Photo agency boss admits transmitting crash pictures

Diana 1961-1997 the inquiry
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The Independent Online
Photographers who snapped the scene of the accident which killed Diana, Princess of Wales and then fled are expected to give themselves up to police for questioning, their agency said yesterday.

As the police inquiry began to home in on the paparazzi who escaped, Laurent Sola, a 37-year-old photographer who runs a Paris picture agency, said he thought that the freelances who took the photographs to him to sell would co-operate.

Admitting for the first time that he had received and transmitted pictures taken after Sunday morning's crash, Mr Sola said he had now handed all negatives over to the police.

"I had some pictures but I no longer have them. I gave the pictures to the French police. I can't speak in [the photographers'] place. But I think they will speak to the French police," Mr Sola said.

"They had the reflex reaction of 99 per cent of photographers: to do their job. They took the photos and left."

Since then, they have been in a state of shock.

Mr Sola would not name those involved nor reveal how many there were. He said he did not know whether other agencies also had photographs.

But it is understood that police want to speak to two men who escaped by motorcycle to sell their rolls of film.

In some pictures circulating to newspapers and magazines, the fatally injured princess is reported to be staring straight into the camera.

Mr Sola added that he was still receiving "dozens and dozens" of telephone calls from the media around the world asking to see the photographs and offering hundreds of thousands of pounds.

But like the Big Pictures agency which received the photographs in London shortly after the accident and before Diana was pronounced officially dead, he said he decided not to deal with them as soon as the gravity of the situation became clear.

On Tuesday, Herve Stephan, the examining magistrate appointed to head the inquiry, placed six photographers and a motorcyclist under investigation for manslaughter, recklessly causing bodily harm and failing to help victims of an accident _ the "Good Samaritan" law.

But Mr Stephan made clear that the inquiry would cover all those who may have played a part in the pursuit, crash and subsequent events.

William Bourdon, the lawyer representing Nicolas Arsov, one of the seven charged, said the examining magistrate had a duty to pursue his inquiries. But he said he believed that when the inquiry was complete "I guess it will appear to him that there is no objective basis for these charges".

There has been widespread revulsion that photographers continued to take pictures while the fatally injured Princess was unconscious and her companion Dodi Fayed, son of Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, lay dead. But Mr Bourdon said none of the photographers was a professional medic capable of helping the seriously injured. "What could they do?" he asked, and he repeated his belief that the paparazzi were being made scapegoats.

As details of the unpublished 350-page police report continued to leak, it emerged that witnesses have told investigators that Romuald Rat, a photographer with the Gamma agency, moved the Princess's body as if to get a better shot.

But Philippe Benamou, for Mr Rat, said his client was checking Diana's pulse. And in a statement, Gamma said they were confident he would be exonerated and that his conduct was "humane and professional".

Lawyers have been advising the paparazzi themselves to say little about the case. Mohammed Al Fayed is bringing a civil action against the photographers alongside the criminal proceedings, as is the family of the chauffeur, Henri Paul, who also died.

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