Diana Inquiry Nearing Conclusion In Paris - Brake Failure Mentioned
The official investigation into the car crash that killed Diana, Princess of Wales, will be concluded by the end of October, prosecutors have said.
In a rare public statement - there have only been three since the investigation began - the Paris prosecutor's office said the chief magistrate, Judge Herve Stephan, has yet to examine issues that have arisen late in the investigation.
These include:
Could Diana's life have been saved if she had been immediately transferred to hospital? Medical experts have criticised the decision to treat the princess at the scene.
Was the driver, Henri Paul, suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning? Blood tests indicate this may be the case.
Were the limousine's brakes working properly? The brakes had recently been overhauled, leading the company that leased the limousine to the Ritz to suggest that they could have failed.
Did the limousine's air bags inflate early? The limousine would have been extremely difficult to control if the air bags had inflated due to a small initial impact, perhaps with another vehicle.
Was the Ritz involved in a cover-up? Ritz barman Alain Willaumez claims that the Ritz Hotel president, Frank Klein, told him to say Mr Paul - also an employee of the Ritz - had only drunk fruit juice on the night of the accident. Mr Willaumez in fact testified that Mr Paul was "staggering" as he left the hotel to drive Diana.
France's longest car crash inquiry
The prosecutor's office said it had released the statement in response to media pressure prior to the forthcoming anniversary of the accident.
Investigators initially blamed the accident that claimed the lives of Diana and her companion Dodi Fayed on the driver, Mr Paul, who was also killed.
Mr Paul was driving at "excessive speed" with more than twice the criminal limit of alcohol in his blood at the time of the crash.
The latest statement said 153 potential witnesses had been interviewed so far in what is France's longest car crash investigation to date.
It also suggested that police were stepping up their search for a white Fiat Uno that investigators are convinced collided with Diana's limousine and may have contributed to the fatal crash.
The owners of nearly 3,000 Fiat Unos have been questioned or will be questioned soon.
The hunt for the Fiat Uno had been "quietly shelved" after it failed to provide a result, but it appears to have been revived in the wake of eye witness accounts, paint scrapings from the limousine and samples of broken glass that strongly indicate the car does exist.
Judge Stephan is also believed to be examining the possibility that the Ritz is at least partially responsible for the accident.
He questioned Ritz president Mr Klein and Ritz director Claude Roulet last week.
The Ritz has declined to comment on the questions they were asked.
On Monday, owner of the Ritz, Mohamed Fayed, father of Dodi Fayed, created fresh controversy by accusing Ritz bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones - the only survivor of the crash - of causing the accident through "unprofessional practices".
He also blamed the driver of the "decoy" car on the night of the accident, Kes Wingfield.
Mr Fayed had previously staunchly supported Mr Rees-Jones and offered him a job for life.
Both men have since left Mr Fayed's employment.
The statement by the crash investigators has leant little substance to Mr Fayed's claim that the crash was the result of a conspiracy.
Legal experts close to the case have said that even if the investigation is wound up in October, it could take several more months for the judges to publish their findings.