Place De l'Alma witnesses Sabine and Georges D break four months of silence to bring the public intriguing new details of the night Diana died.
A report including the testimony of eyewitnesses at the scene of the accident that killed Diana, Princess of Wales, was leaked to a French newspaper last week, creating fresh speculation over the cause of the tragedy.
The most publicized revelation was that, according to the report, Ritz Hotel chauffeur Henri Paul tipped off paparazzi cameramen as to which exit Diana and Dodi would use to leave the hotel and the route they would take.
Evidence has already been found that the driver was speeding, had been drinking and had taken drugs. The report supports a postmortem finding that Henri Paul was driving at 120 mph and was almost four times over the legal alcohol limit for driving when the car crashed.
One witness who works at the Ritz Hotel claims that Henri Paul was seen on the night of the accident at the front of the hotel speaking to photographers. The chauffeur allegedly told them what time the couple would leave and where they were heading, including their route through the Place de l'Alma tunnel.
This explains how the cameramen arrived at the scene of the crash so quickly; they already knew which way Diana and Dodi would travel across central Paris.
Despite this new revelation, the Princess' family is not now expected to claim compensation against Mohammed Al Fayed or the Ritz hotel, which he owns. At first, it was thought that Diana's estate might claim around 8 million pounds in a criminal negligence case against the hotel, as Henri Paul's employers. But now, Diana's family believe it would be regarded as "highly distasteful" to do so as Dodi Fayed was also a victim of the crash. "On the grounds of decency and dignity, compensation action is not being considered," said a family source. But Diana's top aide, Michael Gibbons, said that her family would wait for the final police report before making any final decisions.
The four-month-old police investigation is far from finished and no final report is expected for several months.
Among the eyewitness accounts that were leaked last week were those of Georges and Sabine D. Angered by inaccuracies reflected in the newspaper report, the couple have agreed to give an interview in order to set the record straight with regard to their declaration.
Their story concerns the white Fiat Uno believed to have had a minor collision with the Mercedes carrying Diana and Dodi in the Place de l'Alma tunnel just before the Mercedes hit the wall.
Witnesses spoke after the accident last August 31 of hearing a smaller crash before the main impact, and police focused their search on Fiat Unos after examining fragments of paint and glass from broken tail- lights which were found in the tunnel.
Since then, police have questioned thousands of Fiat Uno owners in the Paris area, but have admitted that the task is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Here, Sabine and Georges, who had left a business dinner at a restaurant in the 7th arrondissement and climbed into their car shortly after midnight, recount exactly what they saw and heard on the night of the dreadful tragedy.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED AFTER YOU CAME OUT OF THE RESTAURANT?
GEORGES: "We left the 7th arrondissement and crossed the river by the Pont de l'Alma from the Left Bank to the Right Bank so as to get onto Avenue de New York and return to our home."
CAN YOU TELL US EXACTLY WHAT TIME THAT WAS?
G: "Not exactly, but my wife Sabine said to me as we arrived at the square, the Place de l'Alma, and were crossing it to turn left, that the baby-sitter would have been looking after our child for just over five hours by the time we got home, since we'd left the house at 7.30 pm and it was now about twenty minutes past midnight. But I can't be more exact than that."
AND YOU SABINE?
S: "I'm practically certain it wasn't more than twenty past, or at the most, twenty-five past midnight, because I knew what time we had to be back, and I was sure I'd be able to let the babysitter go by quarter to one."
"We took the slip road alongside the Place de l'Alma tunnel, and my attention was caught by a vehicle traveling level with us, coming out of the tunnel, which was zigzagging and backfiring. The driver didn't see us at all, he was so busy watching what was going on in his inside rear-view mirror and his left-hand wing mirror, especially the rear- view. He wasn't paying attention whatsoever to what was happening in front of him. The vehicle almost smashed into us as we were reaching the end of the slip road, at the exit of the tunnel. There's a double white line there to mark the lanes. The driver carried on zigzagging, and if I hadn't braked, he'd have rammed us, because, as I say, he was only watching what was going on behind him. I let him go ahead, and then I passed him and turned along the Left Bank. He'd stopped by the pavement railings on the corner as if, when he'd looked up, he hadn't known where he was and had pulled over, lost."
SO THE VEHICLE WAS FIRST OF ALL PARALLEL TO YOU, THEN BRIEFLY IN FRONT OF
YOU. CAN YOU DESCRIBE IT PLEASE?
