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Police: Photographers interfered at Diana crash

Latest developments: September 3, 1997
Web posted at: 10:11 a.m. EDT (1411 GMT)

PARIS (CNN) -- A police report emerged Wednesday accusing photographers of obstructing their work at the scene of the car crash that killed Princess Diana.

Meanwhile, there were reports that driver Henri Paul, who was legally drunk, did not have a proper chauffeur's license and may have run a red light. Paul died in Sunday's high-speed accident in a Paris tunnel, as did Diana's boyfriend, Dodi Fayed.

Trevor Rees-Jones, a bodyguard who worked for Fayed's family, remained hospitalized in Paris in critical condition.

Princess Diana's family has contacted French authorities to offer its assistance in the investigation, the newspaper Le Monde reported Wednesday. The unconfirmed report also says the royal family is considering a civil suit.

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.

Photographer interference alleged

A police report on the accident says photographers pushed back the first officer on the scene as he tried to reach the victims.

Because of the swarm of photographers, all the officer was able to glimpse of Diana before more police arrived to help him was "a blonde head," the report says, quoting from the first notes scribbled by investigators 20 minutes after the crash.

The report quotes Christian Martinez, a photographer for the Angeli photo agency as telling a policeman, "Let me do my work. In Sarajevo, the cops allowed us to work. Try having someone shoot at you, you'll see."

Some of the photographers picked up by police have worked in war zones and other dangerous settings.

Six photographers and a motorcycle driver were named Tuesday as official suspects in the case. All seven were freed, two on bail. But they have been warned they could be tried for manslaughter and failure to provide aid to the accident victims.

Police also were searching Wednesday for three additional photographers believed to have been at the scene of the crash.

Photographers defend their actions

lawyer

An attorney for Romuald Rat of the Gamma photo agency denied that his client interfered with police. The attorney, Philippe Benamou, said Rat merely took Diana's pulse while he was snapping pictures of the wreckage. "He wanted to see if she was dead or alive," the lawyer said.

Attorney William Bourdon, who represents Nikola Arsov, of the Sipa photo agency, calls the case against Arsov "ridiculous" and predicts prosecutors will not be able to get a conviction. "He (Arsov) didn't have to give any help. When he arrived there were ambulances, police and doctors," Bourdon told CNN.

Several witnesses who came upon the crash site shortly afterward have described photographers swarming around the wrecked Mercedes, taking pictures from every possible angle.

But one of the photographers, Jacques Langevin of the Sygma agency, told French radio Wednesday that he tried to do his job as quickly and unobtrusively as possible and stayed out of the way.

"I took some pictures with a telephoto lens from 10 or 15 meters (yards) away. I did my work normally -- I didn't throw myself on the car," he said.

Report: Driver ran red light

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Langevin is also quoted in the newspaper Liberation as saying the car's driver ran a red light at Place de Vendome and zig-zagged dangerously.

The driver did not appear in full control of the car, added Langevin, a former Associated Press photographer who told the paper he was disgusted by what other photographers were doing at the scene and left after taking just five or six pictures.

Driver lacked license?

One of Paul's colleagues says the Mercedes driver did not have the special police license required to act as a limousine chauffeur.

"Making him drive was a mistake, as he was not allowed to drive this car," the unnamed driver at the Ritz hotel, whose voice was disguised, told French radio Europe 1. Paul was deputy security chief at the hotel, which is owned by Fayed's father.

But a spokesman for the Al Fayed family on Wednesday denied that the driver lacked the correct license.

Correspondent Walter Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.

 

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