The force of the impact wrecked the Mercedes

Crash Driver Was Over Alcohol Limit - Prosecutors

Prosecuting authorities say the driver of the Mercedes car which crashed, killing Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed, had well over the legal level of alcohol in his blood.

The driver, Henri Paul, 41, was also killed in the crash, early on Sunday. It happened as the car was being pursued by paparazzi photographers.

Investigators have said that they believe the car was travelling at 196kph (121mph) when it crashed.

The Paris public prosecutors' office said in a statement: "The blood analysis revealed that the alcohol level was illegal."

Analysis indicated that Mr Paul had 175 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, compared with the legal limit of 50 milligrammes per 100 millilitres. The level equates to his having drunk more than a bottle of wine.

Under French law, blood-alcohol levels of between 50 and 80 milligrammes per 100 millilitres are regarded as a misdemeanour; levels over 80 are a crime. Levels vary throughout Europe. In the UK, there is a single limit of 80 milligrammes per 100 millilitres.

Security Man Had Special Driver Training

The driver was deputy head of security at The Ritz hotel in Paris, where Princess Diana and Mr Fayed dined prior to their last journey. The Ritz is owned by Mr Fayed's father, Mohammed Al Fayed.

Michael Cole
"Drink driving can never ever be justified"
Dur: 4'17"
His spokesman, Michael Cole, told BBC Radio's PM programme: "We condemn in the strongest terms drink driving, which causes so much unnecessary tragedy all over the world."

He went on to defend Mr Paul as an experienced driver who had taken two courses in Stuttgart, Germany on how to drive Mercedes cars - both the normal and the much heavier armoured versions. The training included anti-terrorist techniques.

Mr Cole said Mr Paul had worked for The Ritz for 11 years and had been an exemplary employee.

He said the circumstances were that one of the photographers' motorcycles - "a very powerful machine" - was overtaking the Mercedes and pulling in front of it to try to slow it down so that the other paparazzi could catch up and take flash photographs.

"It was like a stagecoach surrounded by indians but instead of firing arrows they were firing these lights into the eyes of the people," he said.

Mr Cole said the Fayed family wanted a full inquiry into all the circumstances of the crash.

Judgment "Would be Impaired"

Professor Griffith Edwards, from the National Addiction Centre at the University of London, said a level of alcohol even at the French legal limit would "significantly increase the risk of a crash".

Prof Edwards, who has studied the effects of alcohol for 35 years, said the driver's judgment would undoubtedly have been impaired and his reactions slowed.

The effects could only have been made worse if the driver had a sense of pressure from being chased by photographers on motorbikes.