New York Times, September 5, 1997

French Police Detain 3 More Photographers

By Craig R. Whitney

PARIS -- French police on Thursday detained three more photographers who had snapped pictures of the automobile wreck that killed Diana, Princess of Wales, in a highway tunnel after a chase last Sunday. The three turned themselves in after learning that the police were looking for them.

Six other photographers and a motorcyclist, some of whom were in the unwanted paparazzi escort the driver was apparently trying to shake, are under investigation for possibly contributing to the crash by their own conduct on the road that night, and for failing to provide aid to the victims or hindering emergency workers.

All, in person or through their lawyers, have denied being anywhere near the car when it rammed a support pillar in the tunnel at high speed, or doing anything to hamper rescue efforts. All but one, a Macedonian photographer, are French.

The photographers already charged in the investigation into the crash were released from police custody on Tuesday but forbidden to leave the country. Two had to pay bail of $16,700 and were forbidden from working as photographers until the inquiry is completed.

The police said nothing about the identities of the three new suspects, but Laurent Sola, owner of a picture agency called LS Press, said that two of his photographers had taken pictures of the wreck and had left before the police arrived and that the police had wanted their names. He would not comment on whether they had turned themselves in.

The three can be held up to 48 hours before being released or placed under judicial investigation, the first step toward possible trial in the French legal system.

Mohamed Al Fayed, whose son Emad Mohamed Fayed, nicknamed Dodi, died with Diana in the crash, has instructed two lawyers here to make him a civil party to the investigation. According to lawyers, such a step would make it likely that all those in the inquiry would eventually have to go to trial.

A man who claims to have witnessed the chase, Francois Levy, a former maritime pilot who lives in Rouen, said on Thursday night that he had been traveling at high speed on the same route as the Mercedes S280 that was carrying the couple and, in his rear-view mirror, saw the headlights of two motorcycles on either side of it just before the crash.

"The motorcycle to the left of the car made a sort of fishtail maneuver across the front of the Mercedes, and at that point it looked as if a flashbulb went off," Levy said in a telephone interview. "Then I saw the Mercedes veer to the left, to the right, and to the left again, and I heard a big noise."

Levy said that he had not actually seen the crash, but surmised from what he saw in his rear-view mirror that something terrible had happened.

"I came out of the tunnel and pulled over," he said, "and my wife said, 'We'd better get out of here -- we may have problems.' At that point, a motorcycle went past me fast with two men on it."

Levy said that he had been going at 80 miles an hour, more than twice the speed limit, at the time.

"I got a letter from the Paris police Monday morning asking me to contact them," Levy said on Thursday night, supposing that police surveillance equipment on the tunnel entrance had registered his license number because he was going too fast. He said he had testified to what he had seen to the police and had also contacted Bernard Dartevelle, a lawyer for the Fayed family, after seeing him on television.

Dartevelle said previously that he had referred a witness who had seen motorcycles around the car carrying Diana and Fayed to the police, but did not identify him. The Reuters news agency located him late Thursday.

The elder Fayed has insisted that photographers caused the accident by harassing or distracting the driver, and Levy's testimony apparently supports the case against them.

There has been no legal action against the elder Fayed. He owns the Ritz Hotel, and it was the Ritz's assistant director of security, Henri Paul, who was behind the wheel of the car. Prosecutors said on Monday that Paul was legally drunk at the time of his death, and French authorities said on Thursday that he did not have a chauffeur's license.

Diana's regular Paris driver was at the wheel of a decoy car trying to lure photographers off her trail when the couple left the Ritz shortly after midnight on Sunday to go to one of the family's private residences here.

Fayed reportedly hoped to marry the princess, who was divorced from Prince Charles of Britain last year. On Thursday, an employee of Alberto Repossi's jewelry store on the Place Vendome, where the Ritz is, confirmed that hours before his death the younger Fayed bought a $200,000 woman's diamond ring that is believed to have been recovered from the princess's personal effects and delivered to her family.

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