Diana's merc blocked by another car for paparazzi : witness

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London, Oct 25 (UNI) In another twist to the Diana inquest, the jury was told the mercedes carrying Britain's Princess was blocked by another car to give photographers a clear view of her moments before it crashed.

The dark Ford Mondeo-sized saloon car seemed to be part of a group of paparazzi scooters trying to slow down the Princess's car, a witness told the jury.

Earlier, ten paparazzi were arrested on suspicion of contributing to the crash in Paris by distracting Mercedes driver Henri Paul on August 31, 1997, but after a lengthy investigation none were prosecuted.

The coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker told the inquest jury the findings of the French investigation and a subsequent Metropolitan police inquiry are ''neither here nor there'' for the purposes of the inquest, and all issues, including the behaviour of the paparazzi, must be examined afresh, the Telegraph reported.

Oliver Partouche, a chauffeur, who was standing on the roadside waiting for a client near the Alma underpass, said at the time that the dark car appeared to form a ''compact group'' with several motorcyclists following the Princess's vehicle moments before it crashed.

Speaking to French police two hours after the crash, he estimated the Mercedes was travelling at 150km/h (93mph).

''In front of the Mercedes was a car, of which I could not tell you the make,'' he said in his statement.

''It was dark in colour and clearly this car was trying to make the Mercedes slow down. The Mercedes was black. I think it was an S Class 500.'' ''The object of the manoeuvre was to make it possible for the paparazzi to take photographs.'' In the same statement he referred to the dark car as ''the blocking vehicle'' and said the Mercedes had pulled out past it.

''The vehicle in front of the Mercedes did not perform any dangerous manoeuvres on the road to prevent it (the Mercedes) getting past,'' Mr Partouche added in a later statement made to a French examining magistrate.

Giving evidence by videolink from Paris to the inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr Partouche said he now thought the Mercedes had been travelling slower than his first estimate but still ''very very fast''.

Following it were ''a number of motorcycles''.

''I was just of the impression of a kind of a group, with in the front of the group the car and the motorcycles just behind at the same speed,'' he said.

UNI

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