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German tabloid paper publishes pictures of victims in wrecked car

It did not take long. The first photograph of the fatal crash in which Diana, Princess of Wales, died appeared on the front page of Bild Zeitung yesterday. The management of Germany's biggest circulation tabloid, which sells four million copies a day, said they paid a lot money for them.

The colour photograph in Bild shows rescuers trying to get to Diana and her companions in the wrecked Mercedes saloon. Two slumped bodies are visible, although the faces cannot be discerned.

Descriptions of photographers' behaviour, from American tourists who passed the crash site only minutes after the accident happened, were shocking. Robin, Jack and Brown Firestone from New York described five paparazzi shooting close-up pictures of the Mercedes where the princess was visible half-thrown from the car. Some of the photographers had reportedly argued amongst themselves over whether they should be taking pictures. But the most determined jostled police out of the way to do so. "I'm still distraught at what I have seen," Mrs Firestone said.

Those pictures were then hawked around the world within hours of Diana's death. The offers went, among others, to the News of the World in London, and the US supermarket tabloids The National Enquirer, The Star and The Globe.

However, in an uncharacteristic display of rectitude, Steve Coz, the Enquirer's editor asked his fellow tabloid editors to join him in a boycott of the photos. Bild obviously had no desire to join this new moral coalition, and now, the breach having been made, sales will no doubt pick up nicely.

A picture editor from Bild said the pictures had been bought from an agency in Paris. He refused to say if the photos came from any of the paparazzi who chased Diana and Dodi Fayed through the streets of Paris before the death.

The man, who would only give his last name, Westing, added: "We paid a lot of money for them. We have one or two more. We bought them from an agency in France. We can't sell them further".

Asked if Bild planned to publish more photos of the scene, Mr Westing said: "That we don't know. This could run for a long time".

An Italian businessman, Claudio D'Allesandro, who admits dealings with the paparazzi but denies trying to market pictures of the crash, said he was "totally unsurprised" by their sale. He also said that there was a very wide variety of prices being asked for and that this was because there was a comparatively large supply of pictures available. The prices range from around pounds 200,000 up to $1 million in the case of the Enquirer

Mr D'Allesandro said: "The French police took eight to ten minutes to get their acts together. With modern motor drives you can take dozens of shots a minute, so you can imagine how many were taken. The police arrested seven people, but there are strong rumours that others were present and then disappeared. Even the ones arrested had enough time to hide away their rolls of films". Alastair Miller, a photographer based in Paris, said: "The real paparazzi are in it for the thrill of the chase and the money and the cloak and dagger. It's boys' toys."

In France yesterday, the newspapers were pointing the finger of blame at the British tabloids though the arrested men were French apart from one Macedonian, they were working for the British market, it was claimed.

The paparazzi can spend weeks in tracking their prey. They do not shoot to order, but will offer any successful snaps either directly to favoured clients - say, the French magazine Paris Match or the American National Enquirer - or to agencies who negotiate their fees.

Big Pictures in London received pictures of the crash scene unsolicited on their wires early on Sunday morning from photographers who had dealt with the agency before. Though the police seized 20 rolls of film from the seven photographers arrested at the crash, it is thought at least three others escaped with their films intact.

But a source at the agency said that as soon as the situation became clear, an immediate decision was made not to deal with the photographs. "Would you want to see them?" the source asked. "I would say it was down to the individual agency, to their ethics and their morals. It's either money or respect at the end of the day. But I don't think the British papers would dare even to think about publishing them."

Alastair Miller, who has observed the paparazzi, said they operated on a different level from other photographers. "They wouldn't know a light meter. These are people with automatic cameras and synchronised flashes," he said. "They have other skills."

He characterised them as thick-skinned and stubborn with the French the most determined. "There's an inherent sense of fair play among the British. There's a limit to what they would do. The French and to some extent the Italians don't have limits."

Magazines defy criticism, page 6