Witness saw 'white flash' in Diana death crash tunnel

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The Independent Online

A man who claimed he saw a blinding flash of light in a Paris road tunnel just before the car crash that killed Princess Diana spent hours yesterday answering questions about inconsistencies in statements he has made.

Francois Levistre, whose testimony to the British inquest differed at key points from other witnesses, testified that he saw two men on a motorcycle ahead of the princess's car, a "major flash of light," and then a crash.

Afterward, he said, the passenger on the motorcycle looked into the crumpled Mercedes and gave a two-hand gesture to indicate "job done."

The inquest is investigating the deaths of the princess and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, on 31 August 1997. Henri Paul, who was driving their Mercedes car, also died in the crash.

Fayed's father, Mohamed al Fayed, has claimed that a blinding flash may have been used by rogue British agents in a murder plot orchestrated by Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.

Both the French and British police ruled out a conspiracy, concluding that Paul was drunk and driving too fast.

Levistre is not the only witness who claims to have seen a flash in the tunnel but was the first to testify to the inquest.

He said he was driving through the tunnel as the incident unfolded, and then stopped at the end and watched through his rearview mirror.

Other witnesses have told of seeing people running into the tunnel after the crash, and of photographers snapping pictures. Levistre said he saw only two men moving around for as long as five minutes.

Questioned repeatedly about why he had told different stories to French police and an examining magistrate, Levistre said he hadn't read the statements that he later signed.

"You know, people ask questions and you just answer," said Levistre, who testified from Paris via a videolink.

He confirmed that he did not call the police but did contact the Ritz Hotel, controlled by Mohamed al Fayed, and The Sunday Times newspaper in Britain.

Bernard Dertavelle, a lawyer for the Ritz, notified police, who then summoned Levistre, he testified.

Levistre said he saw the Mercedes enter the tunnel and a motorcycle pulling out to overtake it. He said he saw no other vehicles.

The bright flash, he said, was directed at the Mercedes from the back of the motorcycle.

He confirmed that he had served a jail sentence on a weapons charge, and felt he had been harassed by the French media after he and his wife were accused of offering a child to a German industrialist. Levistre said his wife acted as a surrogate mother, which led to an investigation in France but no charges.