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Diana: Scandal of body mix-up

UK Daily Mail | September 25 2006

BUNGLING French officials mistook the body of Princess Diana’s lover for her driver in the hours after the fatal crash.

The astonishing development, revealed for the first time by the Daily Express today, is one of a catalogue of blunders which plunged the inquiry into chaos from day one.

Professor Dominique Lecomte – the pathologist who faces an investigation over the mix-up – registered driver Henri Paul with the number 2146.

But this had already been assigned to Dodi Fayed’s body and Paul should have been given number 2147.

The numbers were scribbled on bracelets attached to the right wrists of each corpse. Lawyers and medics fear blood samples which were said to prove that Paul was high on drink and drugs may in fact belong to someone not connected to the crash.

A lawyer who has worked on the case for nine years said: "This terrible error illustrated exactly how over-worked and inefficient many of the staff had become.

"When you’re dealing with the death of the mother of the future King of Britain this is totally unacceptable. Worst of all it was one of a series of mistakes which have compromised all the initial evidence.

The lawyer added: "The first 24 hours after any tragedy is crucial for gathering the best evidence. In this respect, the French failed to do their job properly."

Such errors have finally emerged after France decided to re-open the case.
When Paul’s body was transferred to the Place Mazas mortuary following the crash in August 1997, there were at least 24 other bodies there.

"If the French authorities were able to mix up Paul’s body with Dodi Fayed’s then it’s pretty clear that they were able to mix up blood samples too," a French legal source close to the case said.

"This is a complete scandal and adds weight to all the conspiracy theories."

Another source said: "These [errors] were not simply a result of over-work but a series of deliberate fabrications and falsifications to show that the driver Henri Paul was drunk and under the influence of drugs."

Lecomte worked through the night examining and then writing a report on Diana’s body at the Pitie Salpetriere hospital in Paris.

She then went to the city’s Medical Legal Institute to examine and report on Dodi and Paul’s bodies.

But she faces severe criticism for a number of lapses, including:
Allowing blood samples taken from Paul’s body to remain in an unguarded refrigerator for 24 hours.

Allowing samples to be stored alongside others belonging to different people. Not taking DNA samples from Paul which would prove the blood was his.

Such errors have confirmed that the French director of public prosecutions was right to authorise a judge to re-examine evidence provided by forensic experts.

Reports by Lecomte, France’s most senior pathologist, and Dr Gilbert Pepin, who tested Paul’s blood, were central to the initial finding that the deaths were a simple road accident caused by a drunk-driver.

Paul was said to be more than three times over the legal drink limit when the Mercedes he was driving crashed into the underpass in Paris.

Doubts over the veracity of the blood tests led Thierry Bellancourt, France’s deputy chief judge, to order Lecomte and Pepin to be questioned again.

A source close to the investigation said: "It appears reports have been falsified. There have been many lies and much cheating in this inquiry."

Lecomte and Pepin could face criminal charges and prison sentences if their new depositions reveal that they lied in the past.

It now makes it impossible for investigators to say with certainty that Diana and Dodi died in a simple road accident and adds weight to claims of a cover-up.

While Lecomte testified on oath that she took just three blood samples from Paul, a log book shows five samples were taken, suggesting the extra samples may have been wrongly attributed to Paul.

Pepin said one sample he tested showed Paul had 1.74 grams per litre of alcohol in his blood.
But his finding is not supported by paperwork over a second blood test which gives widely differing readings for the amount of alcohol in Paul’s blood.

Bellancourt’s inquiry followed complaints from lawyers acting for Paul’s parents and Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al Fayed, the owner of Harrods and the Ritz hotel in Paris.

Mr Al Fayed has claimed that Diana was killed by MI6 and the blood tests were tampered with to cover up the murder plot.

He is convinced that the "window" provided between the blood samples being taken and finally tested allowed secret agents to replace them with someone else’s blood.

It is alleged blood samples from a suicide victim could have been swapped with Paul’s on the orders of the security services. This would explain why the readings found in the chauffeur’s blood were so extraordinary.

Tests carried out showed such high levels of carbon monoxide that Paul would have been unable to stand, let alone drive.

All of the new evidence has been given to Scotland Yard officers working on Oper-ation Paget, the British inquiry into Diana’s death led by former Met Police Commissioner Lord Stevens.

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