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Friday, October 26, 2007

Witness: Diana spoke after crash > "Oh my God, Oh my God"

LONDON, England (AP) -- A rescuer who tried to help Diana after her Paris car crash said Thursday that the princess spoke as she lay in the wreckage, repeating the words "oh my God" over and over.

Damian Dalby told an inquest into Diana's death that he and his brother rushed over to the wreckage of the princess' Mercedes after it crashed in the Pont d'Alma tunnel on August 31, 1997.

art.pariscrash.jpgA photograph of the crash site in Paris 1997, shown to the jury earlier in the inquest.

Dalby, who was a volunteer French firefighter at the time, told the inquest by videolink from Paris that the car was surrounded by photographers.

"The car's rear, right-hand side door was open, and a photographer was close by, but he did not stop me from doing my assistance job," Dalby said.

Ian Burnett, lead lawyer for the inquest, asked Dalby: "Was it right the lady in the car was trying to speak?"

"Yes, she was saying: 'Oh my God, Oh my God,"' Dalby said.

Dalby said police arrived and moved the photographers away.

The inquest is examining the deaths of Diana and her companion, Dodi Fayed, in Paris, where the couple had been pursued by paparazzi. Witnesses have testified that photographers were among the first to reach the scene of the crash.

The jury heard Thursday from a statement given by Dalby's brother, Sebastien Pennequin, shortly after the crash. Pennequin said he tried to help police move photographers away.

"They continued taking photographs, it was then I spoke to them telling them to stop," the statement said. "'The people must know that Princess Diana is alive,' one of them said."

The inquest -- required by British law when someone dies unexpectedly, violently or of unknown causes -- had been delayed for 10 years because of the two exhaustive investigations by French and British police.

Both concluded that the couple's driver, Henri Paul, was drunk, driving too fast and that the deaths were an accident. Paul also died.

Fayed's father contends that the couple were the targets of a plot orchestrated by Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.

Earlier Thursday, a French man who claims Diana died in a trap set by photographers faced skeptical lawyers.

Jacques Morel alleges that the late French photographer James Andanson organized a plan to stop the car carrying Diana and Fayed in the tunnel so paparazzi could take photos and get interviews. He says he has written a book on the subject, so far unpublished.

Morel, who began testifying Wednesday, said he saw a line of 10 to 12 photographers and a man with a video camera just inside the tunnel before the crash. No other witness has claimed to see photographers waiting in the tunnel, though several have said photographers were quickly at the scene.

Morel claimed he had seen secret papers supporting his contention, but Michael Mansfield, a lawyer for Fayed's father, Mohamed al Fayed, questioned whether such a file existed.

"How would you like to bet?" said Morel, who testified via video link from Paris. "I can bet with you 1 million U.S. dollars, and if you bet with me, I can send you the file within 24 hours."

Morel claimed he had given a copy of the file to Fayed's legal team, which Mansfield denied.

Mohamed al Fayed has alleged that Andanson, who died in 2000, was involved in a plot to kill his son and the princess and was the driver of a white Fiat Uno that collided with the couple's car before the crash.

That car has never been traced.

Diana: The new unseen CCTV images from the Ritz Hotel

The jury in the Diana, Princess of Wales, inquest today watched CCTV footage from the Ritz Hotel taken in the run-up to the fatal crash.

The first of the DVDs showed members of the paparazzi arriving outside on the afternoon of August 30, 1997.

Inspector Paul Carpenter, of the Metropolitan Police, talked the panel of five men and six women through the staggered images.

diana cctv

The hotel lift: A smiling Diana and Dodi get into the Ritz's lift shortly after arriving at the Ritz hours before the fatal crash

diana CCTV

He told them there were 43 separate cameras in the hotel in Paris, from where Diana and Dodi Fayed set off on their final journey, and that 31 were relevant to the inquiry.

"Only 31 of them show movements of the main participants in these events," he said.

He explained a problem with the timings of the footage, saying five different banks of cameras showed five different times.

diana CCTV

Moments later Diana and Dodi are seen again, this time in the lobby of the Ritz

Some may be up to 2 minutes 52 seconds off the master clock he had established to try to synchronise the images.

"We're going to start with the first arrivals at the hotel in the afternoon and in the first shot you will see members of the paparazzi arriving at the hotel at about five to four, some time before the Princess and Dodi Al Fayed actually arrived."

The court was shown colour footage from "Camera 4" at Place Vendome where two motorcyclists arrived, later followed by others.

The couple are spotted again with Claude Roulet, the deputy to the director of the hotel, who then leads them into the foyer of the imperial suite 90 minutes later

Members of the public could be seen milling past the front entrance of the hotel.

Former Metropolitan Police chief Lord Stevens, who is set to give evidence at some stage in the inquest, was in the main courtroom today, listening to the proceedings.

The jury then viewed footage of Diana and Dodi arriving at the hotel just hours before the fatal collision.

A camera overlooking the back entrance to the Ritz, in Rue Cambon, shows Claude Roulet, deputy to the director of the hotel, waiting outside for the couple, followed by a "fleeting shot" of them arriving.

A camera just inside the door shows the couple follow Mr Roulet into the hotel, followed by bodyguard Trevor Rees Jones, who is wearing an orange shirt.

Mr Carpenter explained to the jury that the next image was taken at 16.32 and shows Dodi and Diana walking through a lobby with columns at the rear of the hotel towards a lift.

Diana is seen again in the lift. Dodi can be seen in the mirrored rear of the elevator as he enters

The next image shows a smiling Princess getting into the lift alongside Dodi, who stands to her right. They are still accompanied by Mr Roulet, and can be seen to get out of the lift a few seconds later, at exactly 16.35.

The next shot shows Diana and Dodi walking towards the camera down a corridor on the first floor.

"You can see Mr Roulet lead the couple from the back of the hotel towards the front, towards the Imperial Suite," Mr Carpenter said.

The couple are again spotted in the hotel lobby just before 7pm.

Diana and Dodi are then caught on the CCTV in the foyer of the Imperial Suite at 16.38, walking into Room 102.

The footage then moves on to show images of Dodi leaving the hotel to pay a visit to Repossi the jeweller's.

Narrating the footage, taken at 17.06, Mr Carpenter said: "Dodi al Fayed appears on the left and Trevor Rees Jones will then depart at that stage. He goes downstairs to arrange the departure of Dodi to go to Repossi's with Mr Roulet."

The jury was then shown CCTV images starting at 17.37 which show Dodi, wearing a dark-coloured blazer and jeans, leaving the Imperial Suite and walking down the corridor with Mr Rees Jones.


Diana leaves the hotel to get into the Mercedes, just minutes before the crash

He is then seen walking down a staircase into the Hall Vendome, at the front of the hotel.

An image taken outside the front of the hotel on the Place Vendome, Mr Carpenter says, shows Henri Paul standing next to a Mercedes which will take Dodi to Repossi's.

Dodi is then seen to leave the hotel, returning nine minutes later at 17.49, when he walks through the Hall Vendome.

Mr Carpenter said: "Dodi can be seen carrying a brochure in his right hand as he ascends the stairs."

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