Police say lensmen were malignant

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The Independent Online
A leaked police report gave a chilling account yesterday of the behaviour of press photographers in the minutes after the car carrying the Princess crashed on Saturday night.

The report, written by two of the first police officers on the scene, described the photographers as "malignant and obstructive". It said several paparazzi pushed aside police who were trying to aid the victims, accusing them of getting in the way of their cameras.

The report, leaked to RTL radio, quotes one photographer as saying to the police: "You make me shit. Let me do my job. Even in Sarajevo the cops let us work. Wait until someone's fired at you, then you'll see."

The officer's account forms part of the evidence which led to preliminary charges yesterday against seven press photographers for failing to assist accident victims. Police and prosecutors have drawn up a 350-page dossier on the events which led to the crash in the early hours of Sunday morning and the disturbing scenes which followed.

Among other things, this dossier appears to reject suggestions that the crash was caused directly by the pursuing press pack. Several witnesses have told police that they saw the Princess's car "flanked by bikes" just before the accident and that one bike was zig- zagging ahead of the Mercedes when it collided with pillar in an underpass.

But, according to press leaks and lawyers for the photographers, these accounts have been rejected in the dossier as not fitting the main body of evidence. Police believe that the press posse was 100 to 200 metres behind the limousine when it crashed.

None the less, the prosecutors believe there is prima facie evidence that the photographers' behaviour that night led to the accident in more general sense. For this reason, the examining magistrate yesterday formally accused seven photographers of manslaughter, and placed two of them under formal investigation .

Lawyers for the photographers rejected these charges as "theatrical" and intended to please the French foreign ministry, under pressure from the British government and public opinion. The lawyers predicted that the examining magistrate, Herve Stephan would not be able to make the manslaughter charges stick.

The charges of failing to assist at an accident under the French "Samaritan" law may be a different matter, however.