PARIS: The 1997 car crash that killed Britain’s Princess Diana spawned a host of conspiracy theories, but evidence that it was an accident only grows stronger, bolstered by new revelations about the history of the vehicle.
A book titled “Qui a Tue Lady Di?” (Who Killed Lady Di?), published in May, revealed that the Mercedes 280 had a previous owner and had been stolen twice before the fateful night of August 31, 1997, when Diana was killed along with her new Egyptian friend Dodi Al-Fayed.
Their chauffeur Henri Paul, who was found to have an excessive amount of alcohol as well as anti-depressants in his blood, also died, while Diana’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones was badly injured and has little recall of the accident.
The car’s first owner, advertising tycoon Eric Bousquet, bought it in 1994.
It was stolen three months later, then found in a field near Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport with signs that it had rolled several times, according to the book by journalist Jean-Michel Caradec’h.
It was deemed a “wreck” and Bousquet was reimbursed by his insurer.
But the car was then overhauled and in 1996 went on sale at a Mercedes dealership in Paris.
Etoile Limousine bought it for around 40,000 euros ($47,000) and then leased the car to the Ritz Hotel in Paris for use by its VIP guests.
The Ritz, owned by the Al-Fayed family, is where Diana and Dodi dined just hours before the accident.
The head of Etoile Limousine, Jean-Francois Musa, told AFP that he was told the car had “been used by a Mercedes France executive” when he bought it.
But the high-end limousine company “realised very soon that there was a problem, that the car handled very badly at speeds higher than 70 to 80 kilometres per hour (43-50 mph),” Musa said, adding that the firm sent the car back to Mercedes to resolve the problem.
The vehicle was stolen a second time four months before the accident and then abandoned on a motorway.
It underwent 17,000 euros worth of repairs before rejoining the Etoile Limousine fleet and the Ritz garage where it was selected to chauffeur Diana.
The car was clocked hurtling along at between 126 and 155 kph when it entered the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris where it crashed.
Dodi’s billionaire father Mohammed Al-Fayed in 2008 abandoned his bid to prove that the British secret service was behind the deaths with the blessing of Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, to prevent Diana marrying a Muslim.
Al-Fayed also implicated Diana’s ex-husband Prince Charles, former prime minister Tony Blair, journalists and newspaper editors.