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Family of Diana Crash Driver Speak of Their Legal Battle

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by Adrian Addison and Angus Stickler

The parents of Henri Paul - the chauffeur blamed for the death of Princess Diana are taking action in the French Courts to try and clear his name. The French Authorities say he was drunk at the wheel. But in their first ever interview - the parents told have told the Today Programme - that they believe the blood sample taken at the time of the accident was not their son's. They are taking legal action to try and force the French authorities to release the blood for an independent DNA test.

It's five years this month since the death of Princess Diana and for five years the parents of the chauffeur Henri Paul have maintained their silence. But, they revealed in an exclusive interview with BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, they speak about how they've been forced to resort to the courts to obtain the blood samples taken at the time of the crash. They strongly refute allegations that their son was a heavy drinker, and believe that the blood tested possibly came from one of dozens of bodies held at the Paris morgue that night.

They say that levels of carbon monoxide found in the blood sample would incapacitate an adult - that their son would have been unable to walk let alone drive a car. They point to the fact that three days earlier their son passed a medical for his pilots licence. If he was an alcoholic, they say, he would have failed. So far the French Authorities have refused to release the blood. The parents say they will accept the result of an independent DNA test if it proves that the sample came from their son.

This is what they said:

How did you hear about your son's death?

Jean Paul: A telephone call at four in the morning.

Giselle Paul: From one of his colleagues who worked at the Ritz and who was worried that we would be surprised, that we would learn on the radio that there had been an accident. We found out he was dead but they didn't tell us who he was with. We didn't know he was with Dodi and Diana.

What went through your mind?

Giselle Paul: I thought straight away that we would have a lot more problems than if he had been, say, with one of his friends , given that he was with Diana. We understood that.

And there have been problems haven't there. The finger of blame points directly to your son. Do you accept this?

Giselle Paul: No. Not at all. We want to know the truth. We're certain that our son wasn't drunk. We don't accept it. For us, he was a good man, a good son. People say parents are often biased and that can be true but everyone who knew him, who lived with him said the same.

It's alleged he was a heavy drinker, that he was drunk the night of the accident. You're saying he wasn't. How can you prove that?

Jean Paul: Because we knew him since he was born.

Giselle Paul: Exactly. And, when you think about it, it would have been obvious if he was drunk. Dodi had another driver. He had his personal driver. Would have used a man who was drunk and who wasn't a professional driver? And also, there was a bodyguard there. you would have thought a bodyguard wouldn't let a drunk driver take them when there were other people around.

But there were two separate blood tests. Both of those showed a high alcohol count.

Jean Paul: We're not experts in pathology.

Giselle Paul: We're not experts. But I suppose if there were two they would show the same thing.

Jean Paul: There were 30 autopsies.

Giselle Paul: On the same night, there were others. You can imagine how they might have been mixed up. There could have been a mistake.

So you don't actually believe that this is your son's blood that they've tested?

Giselle Paul: That could be the case. That could be one reason. It could be that.

So what are you concerns about the investigation?

Giselle Paul: Since the beginning we haven't made any progress. The only thing we want is our son's blood... to re-do the tests and see if what they say is right. But that's always been refused to us. Always. We've had no success.

Surely this is your word against that of the authorities. How can you prove that your son wasn't drinking?

Giselle Paul: We can't. We can't prove it. He's dead. It's easy to attack a dead man. They said his liver was in perfect condition. And we would have known, we would have seen if he'd been drinking. The 28th of August, he passed his medical exam for his pilot's licence. Everything was fine. And three days later he was labelled alcoholic.

So you're saying it's ridiculous that he can be accused of being an alcoholic. But you also have concerns about the levels of carbon monoxide in his blood.

Giselle Paul: Yes. Yes. As far as carbon monoxide is concerned...

Jean Paul: It's inexplicable.

Giselle Paul: They found 20% of carbon monoxide in his blood. We're not experts, obviously. But whenever we talk to people who know about this, they say it's impossible. He wouldn't have been able to stand with that level in his blood.

So with this level of carbon monoxide in your son's blood you say that it's not his blood, that they've got the wrong blood.

Giselle Paul: Yes, that's right. They could easily have made a mistake with 30 autopsies done on the same day...It's possible they made a mistake.

So, what does this suggest to you? Do you think it was pure incompetence or something more sinister?

Giselle Paul: We can't explain it. We know it can happen because everyone can make a mistake.

Jean Paul: Incompetence maybe. Maybe ill will. Maybe both. But it must have been chaos that night, with 30 corpses on the table. 'I made a mistake'. No-one says that easily. Especially when important people are involved.

Basically what you want to do though, if I understand correctly, is you just want to clear your son's name.

Giselle Paul: Absolutely. That's the only thing. It's for his memory. No-one has the right to smear someone's name like that- and for what? We don't know why. We don't understand why anyone would want to say that my son was alcoholic.

Jean Paul: Who profits from that?

Giselle Paul: Who profits? Not me, not my son. And my son shouldn't leave the world like that - that image of him created by people when he wasn't anything like that.

And is that the thrust of the legal action that you're taking? That you want his blood to do a DNA test on him.

Giselle Paul: Yes, it's always been for that. It's always been to find that out. We're not pursuing anyone in particular. We're not accusing anyone of anything because we don't know. But it's always been about that, about getting his blood...

What reason have the French government given to you for refusing to give you his blood.

Giselle Paul: They don't give explanations. They don't say why. For us, it's as if we didn't exist.

Jean Paul: It feels like we're completely shut out. A wall.

Giselle Paul: We feel like.. if the President's dog was killed in an accident people would have cared more.

Taking this legal action must be an expensive business. How much is it actually costing?

Giselle Paul: It's not costing us anything because he had friends who look after us, fortunately. If not we couldn't have done anything. We haven't got the means. The state gives me a little over 600 euros a month. you do the maths!

Has Mr Al Fayed had anything to do..had a part to play in your action?

Giselle Paul: No. Not at all.

This is a difficult question. But do you not feel in any way, shape or form that five years on it would be better for all the relatives, yourselves, Princes William and Harry just to let the matter rest?

Giselle Paul: Only on condition that everyone else stops....

Jean Paul: Historically, the impression left is that our son was Princess Diana's assassin. It's false.

Giselle Paul: Every day, people lose their children on the roads. But people don't smear their name, as they have with our son. Given that Diana was involved as well, people will always say she was killed by her drunk driver. That's what we don't want. We want to change that. That's why we're carrying on.

If you get the blood and you get a DNA test and it turns out that it is your son's blood, what then?

Giselle Paul: Then we couldn't do any more. It would be too late. But they should have listened to us right from the beginning when we asked. It's too late. They've deliberately let the matter drag on.

Do you feel that you can properly grieve your son's death with all this going on?

Giselle Paul: How can we grieve and get over it? No. When we're..when it's just us. We can't. It's not possible. No.

Jean Paul: People seem to think you can close the door and that's it, you bounce back. But it's not like that. It eats us up, all the time. All our life...But I'm always hoping we'll make progress on the case.

Giselle Paul: And we're forced to return to it all the time. It's why I've tried to not to talk about it too much. It's too difficult, we have to go back to the same place.

Jean Paul: I sleep very badly. I've been an insomniac since it happened. And when I have nightmares I look for my son, my sons, all night. I try to get over it but there's always a part of me...

Giselle Paul: I never saw my son come back..you know..in a state... or anything. Never. If I had I would say. But it never happened. Never...