It's been 22 years since the death of Princess Diana in Paris, and new information continues to call into question what really happened that fateful night on August 31, 1997.
An explosive new book, "Diana: Case Solved," released in September, sheds new light on the moments before the Mercedes carrying the People's Princess crashed at the entrance of a tunnel in Paris, most notably through the first-ever on-record interview with Le Van Thanh, who was driving a Fiat that some believe collided with Diana's car as she was being chased by paparazzi.
In an exclusive excerpt available only on AOL, readers can get another look at those final moments and hear some of the insights that Le Van Thanh shared with authors Dylan Howard and Colin McLaren.
Check out an exclusive excerpt from chapter 15 of "Diana: Case Solved: The Definitive Account That Proves What Really Happened" below:
As a journalist, I had been investigating Diana’s story—in one way or another— for years. So much of what I had discovered would sync up perfectly with what Colin McLaren had discovered that had been overlooked.
So, we did what we had to do. We went back to Paris. We went back to confront the one man who had the answers. The one man who has never spoken publicly: Le Van Thanh. The French police had dismissed him as a player in the tragedy owing to an intact taillight (but if he could respray his car, he could surely replace a taillight). Operation Paget barely mentioned the Fiat, and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens claimed the driver would be impossible to track down. Yet that was precisely what we did.
Colin and I went to Paris to find answers to the one of the most elusive questions in modern-day history: why, how, and by whom Princess Diana was killed. We were supported by Aaron Tinney, a top-notch reporter from The National Enquirer who had been doggedly attempting to get answers to this elusive mystery for the previous two years and had broken ground in uncovering new information. We were also joined by local photojournalist Pierre Sue.
Together, we journeyed to where Le Van Thanh lived, about an hour outside of Paris.
By this point, we had no doubt whatsoever forensically that Princess Diana’s car was hit by another car, seconds—a millisecond or two—before it went out of control . . . or was caused to go out of control. The other car has been proven through paint sampling to be a Fiat Uno. A huge search for Fiat Unos all around Europe, particularly in and around Paris, was able to identify that the car in question was owned by Le Van Thanh—the French national of Vietnamese ethnicity. He and his family were living in Paris; he was a security guard working in Paris. His father was approached by the media back in 1997, and he admitted that his son came home that night panicking and decided to change the color of his car from white to red.
The painting was done sloppily and hastily. What happened for Le Van Thanh to cause him to do such a shoddy job on his little Fiat Uno, and to do it immediately after the night Diana was killed?
In the twenty-two years since Diana’s death, no private investigator or journalist in the world had spoken to Le Van Thanh—except for Colin, albeit not on tape.
Colin had forced a conversation with him in the driveway of his home. We were going back to that driveway now—the same home Colin had previously visited. Was there a reason for his reticence, other than not wanting to be known to history? Was he as innocent to the whole thing as Princess Diana herself was? She was just driving along in a car; her car of course was in the hands of professionals who had made all the errors.
Colin heartily agreed with me that this trip to see Le Van Thanh needed to be made.
What has been initially frustrating to McLaren is the comparatively quick and cursory way the scene of the accident was cleaned up. Then they swept up and hosed down the crime scene and opened it back up to traffic within four hours. None of this made any sense according to crime-scene principles and procedures.
When Colin first analyzed the crime scene, he cast his net much wider to include a large part of the approach road. The Alma underpass is a dangerous construction. Just before the tunnel, an on-ramp merges from the right. Then the road drops sharply down a hill that veers 15 degrees to the left. The French police focused their investigation on a 60-yard section of the road inside the tunnel.
Colin’s work paid off. He found new compelling evidence the police had missed in their hurry to reopen the tunnel. When Colin tried to share his findings with the French police, they were unreceptive. Now, he shares them with us.
The dominant theory at the time—the one upon which the French police operated—is that the paparazzi harassed the Mercedes all the way to the Alma tunnel, three-quarters of a mile away. That their camera flashes blinded the driver and made him crash.
