Page last updated at 19:20 GMT, Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Twist on last day of Diana evidence

By Lucy Rodgers
BBC News

Mohamed Al Fayed
Mohamed Al Fayed re-entered the witness box

It seemed the last day of evidence in the inquests into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed was going to be rather mundane.

After the headline-making appearances at the Royal Courts of Justice of Dodi's father, Mohamed, and former royal butler Paul Burrell, it appeared to be a day of tying up loose ends.

The morning was taken up with discussions centering on a vial of blood taken from driver Henri Paul after the fatal Paris car crash on 31 August 1997, which killed Mr Paul, along with Diana, 36, and Dodi, 42.

The blood sample taken from Mr Paul's body - showing his blood-alcohol level was twice the drink-drive limit for UK motorists - has been long disputed.

Don't try to follow us, you won't be able to catch up
What former Ritz doorman Frederic Lucard says driver Henri Paul told photographers

Some experts have told the inquest they question whether the blood samples tested came from him at all.

But under discussion on the final day of evidence was whether the vial of blood taken from Mr Paul arrived for a second set of tests at the laboratory of Dr Veronique Dumestre-Toulet with its seal "intact".

The jury was shown paperwork which appeared to show it had, while other documents appeared to show otherwise.

Getaway plans

The court also heard from Mr Frederic Lucard, who was working as an assistant doorman at the Ritz Hotel in Paris on the night of the crash and who was one of those who witnessed Diana and Dodi's now familiar final movements.

He described to the court how he had become involved in the couple's getaway plans after being asked to drive their Mercedes to the back of the hotel, ready for them to make their escape from waiting photographers at the front.

"I opened the door to the driver's side and kept the engine running," he said.

It will not be hours and it will not be weeks, so I shall do my best
Lord Justice Scott Baker on his summing-up

He told the jury Mr Paul had said "I'm going to take the wheel" before he warned what appeared to be nearby paparazzi on motorcycles "Don't try to follow us, you won't be able to catch up."

Mr Lucard said Mr Paul then drove off "very fast".

But drama returned once again to Court 73 with news that lawyers for Mohamed Al Fayed were applying to the High Court to overturn a decision not to call the Duke of Edinburgh to give evidence at the inquest.

Mr Al Fayed has long argued Prince Philip and MI6 were behind a plot to murder Diana and his son.

However, his application for judicial review, lodged on Monday night, was rejected before the President of the Queen's Bench Division, Sir Igor Judge, with Mr Justice Walker and Mr Justice Cross.

But while this appeared to end any hopes Mr Fayed had of calling Prince Philip to the witness box, it was not the last the court heard from Mr Fayed.

'Not a liar'

He was recalled to give evidence during the afternoon session to clarify an earlier statement he had made to the court on 18 February saying he had won a "case" in another legal matter. The jury was told the ruling had not, in fact, been available for another 10 days.

Mr Fayed, who was not resworn as he remained under oath, told the court he had not meant he had won the case, but had won the right to an appeal.

He added that he did not accept that he should be called "a liar" because of this. "I would like an apology. It seems unacceptable to call me a liar in front of the jury."

However the coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, left it to the jury to make up their own minds given Mr Fayed's explanation.

With all evidence now seen and heard, the coroner sent the jury in the five-month-long inquest away until March 31. But not before he gave them a warning to be prepared for his detailed summing-up to be a lengthy precis of what they had witnessed in the past few months.

"It will not be hours and it will not be weeks, so I shall do my best," he said.



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