"It was a white Fiat Uno, old, with the body work in bad shape. It was about ten years old and had little dents everywhere. I looked especially closely at it because my mother-in-law has one."
S: "My mother's got a white Fiat Uno; its about ten years old and a bit beaten-up, so I automatically looked at the numberplate. I'm certain it wasn't a 75 (central Paris) registration, because that's what my mother's is, and I immediately thought "Oh, it's not hers".
WHEN YOU WERE STILL BEHIND THE CAR BEFORE OVERTAKING IT ON THE LEFT, DID
YOU NOTICE IF THE REAR LIGHTS WERE WORKING, AND IN PARTICULAR THE
G: "If the rear lights hadn't been working, I would have noticed. I'm sure they were working."
WOULD YOU HAVE SEEN IF THE INDICATOR LIGHT WAS BROKEN?
G: "I can't tell you definitely, but I didn't notice that it was broken, and I think I would have."
IF THE GLASS HAD BEEN BROKEN, THE LIGHT WOULD HAVE BEEN WHITE NOT RED. DID
YOU NOTICE THAT?
G: "No, but I think I would have done."
S: "I can't say, but I don't think the lights were out of action."
WHEN YOU SAY THE VEHICLE WAS SPLUTTERING AND THAT YOUR ATTENTION WAS FIRST
ATTRACTED BY THE NOISE, JUST WHAT WERE YOU HEARING?
G: "It sounded as if the exhaust pipe was cracked or in bad condition."
DO YOU KNOW THAT IT'S ILLEGAL TO DRIVE IN PARIS WITH A NOISY EXHAUST PIPE?
G: "Yes, I've even had an exhaust problem myself and had to cross Paris to get to the garage."
CAN YOU TELL US IF IT SOUNDED AS THOUGH THE EXHAUST PIPE WAS JUST WORN- OUT
OR HAD SUFFERED SOME RECENT DAMAGE?
G: "No, I can't."
WERE THE WINDOWS OF YOUR CAR OPEN?
G: "No, I don't think so."
S: "I think the window on my husband's side was open, but only very slightly to allow his cigar smoke to flow out."
DID YOU HEAR THE NOISE OF IMPACT OR THE SOUND OF THE HORN OF THE MERCEDES
WHICH WAS JAMMED IN THE ACCIDENT?
G: "No, I didn't hear anything."
S: "Neither did I, I didn't hear anything."
YET YOU DID HEAR THE FIAT UNO BACKFIRING?
G: "Yes, that's right."
SO YOU PASSED THE FIAT ON THE LEFT AND IT WAS YOU, SABINE, WHO GOT THE BEST
VIEW INSIDE THE VEHICLE?
S: "Yes, and because my mother keeps a blanket in the back of her car, I looked in the back of this one, and that's where I saw an Alsation or German Shepherd dog standing up on its hind legs. The dog was wearing a muzzle or a bandanna round its neck - I didn't see exactly what it was, but it had something."
AND THE DRIVER?
S: "He was a man of about 40, with short but not crew-cut hair, medium weight and wearing a kind of bomber jacket."
G: "I can confirm that because I looked at him, because since he'd come out of the tunnel I'd thought that either he must be drunk or that, from the way he was looking in his rear-view mirror, perhaps he was expecting someone to be following him. He was very jumpy."
FROM THE LOOK OF THE DRIVER AND THE DOG, DID YOU THINK IT MIGHT BE SOMEONE
WHO WORKED IN SECURITY?
S: "He may have been, but it didn't really strike me."
IF THE CAR COULD BE FOUND AND SHOWN TO YOU, DO YOU BELIEVE YOU WOULD RECOGNIZE
S: "I think so."
G: "Yes, I expect so."
ARE THERE ANY MORE DETAILS YOU CAN TELL US?
G: "No, I can only confirm that it was a white Fiat Uno, old, with dents all over the body work, but not actually damaged."
SO ARE YOU BOTH SURE ABOUT THE FACT THAT THIS FIAT UNO DIDN'T HAVE A 75
NUMBERPLATE, FOR THE REASONS YOU MENTIONED BEFORE? IF THE CAR HAD HAD A
PROVINCIAL NUMBERPLATE, WOULD YOU HAVE REMEMBERED IT? FOR EXAMPLE 38 OR 60?
S: "I'm practically sure it didn't, I would have remembered. As I recall, that car didn't have a provincial numberplate. I'm almost sure it was registered with one of the Paris area numbers."
