Diana inquest hears of dark car, flash in death tunnel

The car carrying Princess Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, may have bumped into another large, dark-coloured car shortly before crashing, the inquest into their deaths heard on Monday.

Witness accounts previously have talked about a white Fiat Uno or a similar small vehicle, but Jean-Claude Catheline and his wife, Annick, said they saw two dark cars travelling at speed side-by-side going into the Pont d’Alma tunnel in Paris.

Another witness, meanwhile, said he saw a “major white flash” in the tunnel just before the crash occurred there on the night of August 30 1997, before seeing Diana’s car “going from left to right to left again.”

The Cathelines told how, as they walked on an embankment near the tunnel, they heard a collision followed moments later by the sound of tyres screeching and then a crash.

“As soon as the car disappeared from our view we heard what sounded like the bodywork bumping; I think that this noise was before the car entered the tunnel,” he told the inquest by video-link from Paris.

Citing from his statement to police, a lawyer said Catheline then almost immediately heard “a second noise, very, very loud, quite different from the first: it was a dull noise and followed by a second, identical noise.

“I heard the tyres screeching on the road,” added the Frenchman, who was returning with his wife to their car after visiting the nearby Eiffel Tower.

His wife told how, after seeing the two cars together going into the tunnel, “we heard noises like two cars bumping each other”,

Another witness, Francois Levistre, told of seeing a white flash in his rear-view mirror as he went through the tunnel ahead of Diana’s Mercedes.

Also speaking by video-link from Paris, he told how Diana’s car was overtaken by a motorbike when he saw the flash, like the light from a police radar.

“I realised there was this major white flash of the motorbike in front of the Mercedes, in front of the car,” he said.

“I was nearly at the exit of the tunnel and I realised that because I heard the noise of the motorbike within the tunnel ... I just wondered what happened because the light was like you were caught by the police in a radar.”

Levistre also described how Diana’s car veered across the road.

“When I saw the light, I looked into the mirror ... I saw the car going from left to right to left again to get within the pillar,” he said, speaking through a translator.

Diana, ex-wife of heir to the throne Prince Charles, her Egyptian boyfriend Dodi Fayed and their chauffeur Henri Paul were killed in a high-speed car crash in the Pont d’Alma tunnel.

Fayed’s father Mohamed al-Fayed, the tycoon owner of London’s upscale Harrods department store, believes they were killed in a plot hatched by Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, and the British security services.

The plot was conceived because Diana (36) was carrying Fayed’s unborn child and the royal family did not want her to marry a Muslim, al-Fayed alleges.—AFP

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