A spokeswoman at the Ritz _ where Diana and Fayed dined before the fatal crash _ told The Associated Press that Paul was an experienced driver who received special security training from Mercedes-Benz at a center in Germany. She said he also had experience handling heavy armor-plated vehicles like the car in the crash.

Police so far have not been able to talk to the lone survivor of the crash, bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones. He suffered a head contusion, a lung injury and facial injuries. His condition was described as grave but not life-threatening, and he remained in intensive care Monday.

A judicial source said Monday evening that the seven photographers now in custody would be detained for another night, and that on Tuesday, a judge would take charge of the case and place them under formal investigation.

Even if they are cleared of any direct role in the crash, France's "Good Samaritan" law might apply. It makes it a crime to fail to help someone in danger.

Le Monde reported Monday that, within 30 seconds of the crash, some photographers were taking pictures of the bleeding victims.

Citing at least a dozen unnamed witnesses, it said some photographers actually pushed away rescuers and two policemen who arrived on the scene, saying they were ruining their pictures.

Police continued Monday to examine images from 20 rolls of film confiscated from the photographers to learn more about what happened.

Some people seemed already to have decided. Fresh graffiti were sprayed Monday in bright red on a wall of the tunnel: "Paparazzi Cowardly Murderers."

The prosecutors' statement said authorities also have searched photo agencies' offices for photos from the chase and accident.

Diana's funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. (6 a.m. EDT) Saturday at

Westminster Abbey in London.

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