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Di's Last Moments: A Salute And A Flash

Striking images from a countdown to death: Princess Diana salutes her driver; the driver waves to paparazzi lurking at the back of the Ritz Hotel; officially declared drunk at the time, the driver squats to tie his shoes without so much as a wobble.

These decade-old scenes collected from 31 security cameras at the Hotel Ritz in Paris were shown Thursday to a jury that eventually must decide what, if anything, they signify about how the driver, the princess and her boyfriend came to die in a car crash.

Much of the imagery presented Thursday showed the growing crowd of photographers and bystanders at the front of the hotel hoping to see Diana with Dodi Fayed, her latest boyfriend.


Photos: Diana's Last Photos
The action, however, was at the back of the hotel at the service entrance, where Diana and Fayed are seen standing for seven minutes waiting for their car, his left arm protectively around her waist.

Henri Paul, the driver who died with the couple in the early hours of Aug. 31, 1997, is seen popping in and out of the service entrance, apparently looking for the car.


Timeline: Diana's Final Hours
As midnight approaches, an elaborate plan is in place. Decoy cars move to distract attention, reports CBS New correspondent Sheila MacVicar.

Minutes before the car arrives, he spots photographers Serge Benhamou and Jacques Langevin standing on the opposite side of the Rue Cambon. Paul waves, and goes back inside.

In another scene, he talks to the Diana and Fayed, and the princess responds with a left-handed salute. Once the car arrives, the couple jump in, Paul takes the wheel and they are off within seconds, pursued by photographers Benhamou, Langevin, David Odekerken and Fabrice Chassery.


Photos: Images From The Inquest
About 15 minutes later, Paul lost control in the Pont d'Alma tunnel. Bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones was the only survivor.

Paul, the acting head of security at the hotel, is a key figure. French and British police both concluded that he had double the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, and lost control of the car as it raced ahead of pursuing photographers.

One of the puzzles of the night is why the couple had suddenly become so camera-shy.

"In all the years I traveled with Diana, the first thing I ever did if there was an intrusion, I always made my way to the paparazzi and said, 'What do you want here?'" former Royal Protection officer Ken Wharfe told MacVicar.

"They want thing one and only," said Wharfe. "A picture."

Fayed's father, Mohamed al Fayed, claims that Paul was a paid informer for French and British intelligence services, that he was not drunk, that blood tests were faked and that Paul was somehow induced to take the route that led to the tunnel.


Lord Justice Scott Baker, introducing the videos Thursday, said jurors would see Paul "coming down the stairs, bending down and balancing whilst tying his shoelaces, and there is no indication that his movements were affected by alcohol; certainly not that you can see on the CCTV film."

"On the other hand, the experts who have considered this topic are all agreed that some individuals have such a degree of tolerance to alcohol that they may give the appearance of being sober to a casual observer, even when their blood alcohol concentration is in excess of twice the legal limit," Baker added.

Paul, who also is seen bounding upstairs two steps at a time, was called back to the hotel at about 10 p.m. on Aug. 30, 1997, to execute Fayed's instructions that the couple be taken from the hotel to his apartment.

Many of the images seen Thursday showed Paul conferring with night security chief Francois Tendil, bodyguards Rees-Jones and Kes Wingfield, and hotel night manager Thierry Rocher. Paul is seen going out the front of the hotel five times, apparently to assess the security situation as the crowd at the Place Vendome grew.

Diana and Fayed had been swarmed by paparazzi when they arrived in the afternoon. Rocher said Fayed came to him "and asked me why there had been a mess on his arrival," according to a statement read by Baker.

"He asked me to let Mr. Paul know that a third car would be ready in Rue Cambon and that they would leave via that exit," Rocher's statement said. "This information was to remain confidential and only Mr. Paul was to be informed."

In response to a question by Michael Mansfield, who heads al Fayed's legal team, Metropolitan Police Inspector Paul Carpenter said Paul was seen apparently speaking to paparazzi in front of the hotel during the evening, including in his last foray into the Place Vendome shortly after midnight.

But Carpenter, responding again to Mansfield, said there was no image that indicated that Paul spoke to the photographers at the back of the hotel before he sped off.

He still seems startled by the camera flash, reports MacVicar.

Security cameras show that most of the paparazzi stayed at the front of the hotel, attracting a growing number of sightseers through the night.

Langevin, Chassery and a third photographer, Christian Martinez, later were prosecuted for invasion of privacy for taking photos of the smashed car. After a series of appeals, each was fined a token $1.41 last year.

The jury has a day off Friday and will go to Paris next week to see the hotel, the tunnel and other locations.