Witnesses Tell Princess Diana's Inquest They Heard 2 Crashes Inside Paris Tunnel

Monday, October 15th 2007, 10:45 am
By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) _ Princess Diana's Mercedes was traveling noticeably fast and may have collided with another car as it sped into a Paris tunnel a decade ago, witnesses testified Monday at the inquest into her death.

Two witnesses reported hearing two crashes, the second much louder than the first, inside the Pont d'Alma tunnel shortly after midnight on Aug. 31, 1997.

The inquest is investigating the deaths of the princess and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed. Henri Paul, who was driving their Mercedes, also died in the crash inside the tunnel.

David Le Ny; his then-fiancee Marie-Agnes, who is now his wife; and her parents, Jean-Claude and Annick Catheline, said they were walking near the tunnel entrance when they noticed the car approaching at speed.

The Cathelines recalled seeing two large, dark cars nearly side by side; Mrs. Le Ny thought there may have been two cars, while her husband _ who had told police 10 years ago that he saw two cars _ now definitely remembered only one.

Le Ny said the sound of the engine first caught his attention. He recalled commenting that ``they were crazy, or something like that.'' In a 1997 statement to French police, he had recalled remarking: ``What an idiot.''

British police estimate that the car was traveling about 60 mph when it slammed into a pillar.

Mrs. Le Ny agreed that the car was going fast, ``but not much faster than what people currently drive.''

Her father said the car was going faster than other traffic, though he didn't recall his son-in-law commenting on the car's speed. He remembered Le Ny saying earlier in the night, ``these Paris drivers are crazy.''

All four gave evidence to the British inquest by video link from Paris.

Lord Justice Scott Baker, who is presiding as coroner, had told jurors at the start of the inquest that debris found on the road indicated that the couple's car collided with a white Fiat Uno before it hit the pillar.

The car has never been traced.

None of the four recalled seeing bright lights, which Fayed's father, Mohamed al Fayed, has claimed may have been flashed in Paul's face as part of a murder plot orchestrated by Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.

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

Both concluded that the driver was drunk, had been driving too fast and that the deaths were an accident.