Diana, Princess of Wales’ Mercedes may have “bumped” another large, dark car as it entered the tunnel where it crashed, witnesses said today.
Jean-Claude Catheline and his wife Annick told the inquest into the deaths of the Princess and her lover Dodi Fayed that they saw two dark cars travelling quickly side-by-side into the Pont de l’Alma Tunnel in Paris in the early hours of August 31, 1997.
Speaking by video link from the French capital they revealed how they heard the sound of a collision as they walked on a grassy embankment near the entrance to the underpass.
Moments later, Mr Catheline heard the sound of tyres screeching as the Mercedes carrying Diana and Dodi crashed.
He told the inquest sitting at the High Court in London: “As soon as the car disappeared from our view we heard what sounded like the bodywork bumping, I think that this noise was before the car entered the tunnel.”
In an excerpt from his original police statement, read to the court by Richard Horwell QC, he said: “Almost immediately I heard a second noise, very, very loud, quite different from the first, it was a dull noise and followed by a second, identical noise.”
Mr Catheline added, as he addressed the court: “I heard the tyres screeching on the road.”
The couple were with their daughter Marie-Agnes and her boyfriend - now husband - David Le Ny, on a night out in Paris at the time.
They were walking back to their car from the Eiffel Tower nearby.
Mrs Catheline said: “When they were already in the tunnel, under the bridge we heard noises like two cars bumping each other.”
Mr Le Ny said he remembered seeing a large dark car speeding towards them into the tunnel.
“It was going very fast, I remember the noise coming from the engine... I certainly made a comment, stating that they were crazy or something like that.”
Mr and Mrs Catheline also told how they had seen a man running towards them into the tunnel almost immediately after the crash.