Jurors See Photos of Princess Diana at Crash Scene
LONDON – Jurors at the inquest into the death of Princess Diana Thursday were shown pictures of her at the scene of the fatal car crash 10 years ago — photos a lawyer said made clear the paparazzi "had no compunction" about photographing the victims.
The images were pixilated to obscure Diana's face, and Lord Justice Scott Baker, who is acting as coroner, said none of the images would be released to the public.
The inquest is examining the deaths of Diana and her companion Dodi Fayed in Paris, where the couple had been pursued by paparazzi. Photographers were among the first to reach the scene of the crash, witnesses have testified.
"It is perfectly clear from the photographs the jury has been through that the paparazzi who were present at the scene of the crash had no compunction about taking photographs of the victims both inside the car and being carried outside the car," said Michael Mansfield, a lawyer representing Fayed's father, Mohamed al Fayed.
One of the photos seen by the jury, taken shortly after midnight on August 31, 1997, showed Diana, identifiable by her blonde hair, on the floor of the back seat of the crumpled Mercedes. Another showed photographer Romuald Rat squatting next to the open door of the car.
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, was 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.
Responding to a question from Mansfield, Inspector Paul Carpenter of the Metropolitan Police said he had found no images of the Mercedes' movements after it left the Ritz Hotel until it had crashed in the tunnel.
Earlier, a witness testifying by videolink from Paris recalled seeing motorcycles chasing a Mercedes at high speed on the night Diana died.
Thierry Hackett, who was driving along the route taken by Diana and Fayed after they left the Ritz hotel, also said he saw the Mercedes swerving because, he thought, it was being "hindered by the motorbikes."
Lawyers for the inquest also read statements by people who thought they heard squealing tires and a crash behind them in the Pont d'Alma tunnel, where the couple's car slammed into a pillar, but could not see what happened.
Hackett gave two statements to French authorities soon after the princess' death, but on Thursday he said several times that his memory of the night was now vague.
For instance, he told the inquest that he thought the car that passed him was a large, light-colored German car but he did not know the make. In his statements in 1997, he had said it was a black Mercedes.
Hackett said he saw at least two or three motorcycles chasing the German car — he had said four or five in the earlier statements — with one pacing the car on the right side. He said that a motorcycle, carrying two people, passed him at the same time as the German car.
"It was very close. I was a bit scared, they were really close," he said.
In a 1997 statement, Hackett said the big car was swerving: "Clearly the driver of the vehicle was being hindered by the motorbikes."
He said Thursday that this remained his recollection.
On Wednesday, Antonio Lopes Borges and Ana Simao told of seeing a black Mercedes race away from a traffic light, pursued by other vehicles, and of seeing the same Mercedes minutes later, crumpled by a collision with a pillar in the tunnel.
Neither recalled seeing any motorcycles chasing the Mercedes.
The inquest was adjourned until Monday.