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Thursday, January 1, 1998 Published at 12:05 GMT


White Fiat seen near Diana crash site

More evidence that a white Italian-made car was involved in the crash that killed Diana, Princess of Wales, and her friend, Dodi Al Fayed, has been produced by French police.

In a leaked report to the investigating magistrate, police quote two witnesses - known as Francoise and Valery to protect their identities - as saying they saw the Fiat Uno zigzagging out of the tunnel in Paris, seconds after the crash.

BBC's Stephen Jessel reports from Paris on the investigation into the fatal crash (0'53")
They say the driver was a European man of about 40 with brown hair. He had a large dog in the back of his car and the vehicle had a noisy exhaust. He kept looking over his shoulder and cut in front of the witnesses' vehicle.

Not immediately realising the significance of what they had seen, Francois and Valerie waited three weeks before contacting investigators, officials said.

[ image: The wreck of the Princess's Mercedes S280]
The wreck of the Princess's Mercedes S280
Since the crash on August 31, police have checked more than 3,000 vehicles fitting the description, but have not managed to establish a link to the accident.

They have been following leads suggesting that a white Fiat Uno built between 1983 and 1989 was involved. Traces of paint and broken glass pointed to such a car having hit the Princess's Mercedes S280.

Police are reported to have found one owned by a man with a large dog who recently had his car repainted red. However, they found no evidence to link him to the accident.

Causes of crash agreed

Checks will continue in 1998 despite criticism that the Diana probe has tied up precious resources that might be better used elsewhere.

Judge Herve Stephan is not expected to wrap up the inquiry until next summer even though the causes of the crash are generally agreed, justice sources said.

Judge Stephan has placed nine press photographers and a motorcyclist under investigation on suspicion that they chased Diana's car and contributed to the accident, or failed to come to the aid of accident victims.

But excessive speed and alcohol appear to be to blame rather than the photographers, investigators say.

They found that driver Henri Paul was driving at a very high speed and had a criminal level of alcohol in his blood at the time of the crash.

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