Witnesses said they saw motorbikes pursuing the Mercedes on the chase. And yet when the police arrested the paparazzi after the crash, they found no photographs of the speeding Mercedes in their cameras. How is that possible?
“On the roadway, I found two parallel skid marks, just over seven meters long,” Colin mused to me. “They looked very fresh and, of course, my first question was were they from a Mercedes-Benz? So, I measured them. I photographed them. And then I looked for somebody that could help me.”
To find out how the paparazzi actually behaved, Colin next tracked down the first police officer to arrive at the crash site.
He found that there were perhaps ten photographers who arrived shortly after the crash. There is no evidence that they got in the way of the EMTs, and no evidence they caused the crash.
This then points Colin to consider the lone motorcyclist with the flash. . . and the white Fiat.
Colin knows that the Mercedes outran the paparazzi long before it reached the Alma underpass. Yet just outside the tunnel it is forced to brake hard. But none of the investigations so far have explained why. His review of witness statements taken during the French investigation shows him that one saw what made the Mercedes brake so suddenly.
As Colin shared with me, “What’s interesting about [the witness observations is that they hear the screeching of tires before the Mercedes enters the tunnel. That must be the braking that certain witnesses talked about in this area. And also it must be related to the seven-yard-long skid marks that I found. None of these witnesses saw what made the Mercedes brake so suddenly or what made it crash. None of them saw a small white car entering the tunnel, though two people did see it racing out of the underpass just after the crash.”
The skid marks now look very sinister. Colin reviewed statements from witnesses who say they saw things in the tunnel that could be seen as a deliberate attack. Another witness in a vehicle some way behind the Mercedes sees something very similar.
This other witness found by Colin, who wishes to remain anonymous, told him, “There was an intense flash of light followed by something hitting something, a bang. And then screeching.”
Colin does not believe that the car carrying Diana had had its brakes tampered with. He believes they were depressed on purpose by the driver.
A motorcycle was in proximity, and there was a flash.
Does this finally explain the mysterious skid marks at the top of the hill?
Colin thinks it does, telling me, “I believe the Mercedes and the Fiat collided 60 yards before the tunnel—where I found the skid marks. From here, using the forensic principle that every contact leaves its trace, I’ve plotted step-by-step what happened to the car that was carrying Diana.”
Colin has worked out what the Mercedes did in those missing seconds between leaving the paparazzi behind and its fatal end in the Alma tunnel. But what made Henri Paul lose control of the car outside the tunnel?
A light vehicle like the Fiat Uno. This is where the elusive white car enters the frame once more. From the on-ramp on the right. Diana’s driver Henri Paul slams on the brakes. But at over 100 mph after seven yards, the ABS system unlocks them. He tries to avoid the Fiat but clips its rear left taillight and scrapes along its side.
Paul misses the bend in the road and rockets straight ahead. Directly in front of him is a wall. What happens next is incredible. Traveling at 104 mph, the car went over the ridge of the hill. Even if it is airborne for a second, at that speed, that car will cover over seventy feet. And the wall is closer than that. At the bottom on the road surface, Colin finds east-west gouges and also scallop marks, semicircular marks, indicating a wheel rim had hit it. This right-end tire, it was the only tire that had a tear or a cut in it, probably three or four inches long.
The Mercedes hits the thirteenth pillar, then ricochets across the road and slams into the tunnel wall where it comes to rest facing the way it came. The motorcycle disappears. Likewise, the white Fiat Uno disappears from the tunnel, leaving a host of unanswered questions and prompting a massive search for it.
Then, something very telling happens. After eliminating Le Van Thanh, the French authorities stop searching for the car and its driver. And no reason is given.
Initially, Colin wondered whether the reason they stopped searching is because they found the white Fiat they were looking for. This, however, has been revealed not to be the case. But if this is the situation, then why is the Fiat quickly eliminated from the investigation?
This now becomes the toughest question of all. More suddenly than seemed possible, we were ready for our confrontation in Van Tranh.