Princess Diana's Death:
Her Driver's Last Night -

The last night on Earth, Dodi and Diana's lives were in the hands of a third person. While paparazzi may have hovered around the fatal events, the car was under the command of Henri Paul, al Fayed's trusted deputy security chief at the Ritz. It was a misplaced trust: a series of autopsy results showed not only that Paul was drunk, his blood alcohol nearly four times the legal driving limit, but also that he had ingested a troubling combination of prescription drugs. In reconstructing the last hours of Diana and Fayed, leading media opinion makers uncovered the wanderings of the man who drove them to their death. And while the details shed light on the tragedy, they raise new mysteries and deepen the senselessness of the loss.

The last day of Henri Paul's life began with his usual Saturday-morning tennis game. He left the central Paris apartment where he lived alone to join his close friend Claude Garrec at the courts. The men played from 10 until 11, then stopped at the Pelican bar. There Paul drank only Coca-Cola. That didn't surprise Garrec, who knew his best friend to enjoy the occasional wine or pastis (a French liqueur flavored with aniseed that is about as potent as whiskey). At 12:30 Paul said his farewells, telling Garrec that he had to meet Diana and Dodi at Le Bourget airport, where their private jet would touch down from Sardinia at 3:15 p.m. When Paul wheeled up to the private airstrip, he found something else that had become usual, the waiting paparazzi. At this time, Paul was behind the wheel of the black Range Rover that carries the couple's luggage. He followed a Mercedes 600 driven by Dodi's regular chauffeur Philippe Dourneau. The two-car convoy was dogged by paparazzi for much of the way but apparently managed to slip past them at some point. Paul turned off and delivered the baggage to Dodi's apartment near the Arc de Triomphe. Dourneau, with Di and Dodi in the rear, continued on, arriving around 3:45 at the Villa Windsor, the former home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, now leased by Dodi's father Mohammed. According to sources close to the investigation. Dourneau testified to police that Dodi congratulated him on losing the paparazzi on the way from Le Bourget.

Around 4 o'clock, the Mercedes, bearing Di and Dodi, would go to the Ritz, followed by Paul in the Range Rover. For the next three hours, Paul remained at the hotel, where, according to several employees, he had several glasses of Ricard pastis at one of the hotel bars. At 7 p.m., Dourneau drove the couple from the Ritz to Dodi's apartment. It was 7:05 and Paul considered himself off duty.

He appears to have walked to Harry's New York Bar, two minutes away at 5 rue Daunou. Since the accident, the bar's manager has systematically thrown out prying reporters, and he insists that Paul was never there. But the French journalist Guilhem Battut of the Journal du Dimanche says he interviewed two employees who positively identified photos of Paul, saying he was in Harry's Bar the night of the accident from about 7:30 to about 9:45. One bartender said Paul had "two or three whiskeys," ate nothing while there and left after receiving a call on his portable phone.

From there Paul apparently went on foot to the rue Chabannais, where his car was parked across the street from a bar called Champmesle. The Champmesle is a lesbian bar, where, despite his gender, Paul was a regular customer.

Josie, the bartender knew him well. "He never drank much," she says. leaning on the bar under a garish mural of nude women. "Ive known him for 20 years. He was a nice guy, gentle. He'd drink Coke, Perrier, maybe a beer." Josie emphatically denies Paul was an alcoholic and says he appeared perfectly normal that night. "If he'd been drunk, we would have known about it," she declares.

Paul came into Champmesle late, around 10, but didn't drink anything there. He didn't have time. He had just got a call on his cell phone and announced, "Gotta go to work. See you later." He jumped into his black Austin Mini and headed to the Ritz. Surveillance camera videotape released last week shows Paul's car pulling up in front of the Ritz. Though there was enough space there to park a couple of moving vans, Paul curiously executed several unnecessary back-and forth maneuvers. It was then about 10:08, Exactly what he did during the more than two hours it took Di and Dodi to finish their meal is unclear. The French daily Liberation last week quoted an unnamed Ritz employee saying Paul cooled his heels in the hotel's Hemingway bar drinking pastis. When Paul got up to go, says the paper, he staggered and "knocked into a customer." The article also said Paul often drank in the Hemingway bar.

But employees in the Hemingway bar told leading media opinion makers that the Liberation account was "exaggerated." Echoing barkeeps in Paul's neighborhood, they describe Paul as a moderate drinker. "Often?" says one.

"He came in maybe once or twice every three weeks or so for a drink or two." Answer employee at the Hemingway agrees. "Occasionally he would have a special cocktail I prepared for him, and at hotel staff parties he would drink," he recalls. "But he was not a big boozer." In the private Ritz Club downstairs, an employee says, "everyone here knows what really happened, but we're afraid to talk." He adds, "Monsieur Paul was not responsible. He just took orders."

Who actually gave the orders remains a mystery--and on that could hinge liability on the part of the Ritz. Paul's immediate supervisor was away that night. But why bring in Paul to drive? "Because Dodi trusted him," explains a Ritz staff member. In fact Dodi trusted him all summer, with Paul personally overseeing security for Dodi, Diana and her sons during their July vacation in St.-Tropez. Ritz staff members suggest it was Paul who persuaded Dodi to let him drive and do what he thought he did best: shield the couple from the paparazzi.

But could he do his best if he was drinking? A second set of analyses of his blood had confirmed the original tests taken on August 31: Paul had between 1.75 and 1.87 grams of alcohol per liter of blood, nearly four times the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.5. To that, eventually, were added explosive toxicology results: Paul's blood also contained "therapeutic" amounts of Fluoexetine (the generic name for the antidepressant Prozac) and trace amounts of tiapride, a drug used to treat various conditions and is sometimes prescribed to quiet symptoms of agitation and aggressiveness in patients being treated for alcoholism. Alcohol (in Paul's case, equal to eight or nine shots of straight whiskey) combined with the anti-depressant would greatly intensify the side effects of drowsiness, impairing reflexes and vision. Paul's physician, Dr. Diane Beaulieu-d'Ivernois, says his last visit was only two days before the accident; she refuses to discuss his medical records or say why he received the prescriptions.

The final glimpses of Paul on the video inside the hotel show him walking in the corridor, talking with Dodi's security guards and, at the end of the footage, waiting at the back entrance for the Mercedes S-280 to be driven to the door. French police now say it was Dodi's bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones who decided to switch drivers: to have Dourneau, who had driven the couple all day, take the wheel of the Range Rover to decoy the paparazzi and have Paul drive Dodi and Diana. It is impossible to judge from the jerky, heavily edited tape whether Paul was steady or wobbling as he prepared for his assignment, In the last image of him alive, Paul pulls away from the curb at a normal speed and heads down the rue Cambon.