Millions of people around the world were stunned when they learned Princess Diana had died in a car accident in Paris more than two decades ago. Her death sparked a slew of questions as well as a slew of conspiracy theories. The princess’s death was investigated as a result of the chaos that occurred that night, and the driver of the limousine that was transporting Diana was found to be at fault.
Here’s more on Henri Paul, including how he became the Princess of Wales’ driver that night and who claims he’s just a scapegoat.
Moments before the fatal car accident
Princess Diana began dating Dodi Fayed, the son of former Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, a year after her high-profile divorce from Prince Charles. On Aug. 30, 1997, the two were in Paris together and dined at the Imperial Suite of the Ritz Hotel. They left the Ritz shortly before midnight on their way to Fayed’s place. To avoid the paparazzi, they exited the hotel through the back door. The photographers, on the other hand, were waiting for them there and gave chase as soon as Diana and Fayed left in a Mercedes S-280 limousine driven by Henri Paul.
Paul was driving at a high rate of speed in order to get away from the paparazzi following them. The car collided with a pillar inside the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, which is only a few miles from the hotel.
Diana was still alive and suffering from multiple injuries while Paul and Fayed were killed instantly. She was taken to the La Pitie Salpetriere Hospital, where doctors tried unsuccessfully to save her life, but she died on Aug. 31, 1997. Trevor Rees (previously Rees-Jones), their bodyguard, was the only one in the car who survived the accident.
Henri Paul’s job and how he became Princess Diana’s driver
Many people have wondered who Paul was and how he came to be Princess Diana’s driver on that fateful night over the years.
He was born on July 6, 1956, in Lorient, France, according to the Sun. In his twenties, he enlisted in the French Air Force and rose to the rank of captain. Later, he moved into the field of security and was hired as an assistant to the director of security at the Ritz Hotel in Paris. He was the acting head of security at the time of his death.
When Diana arrived in Paris, Paul picked her up from the Le Bourget airport. He agreed to return to the Ritz Hotel after his shift ended and drive the two to Fayed’s apartment near the Arc de Triomphe. Those who witnessed him that day said he was “overjoyed” to be the princess’s chauffeur. What Paul did in the three hours between the end of his shift and the couple’s arrival at the hotel is unknown, and it remains a mystery to this day.
An inquest found Paul responsible for the princess’s death, but his family doesn’t buy that
According to an investigation into the death of the People’s Princess, Paul was inebriated that night and should not have driven. The jury foreperson said at the 2008 inquest:
The Mercedes’ speed and manner of driving, the speed and manner of driving of the following vehicles, and the Mercedes’ driver’s judgement being impaired by alcohol all contributed to the crash, and there are nine of us who agree with those conclusions. Furthermore, the fact that the deceased [were] not wearing seatbelt(s), the fact that the Mercedes struck the pillar in the Alma Tunnel rather than colliding with something else, and we are unanimous on that, all contributed to the deceased’s death.
“The concentration of alcohol present in his blood at the time of his death would, unequivocally, have adversely affected his ability to safely control a motor vehicle,” a Scotland Yard investigation concluded.
Paul’s family, on the other hand, has a different perspective. Jean, Paul’s father, previously claimed in an interview with The Mirror that Paul was “collateral damage” in a plot to prevent Princess Diana from marrying a Muslim man.
“My son and Diana were both killed. Jean told the publication, “I believe they were both murdered.” “My son was simply collateral damage in a plot to assassinate Diana, and he was assassinated as well.”