[back] Diana murder

Death-crash Paul "drank Diet Coke."



A KEY new witness has come forward to confirm that the chauffeur who drove Princess Diana to her death "drank nothing but Diet Coke and the odd beer".

The Daily Express can reveal that 41-year-old Henri Paul, pictured, had started going out with a 25-year-old French-Moroccan girlfriend three weeks before the tragedy.

She has told police: "He was by no means an alcoholic but a decent man who solely enjoyed a social drink like everyone else."

The revelation follows a decision by French legal authorities to reinvestigate the circumstances surrounding Diana's death after new doubts emerged over blood tests carried out on Paul.

An original French inquiry concluded that he was high on a lethal cocktail of drink and prescription drugs when he drove a Mercedes into the wall of a Paris underpass, killing himself, Diana, and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed.

Now, nine years after the crash, it appears all but certain that they got it terribly wrong. It has always been thought that Paul had no girlfriend since he split up with single mother Laurence Pujol, 32, just before the crash. This led to the French portraying Paul as a depressed bachelor who turned to strong spirits to control his mood swings.

But he was actually at the start of a new relationship with a pretty Moroccan student from Casablanca. The young woman, for whom the French have requested anonymity, had a key to Paul's flat, regularly slept there and had arranged to see him on the day before his death.

She was with him constantly as he visited bars and restaurants around Paris. Rather than order strong spirits � as some claim � he chose nothing but beer and soft drinks.

A French detective said: "She told us Paul had hardly drunk any alcohol and we see no reason to disbelieve her."

The woman enjoyed a first date with Paul in The Borgogne, a Paris bar, in early August 1997. Both drank Coke, although Paul also had a single Pelforth beer.

The woman did not have any transport home so slept at Paul's flat, close to the Ritz Hotel, where he was deputy head of security. In a statement to police, the woman revealed that on a later date they again went to The Borgogne.

She said: "I drank tea and a Devil Mint cocktail and he had a beer or two." She again slept at Paul's flat but, because it was early in their relationship, there were no sexual relations. She told police: "I also want to tell you that he acted like a very kind man."

Paris criminal brigade commander Jean-Paul Copetti has handed the woman's statements to British detectives working on Operation Paget, the 4million inquiry into Diana's death.

The new evidence strengthens the view that Paul's inebriated state became a convenient cover story to explain away far more sinister goings-on.

Although French police devoted 20 officers to Paul's last hours, they found no explanation as to how he allegedly built up 173 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood � three times the legal limit.

The conspiracy theorists, led by Dodi's father, Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed, believe Diana and his son were murdered by British security services because they were expecting a Muslim baby � something which was not acceptable to the Royal Family.