Ritz arrival
A security camera recorded Princess Diana arriving at the Ritz for the last time

The Final Evening

When Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed arrived at the Ritz Hotel they found between 10 and 20 photographers waiting for them at the main entrance in Place Vendome, so they were taken to the rear, in Rue Cambon.

At some stage, Dodi Fayed took delivery of a 130,000 diamond solitaire ring which he had ordered 10 days earlier from one of the most exclusive jewellers in the district, Alberto Repossi. Its significance is a matter of speculation.

The couple left again at 7pm, when Philippe Dorneau took them in the Mercedes to Dodi's apartment. Henri Paul also left, thinking his work for the night was over.

Mike Williams covered the news conference detailing Princess Diana's last hours. Dur: 3'19"

At 7.15pm Diana and Dodi arrived at the apartment, where again the paparazzi were waiting.

Ritz crowds
Crowds of spectators and photographers at the front of the hotel
They had made a reservation for 9.30pm at the bistro Chez Benoit in Rue Saint-Martin. But when they left the apartment to go there - a little late - they were pursued by about 10 photographers on motorbikes, so decided to take refuge back at the Ritz.

They began a meal in the hotel's renowned seafood restaurant, L'Esparon, but because of the attention they were getting they moved to the Imperial Suite. Their intention was not to stay the night there, but to go to Mr Fayed's apartment.

At some stage, a scheme was devised to try to give the slip to the now considerable number of photographers outside - not to mention a growing crowd of spectators - by taking a round-about route.

Ritz departure
Diana and Dodi waiting at the rear of the hotel: the affection is clear

The Mercedes and Range Rover they had been using during the day - and which were known to the paparazzi - were drawn up at the front as if they were expected there. The couple instead went to the rear. They waited in a corridor for five minutes until their car - a different Mercedes - pulled up, then slipped out. It was 12:20am.

In the car was a man who had been called back in to work two hours earlier, specifically to drive them: Henri Paul.

Events become increasingly vague, as much as anything because of the custom of the French investigating authorities of saying almost nothing publicly about the progress of their inquiries, although the police themselves are said to be having trouble unravelling the contradictions.

There are differing accounts of where Mr Paul had been that evening: at home watching TV or in a local bar or bars, with or without friends.

It is said that he had intended having an early night because he was to go with Princess Diana and Mr Fayed to England the following day. That he had been drinking is not in dispute; the amount is.

The car Henri Paul was in was a dark Mercedes S280. It was the base model in that range, with a smaller (2.8 litre) engine. It would be capable of about 130 mph - albeit in a long, straight line.

next