The man Mohamed al Fayed claims helped “murder” Diana, Princess of Wales, was found dead in a burning car with a hole in his head, a court heard yesterday.
Photographer James Andanson, who the Harrods owner believes was the owner of a mystery white Fiat linked to the Alma Tunnel tragedy, died in controversial circumstances in May 2000.
The Princess’s inquest has heard how Mr Andanson claimed to have been in the tunnel in the early hours of August 31 1997 and taken “explosive” unpublished pictures of the crash in which Diana was killed.
But police later discounted his claims after examining motorway toll receipts and other papers indicating he was nearly 200 miles away at the time.
Police were called to Les Louettes forest in Nant, north of Montpellier in southern France on the night of May 2000 after a car was found ablaze, the jury heard yesterday.
Investigating officer Jean-Michel Lauzun arrived while the vehicle was burning and saw the corpse, later found to be Mr Andanson, on fire at the wheel.
The body, which was so badly burned that it later disintegrated while being moved, had to be identified by dental records.
But police are confident Mr Andanson killed himself. Toxicological tests found high levels of carbon monoxide in the his blood — suggesting he was alive inside the fireball long enough to inhale fumes, rather than being killed beforehand, the jury heard.
But giving evidence by video link, Mr Lauzun, told how he saw a hole in Mr Andanson’s head.
Mr al Fayed’s barrister Michael Mansfield QC asked whether it was right that he had seen the an oval shaped hole in Mr Andanson’s skull around the area of the left temple.
He said: “Yes, I saw a hole – not oval, it was not a regular shape – it had a diameter of about 4-5cm.”
The following day, when forensics doctor Prof Eric Baccino examined the corpse, the skull had succumbed to heat fracturing.
British officers who later reviewed the Andanson case concluded the original French investigation had been handled well and found there was nothing to suggest his death was not a suicide, the court heard.
Mr Andanson had previously spoken to friends of suicide, saying that he could not live with himself if anything happened to his family, the jury was told.
He spoke of killing himself by pouring petrol in a car and lighting a cigar, Richard Horwell QC, for the Metropolitan Commissioner noted.
The inquest was adjourned until Monday when Lord Jay, who was British ambassador to Paris in 1997, will give evidence.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved