Two hitmen on a motorcycle shone a powerful flashlight at Princess Diana’s car before it crashed, her inquest was told yesterday.
Francois Levistre was driving in front of the Mercedes when it crashed, killing Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed.
He told the jury the bike stopped and the pillion passenger walked over to the wrecked car, inspected it then signalled like a referee when a boxer is out for the count.
The passenger, dressed like the rider all in black, then signalled that they needed to move quickly out of the Alma tunnel in Paris, the inquest in London heard.
Asked why he had not left his car to help those in the crash, Mr Levistre answered: “Fear.” Asked what he had been afraid of, he replied: “Just like I said, I thought they were hitmen.”
Mr Levistre, giving his evidence via video link from Paris, told how he saw the “major white flash” from the motorbike in his rear view mirror as the bike overtook Diana’s car.
The Mercedes began immediately careering across the road before crashing into the concrete pillars in the central reservation of the dual carriageway in the tunnel, he said.
He told the jury in court 73 at the Royal Courts of Justice it was like the bright flash from a speed camera.
“The light was as if you are caught by police radar,” he said. “The light was very powerful. It came into my car. The light was not directed towards me. It was directed towards the car which was behind.”
The inquest, which is expected to hear evidence for six months before deciding how Diana and Dodi died, heard that after the crash the self-employed businessman had performed tests with different kinds of lights in the Alma tunnel.
He concluded that the intensity of the flash was much greater than that produced by a normal photographer’s flash. He also told the court that he had not seen any photographers in the tunnel in the immediate aftermath of the crash.
Mr Levistre, 63, from Rennes in Normandy, told the inquest he was driving through the French capital in a rented black Ford Ka after spending the day in the city with his wife and 10-year-old son.
He entered the riverside expressway from a sliproad near the entrance to the Alma tunnel after midnight on August 31 1997. A second later he saw in his mirror the motorbike overtake the car behind him and then the bright flash.
“When I saw this light I looked through the mirror in my car,” he said. “There I saw the car going from left to right to left again within the pillars. And then the car had no lights any more. Everything was switched off.”
As he reached the end of the tunnel and viewed the mangled wreckage in his mirror, he brought his car to a halt but left the engine running. He was frightened, fearing it might have been a type of gangland hit.
“I thought it could be as in the south of France when you have gangs and bands fighting together,” he told the court.
“They were dressed in all black with helmets. And the passenger went to the car, looked into the car – because from my mirror I could see everything that was happening – and the passenger he made a gesture with his hands,” the witness said, demonstrating a sign to indicate that it was over.
He told how the passenger then signalled that they should move straight ahead out of the tunnel and got back on the bike before the pair sped off, staring at the car’s occupants as they went by.
Ian Burnett, QC for the coroner, asked him: “Was there any reason you didn’t get out of the car?”
“Fear,” replied Mr Levistre. “It’s just like I said to the magistrates before, I thought they were hitmen.”
Mr Levistre also said he saw a small white car in the tunnel, but maintained there was no contact between that and the Mercedes. He could not confirm it was a Fiat Uno.
The first he heard that the crash victims were Diana and Dodi was when he was watching the television news at 1pm the next afternoon.
He and his family did not immediately report what they had seen to the police because they were scared, he told the inquest.
“We were in the situation in which we thought these two motorcyclists had gone to kill the other people in the car. And we were just scared.”
He told the court that after the crash he had remained in his car for between two and five minutes before driving off without getting out.
When he saw television coverage of the crash, however, he decided to speak out.
“I could hear the word ‘paparazzi, paparazzi,’ but actually I knew that there were no photographers, I knew that there was nobody else up there,” he said.
By the time they arrived he had left the scene, according to his evidence. He got in touch with the Ritz Hotel, which passed his details on to police who soon asked him for an interview.
He reluctantly gave them a statement on September 1 1997 and in April 1998 he also gave a statement to Judge Herve Stephen, the examining magistrate leading the French investigation into the crash.
He told Mr Burnett that French police “looked down on him” when he gave his deposition.
During a long period of questioning Mr Burnett raised several examples where the witness had contradicted himself in statements he had given to police, magistrates and the media as well as yesterday’s inquest.
He had changed his story about whether he had seen the Mercedes actually hit the pillar and had also contradicted himself about the speed he was doing when he got onto the expressway, the court was told.
But Mr Levistre insisted that the French authorities had made up parts of his statements – which he had never read properly – in an attempt to discredit him and that what he had told the court yesterday was the truth
AOL just printed the above photo at the top of their news page. So where are the press? Where are the Doctors, where are the police? And who is driving the black car away over the tyre marks of another car? The roof is still on the Merc- so Trevor must still be in there? Look at the steam rising… the same photo was heavily cropped to the left in the Daily Mail.
The above testimony is corroborated perfectly by Richard Tomlinson’s historic affidavit given to Judge Herve Stephan’s inquiry into Princess Diana’s death. A former MI6 officer, Tomlinson says he saw plans to assassinate Slobodan Milosovic which bore a strong resmblance to Princess Diana’s fatal crash.
According to Tomlinson: “This third scenario suggested that Milosevic could be assassinated by causing his personal limousine to crash. Dr Fishwick proposed to arrange the crash in a tunnel, because the proximity of concrete close to the road would ensure that the crash would be sufficiently violent to cause death or serious injury, and would also reduce the possibility that there might be independent, casual witnesses. Dr Fishwick suggested that one way to cause the crash might be to disorientate the chauffeur using a strobe flash gun, a device which is occasionally deployed by special forces to, for example, disorientate helicopter pilots or terrorists, and about which MI6 officers are briefed about during their training. In short, this scenario bore remarkable similarities to the circumstances and witness accounts of the crash that killed the Princess of Wales, Dodi Al Fayed, and Henri Paul. I firmly believe that this document should be yielded by MI6 to the Judge investigating these deaths, and would provide further leads that he could follow.”