Ritz ignored Diana ‘wreck’ warning
LONDON: The Mercedes-Benz in which Princess Diana was driven to her death was a dangerous “rebuilt wreck” but concerns about its safety were ignored, French TV claimed last night.
One warning that the car was not fit to be on the road and “didn’t hold” if driven at more than 60km/h came only two months before the fatal high-speed accident in Paris on August 31, 1997.
The Mercedes-Benz S280 pool car was provided by the Paris Ritz Hotel, owned by businessman Mohammed Fayed, whose son was Diana’s lover Dodi Fayed.
The car was owned by Etoile Limousines, which supplied chauffeurs and cars to the Ritz.
Pascal Rostain, a Paris photographer, yesterday told a French radio station that the “hugely dangerous” car had been stolen and driven into the ground earlier in the year.
“This Ritz car was a wreck. It had crashed before, and been rolled over several times,” he said.
The car was ready to be broken up, but permission was then given to “remake” it, the photographer claimed.
Rostain said one of his friends at the Ritz, identified as a driver called Karim, took the Mercedes for a spin earlier in 1997 and warned senior staff about it.
Referring to Frank Klein, the manager of the Ritz at the time, he said: “Two months before the accident, (my friend)… said to Mr Klein… that it was necessary to get rid of this wagon. At more than 60km/h it didn’t hold.”
Rostain is the co-author of a book called Who Killed Lady Di? and the tragedy was the subject of a documentary broadcast this week on the French TV channel M6 called Death of Diana: The Incredible Revelation.
Mohamed Fayed always claimed Diana’s death was the result of a bizarre MI6 plot ordered by the Royal Family.
But in 2008, a British jury delivered an inquest verdict of unlawful killing caused by Diana’s “grossly negligent” chauffeur Henri Paul, who lost control as he raced at up to 190km/h through the Alma Tunnel while drunk and on anti-depressants, and trying to get away from pursuing photographers.
Additional factors were Diana not wearing a seat belt, and the fact that the Mercedes struck the pillar of the Alma Tunnel rather than colliding with something else, the inquest concluded.
Orphelie Meunier, the presenter of the M6 documentary, said: “We are not offering a theory, a new hypothesis, we are really offering verified facts – Diana was not safe in this car.”
Among those interviewed for the programme were advertising executive Eric Bousquet, the original owner of the Mercedes, who confirmed it had been involved in accidents and had been stolen.
Meunier said the documentary would help draw a line under the conspiracy theories, adding: “It was nothing but a car accident.”
The current owner of the Mercedes is Jean-Francois Musa, 58, the former boss of Etoile Limousines.
Musa, who lives in Paris, remains locked in a legal battle with Scotland Yard to get the wreckage of the car back.
It was shipped to Britain for police forensics experts to examine in the early 2000s, and is believed to be in a compound in the UK.
A Scotland Yard investigation into conspiracy theories about Diana’s death, led by former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Stevens, reported that experts found no problems with the vehicle.
His report, published in 2006, concluded: “Both the French and British examinations of the Mercedes have shown that there were no mechanical issues with the car that could have in any way caused or contributed to the crash.” – Daily Mail
DEATH TRAP? Police services prepare to take away the damaged car in the Pont d’Alma tunnel in Paris in which Princess Di and Dodi Fayed were killed on August 31, 1997.