Pathologist Questions Whether Diana Driver Was Drunk

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A pathologist on Wednesday raised doubts about whether blood tests proved that Princess Diana's driver was drunk when he crashed into a concrete pillar a decade ago.

Professor Peter Vanezis told a coroner's inquest examining the deaths of Diana and boyfriend Dodi Fayed that records regarding the blood samples were unsatisfactory, raising questions that can only be answered by the French team responsible.

"I would say the chain of custody was virtually nonexistent," he said, characterizing it as "chaotic."

Police in France and Britain, relying on the French tests, concluded that driver Henri Paul was over the legal limit for alcohol, and held him responsible for the fatal crash on Aug. 31, 1997.

Al Fayed contends that the blood tests were faked.

Video images from the hotel in the hours before the crash showed Paul apparently walking normally, even able to balance while squatting to tie his shoelaces.

Trevor Rees and Kieran Wingfield, the two bodyguards assigned to the couple, said they noticed nothing abnormal about Paul's behavior, though a bartender at the Ritz Hotel described Paul as obviously drunk.

Vanezis was hired by Fayed's father, Mohamed Al Fayed, to cast an independent eye on post mortems, but Vanezis said the French barred him from access.

He said questions about the blood tests could only be answered by the French pathologist, Professor Dominique LeComte, and toxicologist Gilbert Pepin. Both have refused to testify at the inquest.

Vanezis said he was not permitted to conduct his own post mortem.

"So, in those circumstances, the best you could do was to carry out, as it were, an audit of what had already been done. It appears that the audit trail from autopsy to analysis of samples raises a number of questions that could best be answered by Professor Lecomte?" said the coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker.

"That's quite correct, sir, yes," Vanezis said.

"And so far, they have never been answered," Baker said.

"That's correct, sir," Vanezis said.

If the blood tests were correct, Paul's condition may have been masked by a tolerance for alcohol, Vanezis said. Nonetheless, he would have been impaired, he added.

"So you concluded that he was a regular heavy drinker on the basis of some evidence, but you are not quite sure what it was at the moment?" Baker asked.

"On the basis of the blood results that we got, sir, and on some of the other tests that were done," Vanezis said.