London, March 12 : Henri Paul, the man who drove Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed on the day of the fatal car crash in Paris in August 1997, took "too many risks" on the couple's final journey, the inquest into their deaths has heard.
Paparazzo Romuald Rat, who took pictures of the dying Princess, told the jury that the Mercedes carrying Diana, "took off, like shot off", once it hit the Champs Elysee in a bid to lose the chasing pack of paparazzi.
The inquest heard that minutes later Paul crashed the car in a tunnel, killing him, Diana and Dodi.
"I did not understand why the Mercedes suddenly drove so quickly since every had gone so well during the day and a normal chauffeur knows that is not the way that you shake someone off. He took too many risks," the Daily Express quoted Rat, as saying.
A French investigation has already cleared the paparazzi of causing the crash, in August 1997.
Rat and other paparazzi have refused to attend the inquest into Diana's death. However, police statements from several paparazzi who were on the scene that night are being read to the jury, either by videolink from Paris or in person at the London inquest.
Rat claimed that Paul frequently came out of the back of the Ritz, before the couple left, to talk to the photographers and "broadly speaking he was mocking us."
He recalled that at one point one of the photographers had said: "I think he (Paul) has been drinking."
Later, Paul was found to be over the drink-drive limit.
But this was challenged by the lawyer acting for Paul's parents, who said there was "no evidence" to suggest that the chauffer was drunk.
Rat was among seven photographers arrested at the scene of the crash. He admits to being a "leading pursuer" as the couple left the Ritz Hotel and probably one of the first on the scene.
However, according to Tom de la Mare, for the Ritz Hotel, several discrepancies, including a "down right lie" are apparent from Rat's statements.