Diana: the aftermath: Driver's funeral delayed as family requests tests

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The Independent Online
The planned funeral of Henri Paul, the chauffeur who died in the crash alongside Diana, the Princess of Wales, was not expected to go ahead today after his family requested more blood alcohol tests.

Mr Paul, 41, was found to have been three times over the legal limit in tests carried out after last Sunday's accident.

It was understood last night that a decision to delay the funeral, which was due to be held at the church of St Therese in Lorient, Brittany, this morning, was likely to allow further checks to be made.

Mohamed Al Fayed, the father of Diana's companion, Dodi, who was also killed, has criticised tests carried out by the official police investigators as unreliable and announced further details of his concerns in London yesterday. Neither the police nor the judiciary in Paris would comment on his criticisms at this stage. The move came as a lawyer confirmed speculation that the chauffeur had apparently swerved to overtake a much smaller car as he entered the tunnel where the crash took place.

William Baurdon, who represents one of the accused photographers, Nikola Arsov, said there was more evidence to show that it was Mr Paul who was to blame for the crash because he had been going too fast to slow down when he encountered the slower car in front of him.

Mr Baurdon said police had interviewed the driver of the car which was travelling at about 50kph (30mph) at the Place de L'Alma on Sunday morning, although further checks were being carried out.

"There was another car driving in front of the Mercedes [Diana's car]. The Mercedes made a sharp manoeuvre to go around it before the crash," he said.

He added: "Considering the huge public opinion, there was a huge necessity to designate someone who was perhaps responsible or guilty." But he said the emotions had created "irrationality".

Once the investigations were under way into the role of the photographers, he said, it had been difficult to "put on the brakes" but he was confident that the proposed charges of manslaughter, recklessly causing bodily harm and failing to assist at an accident against his client would be dropped within weeks. In the war of words now raging over the cause of the crash, Mr Arsov, 38, who has been a photographer for only nine months, put the blame squarely back on the management of the Ritz yesterday.

Speaking publicly for the first time, the photographer said: "It is not my responsibility, it is that of the Ritz.

"How can a hotel like the Ritz allow one of its drivers to take a car out with any passengers when he was drunk?"

He told how he had followed a decoy car set up by the hotel in the hope that it would eventually meet with the vehicle carrying the Princess and Dodi Fayed, which had left from the back.

He came across the accident after he had given up that chase and spotted flashing lights down the street. It was only then that another agency's motorcycle runner informed him this was Diana's car.

Asked about the reaction of the British people to the accident, Mr Arsov said: "I understand that they have lost a princess but you can't blame the guys who were there. I think [the charges] are scandalous, for me and for the others." Five other photographers and the motorbike rider also face prosecution and last night three more were added to the list.

Sources said David Oderkerken, Serge Benhamou and Fabrice Chassery were later released on condition they do not leave France during the inquiry and do not meet others also being investigated.

Mr Arsov said the police and the ambulance were already at the scene when he arrived. He took five or six general shots only, he said.

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