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Diana driver drinking before crash

Other News Materials 5 October 2007 05:41

( CNN ) -- The driver of the limousine in which Princess Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed were killed spent time in a bar shortly before the 1997 Paris crash, a jury at an inquest into her death has heard.

But the jury also watched video from security cameras at the Ritz that gives no outward sign that Henri Paul was drunk when the Mercedes he was driving crashed in an underpass while being chased by paparazzi, as both French and British police have concluded.

Paul is seen squatting in the lobby of the hotel to tie his shoe laces, shifting his weight from one foot to another and rising steadily. He is also shown bounding up stairs two at a time.

The jury has already heard that Paul ordered two Ricards - an aniseed spirit - that night after arriving at the hotel.

The father of the princess's lover Dodi Fayed, Ritz owner Mohamed al Fayed, says Paul was not drunk and that the samples were switched after the tragedy.

The purpose of the inquest, which is taking place in London, must decide whether the deaths of Diana and Dodi on August 31, 1997 was an accident or murder. It is expected to be a six-month process.

Al Fayed says Diana and his son were murdered because the British royal family "could not accept that an Egyptian Muslim could eventually be step-father to the future king of England," referring to Prince William, the son of Diana and her former husband, Prince Charles.

The elaborate efforts of Diana and Dodi to give the paparazzi the slip in the minutes before the tragedy in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel were also shown in a new video.

Jurors were shown second-by-second security footage of the couple's efforts to escape the Ritz Hotel undetected.

The images show how security staff choreographed a decoy exit in an effort to distract a swelling pack of press photographers and onlookers.

But even as Diana and Dodi are led through the bowels of the hotel and out through a service doorway, paparazzi lie in wait.

The security footage shows Diana, Dodi's arm around her, standing for 10 minutes behind one exit, waititng for the all-clear to sprint to a car.

At one point the princess delivers what appears to be a mock salute as she receives instructions from bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones -- the sole survivor of the crash -- and Paul.

The wait over, Diana, Dodi, Paul and Rees-Jones run to a awaiting Mercedes and are immediately surrounded by photographers. But as they leave the paparazzi give chase in cars and on motorcycles.

Intriguingly, Paul was earlier seen waving to two photographers who had uncovered the plan to leave by the rear service entrance of the Ritz.

On Wednesday previously unseen footage of Diana was shown to the jury. Images taken from a security camera at the Ritz show the 36-year-old smiling as she and Fayed, 42, step into an elevator and later walk out of the hotel.

Further footage shows Fayed visiting a jeweler's shop, images that could lend support to claims that he was buying an engagement ring.

Earlier, the coroner at the inquest said it may never be known for certain whether Diana was pregnant when she died.

Lord Justice Scott Baker told the jury that scientific evidence might be unable to demonstrate "one way or the other" whether she was in the early stages of pregnancy. But he said they would hear "intimate" details of her personal life.

Baker told the 11 members of the jury -- six women and five men -- Diana may have been on the contraceptive pill and that evidence she was poised to get engaged to Dodi on the night she died was contradictory.

On Tuesday the judge, who is acting as coroner in the case, told the jury that a famous image taken in summer 1997 showing Diana wearing a swimsuit could not be proof she was pregnant with Dodi's child as she had not started a relationship with him at that stage.

Next week, the jury is scheduled to travel to Paris to see the crash site, along the River Seine. They are also expected to hear testimony from the paparazzi who were present after the accident

In its evidence section, the Web site for the inquest has posted previously unpublished pictures taken by paparazzi of the limo before and immediately after the accident.

One is a closeup -- looking into the front of the vehicle -- that shows Diana, Fayed, Paul and Rees-Jones minutes before the crash.

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