The man who drove Diana, Princess of Wales, and her lover Dodi Fayed on the journey on which they were killed knew he should not have been at the wheel, a court heard today.
Henri Paul, acting head of security at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, was reminded moments before setting off that it was not his job to drive the couple but said nothing, their inquest was told.
Night security manager Francois Tendil said he had seen no sign that his boss Mr Paul had been drinking that night, although blood tests after the crash showed he was over the drink-drive limit.
Mr Tendil told how an ill-fated plan was devised to evade paparazzi, by driving the couple from the back of the hotel while Dodi’s usual driver, Philippe Dorneau, remained at the front as a decoy.
Mr Tendil said he believed Dodi, Mr Paul and two bodyguards, Trevor Rees and Kes Wingfield, had come up with the doomed plan in discussions, with Dodi himself playing a key part.
He said he only learned that Mr Paul himself was to drive just before he set off.
“My reaction was that it was not his duty to do so because we had drivers in the hotel,” he told the court.
He went on to say he told Mr Paul this, but that he said nothing.
He told how Dodi had been extremely angry at the activities of the paparazzi who had followed him and Diana since their arrival in Paris earlier in the day.
The court heard he would have been able to see a growing crowd of photographers in the square outside from the window of the suite where he and Diana were dining.
“Due to the situation and what Dodi could see in front of the hotel, he decided at the last minute that Henri Paul could drive the car,” he said.
“And the bodyguards did agree. Everybody agreed that, I would like to record that.”
Under cross-examination by Michael Mansfield QC, representing Dodi’s father Mohamed al Fayed, he conceded that it was Mr Paul and not Dodi who had personally told him of the decision.
Mr Mansfield asked: “You said it wasn’t for him to drive the car and he just said nothing, is that right?”
He replied: “Yes that’s right.”
The jury also heard from Mr Dorneau, who said it was the first time in his experience that Dodi had been pursued by the paparazzi.
He described how earlier that evening there had been photographers “everywhere” as they drove through Paris, prompting the decision to cancel a restaurant appointment and dine at the hotel instead.
He said Dodi was “mad, angry and annoyed” and, at one point, Diana had to calm him down.