Driver had no limo licence, says colleague

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The Independent Online
Henri Paul, the man who drove the car in which the Princess of Wales was fatally injured, lied about his military record and was not licensed to drive a large, armoured limousine, it was alleged yesterday.

The French military, after checking its records, said Mr Paul, 41, had never been an air force captain, as his employer, the Ritz Hotel, claimed. Nor had he finished his military service as head of security at an airbase in Rochefort in 1986.

According to the military press office, he served as an officer cadet, during his national service in 1979. He was later in the military reserve, where he learnt to fly, but never rose above the rank of reserve lieutenant. He left in 1992.

The earlier account of Mr Paul's military career was given by the Ritz in good faith, presumably based on the information he had given them.

Another chauffeur employed by the Ritz, speaking anonymously to French radio and television, alleged yesterday that Mr Paul did not have the special police licence required to drive the armoured Mercedes S280. To obtain one, a driver had to pass a medical test and prove he was of "good morality". A police source would not say whether Mr Paul had the licence.

A spokesman for the Fayed family, owners of the Ritz Hotel, insisted yesterday that this allegation was "totally unfounded". Michael Cole said Mr Paul needed no special qualifications to drive it. Asked to comment on the exaggeration of Mr Paul's military record, Mr Cole said that the French army was "splitting hairs".

He said the Fayed family wanted further investigation of the two official police tests, which showed that Mr Paul was driving with three to four times the legal level of alcohol in his blood. "Alcohol from the shattered radiator was thrown over all the people who were in that car. They were all covered in alcohol," Mr Cole said. "We are not satisfied that the alcohol tests were conducted in the correct manner."

The anonymous Ritz chauffeur, said in his interview that "everyone" at the hotel knew Mr Paul had been drinking on Saturday night. He had been sent home, on call, and "everyone knew that he boozed when he wasn't working".

At Dodi Fayed's request, Mr Paul was recalled to the hotel late in the evening, after the regular chauffeur had been sent out in a decoy car to draw off the photographers outside. "At the Ritz, when the Fayeds are there, it's panic stations," the chauffeur said. "Whatever they ask for, people never say 'no'."

Trevor Rees-Jones, the sole survivor of the crash, has horrific jaw and mouth injuries and may never talk again, it emerged yesterday.

A hospital spokesperson said yesterday that Mr Rees-Jones was still drifting in and out of consciousness and it would be many weeks before he would be well enough to be seen by police, or write down his memories of what happened.