Diana's driver allowed to drink on duty, says former Ritz manager

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LONDON: Henri Paul, driver of the car carrying Princess Diana when she died in a Paris crash, had a “specific status which allowed him to drink alcohol while on duty, a former manager of the Ritz said Tuesday.

Paul has been blamed by separate British and French inquiries for the Aug. 31, 1997 crash which killed himself, Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed. He was accused of drinking and driving too fast.

Addressing a London inquest into the couple’s deaths, Thierry Rocher, former night manager at Paris’s Ritz hotel – owned by Fayed’s father Mohamed Al-Fayed – said he had disapproved of the decision to allow Paul to drive the Mercedes carrying Diana and Dodi but was not in a position to challenge him.

“Nobody was allowed to drink alcohol while on duty but Henri Paul had a specific status … at the hotel, Rocher said.

“Henri Paul reported directly to Mr Klein (president of the Ritz) and in his absence Mr Roulet (Mr Klein’s assistant).

Rocher said that any other employee would have been dismissed for drinking.

Jean-Francois Musa, owner of the company Etoile Limousines, which provided the car for the couple’s journey, said he was unhappy when he learned Paul would be the pair’s driver.

Musa said he was unhappy “because Mr Paul was not a driver and it was “totally unusual to have a car of the company being driven by an external person.

Mohamed Al Fayed, the owner of London’s plush Harrods department store, maintains his son and the princess were killed in a British establishment plot to prevent the possibility that the mother of Prince William, second in line to the throne, would marry a Muslim. -AFP

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