LONDON – Lawyers at the inquest into the death of Princess Diana on Tuesday attacked the testimony of a motorcyclist who said the princess' car roared away from him before crashing in a road tunnel.
Richard Keen, a lawyer representing the family of driver Henri Paul, accused Stephane Darmon of telling "self-serving lies" about what happened as he ferried paparazzi photographer Romuald Rat in pursuit of Diana and boyfriend Dodi Fayed in the hours before the fatal crash on Aug. 31, 1997.
Rat, according to a tabloid photo editor, had offered pictures of the injured princess inside the car for 300,000 pounds (euro430,000 US$600,000). Those photos were not among the images seized from Rat by French police.
"What percentage does the driver get, Mr. Darmon?" Keen asked.
"I don't know how to answer this," Darmon said. "This is totally delirious. I am nothing. I am a motorcycle rider."
Darmon stuck to his account of driving cautiously and taking no risks during the day in following the couple from Le Bourget airport to Fayed's flat, then to the Ritz Hotel and finally down an expressway to the tunnel.
"I suggest that you were far more a player in this final game than you care to admit," Keen said to Darmon, who testified via a videolink from Paris.
"Not at all," Darmon said. "I was told what to do."
Michael Mansfield, representing Mohamed al Fayed, and Ian Croxford, representing the Ritz Hotel, also joined in questioning sharp differences between Darmon's account and the testimony of witnesses who said they saw a cluster of motorcycles and cars chasing the couple's Mercedes through Paris.
In some cases, witnesses reported seeing motorcycles close behind or even beside the Mercedes just before it entered the tunnel and crashed.
Darmon said the Mercedes roared away from him, and he lost track of it until catching up at the Pont d'Alma tunnel.
"From the moment I entered the expressway until the scene of the crash, there was nobody in between the Mercedes and me," Darmon said.
The lawyers, however, suggested it was Darmon's job to stay close to the car in pursuit of a lucrative scoop. "I was sometimes pushed," Darmon said in response to one question.
Al Fayed contends that his son and the princess were victims of a plot orchestrated by Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth. French and British police blamed the accident on Henri Paul, driver of the Mercedes, based on evidence that he was over the legal alcohol limit and driving too fast.