October 30, 2007

Di crash paparazzi in hiding

LONDON: The first photographer on the scene of Princess Diana’s fatal crash has gone into hiding to avoid giving evidence at her inquest.

Legal sources now fear none of the paparazzi who chased Diana’s car will agree to testify.
Coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker had hoped to call them this week to speak via TV link to Paris.
But as foreign nationals living overseas they cannot be forced to appear at the High Court in London where the inquest is entering its fifth week.

Now Romuald Rat, known as ‘King Rat’ to fellow paparazzi, has gone further and disappeared so he could not formally be asked to attend.

He was one of 10 photographers arrested on suspicion of involuntary homicide and allegedly failing to help the stricken victims - but no charges were ever brought.

The photographers know that lawyers for Dodi Fayed’s father Mohamed, driver Henri Paul and the Ritz Hotel will try to blame them for harassing the car and being a major factor in the crash.

Rat, then working for the Gamma picture agency, reached the Alma tunnel soon after the Mercedes crashed. He had been a passenger on the back of a motorcycle and, witnesses say, he immediately began taking photos of the death scene. The court has heard allegations of photographers shouting to each other “Hurry up, she’s dead” and ordering those trying to help to get out of the way so they could do their “job”.
Rat has claimed that he tried to help the Princess but witnesses have also told the inquest how paparazzi had come within feet of the speeding car and - according to one suggestion - used a “blocking car” to force Paul to slow down as he sped from the Ritz to Dodi Fayed’s flat.

If the photographers fail to appear they will leave a hole in the first hand eye-witness evidence for the coroner and jury to decide what happened that night in August 1997. – London Evening Standard

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