[back] Diana murder


By GREG SWIFT in Millau
Daily Express June 9, 2000

THE SHADY dealings and secret meetings that led to top paparazzi cameraman James Andanson being linked with Princess Diana's death may ultimately have caused his own. Andanson's barely-identifiable remains were found in his burned-out car in a French woodland last month.

Initially, police believed that he had committed suicide; but now there is growing speculation that he may have been murdered. His widow Elizabeth, 45, was yesterday at their luxurious farmhouse in central France, still stunned by his death but unable to believe that he had killed himself.

Meanwhile, confidential police forensic reports - seen by the Daily Express - about Andanson's possible role in the Diana tragedy potentially place him squarely at the centre of events.

They indicate that paintwork and plastics from a white Fiat Uno owned by Andanson, 54, match exactly evidence recovered from Diana's Mercedes which had clipped a Uno before crashing in a Paris tunnel in August 1997.

Those findings, coupled with question marks about an alibi Andanson gave to prove he was not in Paris on the night Diana died, have led to fears that his death may be connected to the Paris crash. For Elizabeth, the mystery surrounding his death has only added to the agonies she has suffered since losing her husband of more than 20 years.

Reminders of him are everywhere in their home, built 10 years ago with the profits made from years of chasing stars and royals across Europe.

On the edge of Lignieres village, the house called Le Manoir de la Bergerie has a Union flag fluttering in the garden, a symbol, his wife said, of Andanson's great affection for Britain.

Mrs Andanson said she could not begin to understand the circumstances of his death and still waited for the police to provide some answers.

The elegant, attractive widow said: "James came home on May 4 from a job in Paris and left almost at once for another job. That was not unusual and in all the years of our marriage I had got used to him dashing in and out without saying where he had been or where he was going. There were periods when we hardly saw each other.

"I had assumed he was going back to Paris but the next day a gendarme came to see me and told me a body had been found inside a car in Nant, in southern France, and they thought it was James.

"I was too shocked. My reaction was one of utter disbelief. There had been nothing unusual about James before he had left. Everything had been normal and now this awful news.

"The next day the police came round once more and told me that they had identified the body in the car as being my husband's, from DNA results. The judge investigating the case in Millau has told me that she excludes no explanation for the tragedy but I have heard nothing for some time now. I am not sure what happened or why. My husband had been stressed for a while before he died but I put that down to the normal stresses of being a journalist. Did he have any enemies? There were none that I knew of but then, in his line of work, anything was possible."

Andanson was well-known on the paparazzi circuit, which operates around the Mediterranean during the summer. Starting at St Tropez in southern France, it spreads round the coast to northern Italy, a haven for celebrities from May to August.

While Andanson would photograph any celebrity, he had made a speciality of travelling around Europe snapping royals, in particular the British Royal Family, while working for the Sigma and lately the Sypa photographic agencies in France.

It is rumoured that he once made GBP 100,000 from a picture of Prince Charles kissing royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke while they were skiing with his sons in Klosters.

Andanson was at the head of the paparazzi chasing Diana around the Mediterranean in the weeks before she died, but his wife insisted that he was doing no more than he would have done in any summer.

"James travelled to St Tropez every summer, it was part of his routine," she said. "He would always be photographing on that circuit and I would often travel down to see him and stay with him there.

"He was not hounding Diana during that period - he spent two months in that area every year.

"But I didn't keep a track of his movements as he was always rushing in and out. When he was at home, he was at home. When he was off on a job, he was on a job. Police have given me no hard evidence and until they do, I will have no firm opinion. There is no point in my trying to guess if it was suicide or murder."

It will now be the task of Alain Durand, the public prosecutor at the High Court of Millau, to run an investigation that will seek to establish the true cause of his death.

The location of Andanson's death is suspicious in itself. Instead of driving the 190 miles north to Paris, Andanson's car travelled in the opposite direction, ending up almost 400 miles south of his home, on the Larzac plateau near Montpellier. Taking a narrow, unmarked road, his car was driven to a tiny hamlet called Les Lassiques Basses where it turned off on to a dusty, pot-holed farm track.

Two miles later, and surrounded by empty countryside, his car turned off the track and bounced almost a mile uphill across a cow field before crashing through dense forest to a clearing that few locals knew existed.

Yesterday a trail of melted metal led to the huge patch of scorched earth and trees that marks the spot where Andanson's body was found.

Farmer Julian Christian, 37, who owns the land, was one of the first at the scene after the alarm had been raised by a nearby army base, whose sentries spotted smoke on the horizon. The isolation of the location meant that by the time anyone arrived, the fire had gone out. Mr Christian said: "I came into this clearing and the car was badly melted. The glass had shattered, you could still feel the heat and the driver's body, well, it was hardly there."

Police and justice officials are still refusing to commit themselves to an opinion on Andanson's death. A court official said: "We are considering the evidence before making up our minds."

Mrs Andanson would not be drawn on making a connection between her husband's death and the crash which killed Diana. She said: "When our Fiat Uno was impounded by the police I was very worried about what might happen but James stayed calm. Eventually, the police said they were satisfied that the car was not the one that was supposed to have been involved in the crash."

BUT ACCORDING to the reports seen by the Daily Express - and which eventually ruled out Andanson's car being the one involved in the Diana tragedy - there are distinct matches between his car and the samples salvaged from Diana's crashed Mercedes.

A report says: "The comparative analysis of the infra-red spectra characterising the vehicle's original paint, reference Bianco 210, and the trace on the rear view mirror of the Mercedes shows that their absorption bands are identical." It goes on: "The comparative analysis between the infra-red spectra characterising the black polymer taken from the vehicle's fender, and the trace taken from the door of the Mercedes, shows that their absorption bands are identical."

Question marks have also been raised about the alibi used by Andanson to prove that he was not in Paris on the night of the crash. Andanson told detectives that he had been at home until 3.45am on August 31, when he travelled to Orly airport and caught a flight to Corsica.

His son James, now 20 - his daughter Kimberley is 12 - told police he thought his father was grape harvesting in Bordeaux and had phoned home that morning at about 4.30am.

By contrast, Elizabeth Andanson gave a statement saying that she had been at home with her husband and he had left at 4am.

Yesterday, she explained the inconsistencies by saying: "It was always very difficult to recall James's precise movements because he was always coming and going.

"The family was very used to that and so never paid a great deal of attention to the times he came and went."

The doubts surrounding James Andanson's death have alerted Mohamed Al Fayed, whose son Dodi was killed in the Paris crash with Diana.

Yesterday, the Harrods boss's head of security John Macnamara said: "Mr Al Fayed has never accepted that this was a simple traffic accident.

"He believes that his son and the Princess of Wales were murdered and he is quite sure that the truth will emerge in the fullness of time.

"Mr Andanson had for some time been a prime suspect who had relentlessly pursued Diana and Dodi prior to their arrival in Paris.

"We have always believed that Andanson was at the scene and that more investigation should have been done into his possible involvement.

"We believe that his death is no coincidence and that this is a line of inquiry which may help to discover the truth. Was Mr Andanson killed because of what he knew? That is a question we want answered."