Photographer says he only offered injured Diana comfort
But police report says paparazzi interfered
September 3, 1997
Web posted at: 9:53 p.m. EDT (0153 GMT)
PARIS (CNN) -- One of the photographers under investigation
for his alleged complicity in the death of Princess Diana
said Wednesday that he went to her wrecked car to offer
comfort, not snap photographs of her as she lay mortally
In an interview with French television, Romuald Rat, a
photographer with the Gamma agency, said that, using a
motorcycle, he had followed the car in which the princess was
riding. But he said he broke off the chase before the car
entered the tunnel in which it crashed early Sunday.
Rat said he did not see the crash but came upon the accident
only after it happened. He said he did not call for help
because he understood that someone else already had done so.
"I went up and opened one of the car doors," Rat said. "I saw
Princess Diana, who was seated on the floor with her back
towards me. I told her in English not to worry, that I was
here to help, the firemen were coming. That's it."
Rat's attorney said earlier that the photographer at one
point took Diana's pulse to determine if she was still alive.
Rat said that initially he took no pictures. But after help
arrived on the scene, he said he "resumed my work as a
journalist, and I took some very wide shots of the car."
"I shot nothing to be sorry about, and when I was taken to
the police station, I was in that state of mind," Rat said.
But a French police report that emerged Wednesday accused
photographers of pushing back the first officer on the scene
as he tried to reach the victims. Other witnesses have also
described a swarm of photographers on the scene, snapping
pictures of the wrecked car.
Because of the photographers, all the first officer was able
to glimpse of Diana before more police arrived to help him
was "a blond head," the report said, quoting from the first
reports scribbled by investigators 20 minutes after the
Six photographers and a motorcycle driver were named Tuesday
as official suspects in the case. All seven were freed, but
two, including Rat, were required to post bail. There are
reports that other photographers allegedly at the scene are
also being sought.
Those arrested have been warned they could be tried for
manslaughter and failure to provide aid to the accident
Sources in the neighborhood surrounding the Paris apartment
of Diana's companion, Dodi Fayed, told CNN that a crowd of
photographers had gathered there earlier in the evening, at
one point scuffling in the street with Fayed's security
The couple had planned to dine at a Paris restaurant, Benoit,
where they had reservations. But because of the
photographers, they decided instead to dine at the Ritz
Hotel, which is owned by Fayed's father, Mohammed Al Fayed.
The crash occurred after they left the hotel in a Mercedes.
Fayed, the princess and the driver of the car, Henri Paul,
were killed. Trevor Rees-Jones, a bodyguard who worked for
Fayed's family and was also in the car, remains hospitalized
in Paris in critical condition
Surveillance cameras along the roadway that would have been
in a position to capture the crash on videotape were not
recording at the time, police said.
Another of the photographers under investigation, Jacques
Langevin, told The Associated Press that he had been summoned
by his photo agency, Sygma, to photograph Diana and Fayed at
But Langevin said after their car left the Ritz, he did not
engage in the chase, although he said other photographers on
motorcycles did. Instead, he said he began to drive to a
friend's house near the Eiffel Tower -- a route that took him
by the accident scene, where he stopped.
"I met some of the same colleagues I had seen before. I
didn't make the connection immediately," Langevin said.
"Then, after a moment, I understood. The scene was already
under police control."
Saying he reacted instinctively, Langevin then took pictures
from behind police lines. It was at that point, he said, that
police intervened, taking press cards and film from the
photographers and putting them in a police van.
Speaking of the other photographers on the scene, Langevin
said, "There were those who did not behave properly." He did
Meanwhile, there were reports that Paul, who police say was
legally intoxicated at the time of the crash, did not have a
proper chauffeur's license and may have run a red light.
Sources told CNN that it was Paul, the deputy security chief
at the Ritz who was called in that night, who came up with
the idea of trying to elude photographers by taking Diana and
Fayed out a back entrance.
"Making him drive was a mistake, as he was not allowed to
drive this car," an unnamed Ritz driver, whose voice was
disguised, told French radio Europe 1.
"He should never have been in the car. He's not a chauffeur,
and he was called in by the Ritz because Fayed knew him," the
driver said. "He was not on duty. He had had a few drinks.
Everyone knew that, and it would have been difficult not to
But a spokesman for the Al Fayed family on Wednesday denied
that the driver lacked the correct license.
Proprietors of four bars around Paul's apartment who knew him
told Reuters that he was not a heavy drinker, contradicting
other press reports.
"He often came here for his Sunday lunch and the most potent
drink he had with it was a shandy (a mix of beer and
lemonade)," said a woman who worked at Le Bourgogne, a cafe
next to Paul's home.
Princess Diana's family has contacted French authorities to
offer its assistance in the investigation, the newspaper Le
Monde reported Wednesday. There are reports that her family
and perhaps even the British royal family are considering
civil suits, but those reports have not been confirmed.
The Fayed and Paul families have already filed civil suits, a
step that allows them to be paid damages should photographers
they suspect of causing the crash be convicted.
Paris Bureau Chief Jim Bittermann, Correspondent Walter
Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.
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