London, Feb 6 : Bitterness and resentment between two paparazzi may have generated the longest-running conspiracy theory about the death Princess Diana, the inquest into her death has heard.
Photographer James Andanson, who owned a white Fiat Uno, was ordered by French police in February 1998 to explain his movements in the early hours of August 31 1997 following an unidentified warning to officers in Britain, the court heard.
Andanson, who initially thought the summons was a prank pulled by a jealous colleague, denied he had been in the vicinity on the night of the crash.
Testifying on Feb 5, Jean Claude Mules, a retired major in the French Brigade Criminelle, told the jury that Andanson was able to support his explanation with documentary evidence and satisfied them that he was not the driver of a mystery white Fiat Uno believed to have been involved in the crash that killed Diana and Dodi Fayed.
But when French police were unable to trace the Fiat Uno, Mohamed al Fayed, Dodi's father, began to suspect that the crash in the Alma Tunnel in Paris was not an accident but the result of a murder plot organized by MI6 at the orders of the Duke of Edinburgh.
The jury was told that Al Fayed believes Andanson, whose body was found two years later in a burnt-out car, was an agent of the security services and is convinced that he was in the tunnel that night.
But Andanson, who sold his Fiat Uno shortly after the crash in October 1997, told police that he was at his home at Lignieres, 177 miles south of the French capital, at the time of the crash.
The jury was told that the paparazzo did indeed own a white Fiat Uno with a dent in it from an accident, but he claimed this had happened at least two years before the Alma Tunnel tragedy.
The court heard that French police have never been able to trace the car in question.
Andanson's statement was read to the court, in which the photographer said he had been at his home, Le Manoir, at Lignieres on the night of August 30, going to bed at 10.30pm as he had to rise early the next morning to catch a flight to Corsica for his work.
He produced motorway toll receipts, supported by credit card payments, proving that he drove from south to north, towards Paris, from 4am on the morning of the tragedy to catch the flight at Orly Airport on the outskirts of the capital.
But the statement ends by saying: "I am very sorry about my behaviour to the police following the summons that was addressed to me, thinking at first that it was a joke addressed to me."
Mules was asked by Nicholas Hilliard, for the coroner, to what this had been a reference.
"I have to specify the fact that Mr Andanson did not have a good reputation in his milieu. His colleagues and some people were envious of him and maybe one of his colleagues told on him," Mules said.