LIKE 92 OR 78?
S: "I can't be sure which department, but as far as I'm concerned, it had a Paris area number."
G: "I can confirm what my wife says: that car wasn't registered in the provinces. I'm sure it was a Paris area number, but I couldn't tell you the number of the department. You must understand that as soon as we saw it wasn't a 75, we didn't have any reason to notice the number."
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
G: "We'd overtaken the Fiat, which had parked for a few moments at the corner of the next street, where there are some security railings to protect pedestrians."
S: "I remember thinking that if there hadn't been any railings, the driver of the Fiat seemed so lost and out of it that he could have crashed into the three people there at the corner."
SUPPOSING THE ACCIDENT HAD ALREADY HAPPENED, AND BEARING IN MIND THAT PEOPLE
IN THE SURROUNDING AREA HAD HEARD THE IMPACT AND GONE TO THEIR WINDOWS, DESPITE
HAVING DOUBLE GLAZING, AND THAT THE MERCEDES HORN HAD JAMMED, DON'T YOU THINK
THAT THOSE THREE PEDESTRIANS WHO WERE STANDING JUST BEYOND THE TUNNEL EXIT
WOULD HAVE BEEN LOOKING FRIGHTENED OR CURIOUS, OR GOING TO SEE WHAT HAD HAPPENED?
WAS THIS THE CASE?
S: "No, they looked absolutely calm, like typical bystanders."
WERE THE CARS GOING IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION SLOWING DOWN, FLASHING THEIR
HEADLIGHTS OR PUTTING THEIR HAZARD LIGHTS ON, AS MOTORISTS DO WHEN THERE'S
BEEN AN ACCIDENT?
S and G: "No, not at all. There wasn't much traffic but it was flowing perfectly normally."
SO THEN, AT NO MOMENT DID YOU REALIZE THAT SOMETHING HAD HAPPENED OR THAT
THERE WAS SOME KIND OF DISTURBANCE?
S and G: "No, everything seemed absolutely normal."
G: "Then we continued along the Avenue de New York. I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw the Fiat Uno pull out again and set off behind me. I carried on along our route and lost sight of him."
WHEN YOU WERE LOOKING IN YOUR REAR-VIEW, DID YOU SEE ANY KIND OF DISTURBANCE
AT PLACE DE L'ALMA?
G: "I didn't see anything at all."
S: "On the other hand, I'm anxious to point out that no more vehicles came out of the tunnel after that Fiat Uno, at least not as far as we could see."
G: "We went home. We let the baby-sitter go and we went to bed. It was on the following morning that we, like everyone else, heard about the accident in the Place de l'Alma tunnel, but since all the news flashed said Diana had died at 4 am, my wife remarked that we'd gone by the same place about four hours earlier. It was only on the one o'clock news that we learned the approximate time of the accident, half-past midnight. My wife and I talked about it for a long time, but since everyone was saying the accident was caused by the paparazzi, we didn't immediately make the connection with the Fiat, although we'd talked
about it. On the morning after that I called the 8th arrondissement police station, where they gave me several phone numbers, and after speaking to seven different people, I recounted the events and explained everything to a person whose number I kept. Then, when I was reading the papers, I saw that a Fiat Uno could have scraped or obstructed the Mercedes. So, on September 18, I got back in contact with the person I'd spoken to on September 1, who remembered our conversation and asked me to come and see him. I went down to the crime-squad office and told them what I've explained here. When they'd taken my statement, they
asked me to go home and not to talk to my wife about the facts that evening, so that we didn't unwittingly present corresponding statements. I did that, and they called us both in the next morning. We were separated and made our statements during three hours of questioning in different offices. Our declarations corresponded on all points. In order to help the police's task, we decided not to talk about it, and we haven't done so until now. But we were very annoyed when a daily newspaper reported our witness declarations, and since my wife is about to have another baby, we preferred to give one single interview so as to avoid untimely media attention with reporters camped out on our doorstep. We ask you not to give our full name so at to protect our piece of mind."
HAVE YOU TESTIFIED IN FRONT OF THE MAGISTRATE IN CHARGE OF THE INVESTIGATION,
G: "No, we have so far only testified to the crime squad."
DO YOU THINK THAT FIAT UNO HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE ACCIDENT?
G: "We can't give an opinion on that, but, looking back, it's obvious that the driver of that car had at least seen something to make his behavior and actions so perturbed.
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