Third test confirms Diana's driver was over alcohol limit

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The Independent Online
Henri Paul, who drove the car in which Diana, Princess of Wales, was fatally injured, had been drinking heavily and had traces of anti- depressant drugs in his blood, according to a new test.

A source close to the investigation told Reuters news agency that these drugs could have accentuated the damaging effect of any drinks he took before the crash on 31 August that killed Diana, Dodi Fayed, and Mr Paul himself.

French investigators last night released the results of a fresh analysis - the third in all - conducted by an independent laboratory. It suggested that Mr Paul, 41, deputy head of security at the Ritz Hotel, was driving with a blood alcohol level of 180mg in 100ml. This is almost four times the French legal limit and equivalent to roughly eight glasses of wine.

Two previous tests placed Mr Paul's alcohol level just above and just below the new findings - at 175mg and 187mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Last Friday, a British pathologist, retained by the Fayed family, cast doubt on the methods used in the first two tests. He said the only reliable blood- alcohol test on a man crushed to death, like Mr Paul, was from a sample of blood taken from behind the eye.

French investigators did not reveal yesterday what method had been used in the third test. But sources close to the inquiry have angrily rejected the criticism, by Professor Peter Vanezis, as ludicrous.

The French newspaper Le Figaro reported yesterday that, if the drink-driving findings were confirmed, the investigating judges might take legal proceedings against the Ritz Hotel for "negligence" and "placing human life at risk". The Ritz is owned by Mohamed Al Fayed.

The two magistrates leading the investigation made their first visit to the accident scene yesterday. Judge Herve Stephan and his assistant, Judge Marie-Christine Devedal, spent 30 minutes in the tunnel under the Place de L'Alma.

Despite increasing impatience in the British and French media, the two judges seem determined to take their own time, both in the pace of the inquiry and in the amount of information which is leaked or officially released.

Le Figaro printed a whole-page question-and-answer article yesterday, in an attempt to answer some of the remaining mysteries about the crash last Sunday week. The article bore the hallmark of an attempt by police and the judges to scotch some of the wilder rumours.

According to Figaro's informants in the investigating team, there was no jewellery or cash missing from the crashed car; there was no cocaine found in the vehicle; and claims by witnesses that they saw a car and motorcycle deliberately impeding the Mercedes before it crashed have been dismissed by the investigators as untrustworthy.

Lawyers for the Fayed family, which has already started a civil suit in association with the criminal investigation, began new proceedings yesterday. They took action against a series of publications under French privacy laws, complaining of harassment of Diana and Dodi by helicopter- borne photographers in the south of France in the weeks before the accident.

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