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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.
SEE ALSO: Bombshell new interview casts ‘suspicious’ doubt on Princess Diana’s death
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:
“Diana: Case Solved,” $14.49 (hardcover) or $9.99 (e-book)
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.
SEE ALSO: Princess Diana’s butler speaks out on ‘movement’ to ‘undermine’ her
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.
9 PHOTOS9 secrets about Princess Diana no one knew about until after her deathSee Gallery9 secrets about Princess Diana no one knew about until after her death
She recorded her thoughts on tape
Much of what we know about Princess Diana’s personal life is thanks to audiotapes she recorded herself. Once she recognized her marriage to Prince Charles was falling apart, she documented her side of the story on a tape recorder and gave the tapes to her close friend, Dr. James Colthurst. He, in turn, gave them to journalist Andrew Morton so her words could get out to the public. From those tapes, Morton published the biography DIANA: Her True Story—In Her Own Words in 1992. No one knew Diana had a hand in the book’s production until after her death. Here are some more surprising facts you probably didn’t know about Princess Diana.
Her sister dated Prince Charles
There are definitely ways to improve your relationship with your sibling, but we’re not sure if sharing a boyfriend is one of them. Before Diana and Charles started going steady, he dated her sister, Sarah. She introduced the two when Diana was just 16 and takes credit for their falling in love, calling herself Cupid.
Her grandmother worked for the queen
As prominent a public figure as Queen Elizabeth is, there’s still a lot that the public doesn’t know about her. One of those more intriguing bits of trivia is that the Queen Mother was close friends with Princess Diana’s grandmother, Ruth Fermoy. She was one of Her Majesty’s ladies-in-waiting and later held the title Woman of the Bedchamber, which meant that she was the Queen’s right-hand woman and assisted with important social engagements. Here are some more facts (and scandals!) you never knew about Queen Elizabeth II.
She and her husband were related
The royal family tree can get pretty complicated, but don’t worry, there’s nothing incestuous about this marriage. Princess Di and Prince Charles were distantly related. Specifically, they were 16th cousins once removed, through King Henry VII.
She had a poor sex life
In her tape recordings, Princess Diana discussed her married life in great detail, even calling her wedding day “the worst day of her life.” Specifically, she talked at length about her lack of a sex life, saying that she and her husband had sex but it was “very odd.” By the time she made the recordings, their sex life had been going downhill for seven years. She went on to say, “There was no requirement for (sex) from his case. Sort of once every three weeks… and I kept thinking it followed a pattern. He used to see his lady (Camilla) once every three weeks before we got married.” Learn more about the real story of what happened between Charles and Diana.
She messed up her wedding vows
In hindsight, Princess Diana messing up her wedding vows may seem like a sign her marriage was bound to fail, but in reality, she just caught a case of wedding day jitters. During the vows, she called her husband “Philip Charles” instead of “Charles Philip,” mixing up his first and middle names. Here are some more little mistakes that happened on royal wedding days.
She ate in the kitchen
It was against royal family etiquette to eat in the kitchen with staffers and not in a dining room, but Princess Diana was no stranger to breaking protocol. Her personal chef, Darren McGrady, said she would just walk into the kitchen and eat at a countertop while he tidied up, which was unheard of coming from any royal. She would even make coffee for the two of them. Check out these stunning, rarely seen photos of the People’s Princess.
She attempted suicide
One of the most troubling revelations from Princess Diana’s audiotapes was that she struggled with depression and even attempted to take her own life. She said in her recordings, “I was so depressed, and I was trying to cut my wrists with razor blades.” She also talked about having bulimia and that the eating disorder started after Prince Charles put his hand on her waist and said, “A bit chubby here, aren’t we?”
She was harassed by the paparazzi
With three new documentaries about Princess Diana set to premiere, Prince William and Prince Harry are opening up about their memories of their mother. Some are uplifting, like how she involved them in her charitable work. But their recollections of Diana dealing with the paparazzi are disturbing. As Prince William says in the ITV and HBO documentary, Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy: “If you are the Princess of Wales and you’re a mother, I don’t believe being chased by 30 guys on motorbikes who block your path, who spit at you to get a reaction from you and make a woman cry in public to get a photograph, is appropriate. Harry and I, we had to live through that.” Here’s how Prince Harry and Prince William are keeping their mother’s memory alive twenty years after her death.
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?
43 PHOTOSPrincess Diana and her fabulous travelsSee GalleryPrincess Diana and her fabulous travelsGIBRALTAR- AUGUST 01:Prince Charles, Prince of Wales andPrincess Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a Donald Campbell dress, leave for their honeymoon cruise on the Royal Yacht Britannia on August 01, 1981 in Gibraltar. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)The Prince and Princess of Wales leave Gibraltar on the Royal Yacht Britannia for their honeymoon cruise, 1st August 1981. The Princess wears a Donald Campbell dress. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)BALMORAL, UNITED KINGDOM – AUGUST 19: The Prince And Princess Of Wales On Their Honeymoon In Balmoral, Scotland (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)BALMORAL, UNITED KINGDOM – AUGUST 19:Prince Charles With His Arm Around Princess Diana As They Sit On A Style During Their Honeymoon At Balmoral In Scotland.the Princess Is Wearing A Suit Designed By Bill Pashley With A Pair Of Shoes By The Chelsea Cobbler.(Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)15th June 1983:Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana, Princess of Wales, (1961 – 1997) on holiday in Nova Scotia.(Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)FRANCE – UNDATED:Princess Diana, Princess of Wales poses in a bikini whilst on holiday in the South of France.(Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage) VIRGIN ISLANDS – UNDATED:Princess Diana, Princess of Wales enjoys a swim in the Virgin Islands.(Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage) FRANCE:The Princess of Wales enjoys a swim in the South of France.(Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***KLOSTERS, SWITZERLAND – FEBRUARY 1986:Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing red ski gear and a red and white head band, enjoys a skiing holiday in Klosters, Switzerland in February 1986.(Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage) (From left to Right) Prince Charles, Princess Diana, The Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson and The Duke of York Prince Andrew posing for photographers on their skiing holiday at the Swiss resort of Klosters. Wednesday 17th February 1987. (Photo by Kent Gavin/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)KLOSTERS, SWITZERLAND – FEBRUARY 17:The Duchess Of York (sarah Ferguson) And Princess Diana Having Fun On Holiday In Klosters.(Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)Members of the British Royal Family on a ski holiday, (L-R) Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Princess Diana and the Duchess of York, in Grisons, Switzerland, February 17th 1987. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)Princess Diana on a ski holiday in Klosters, Switzerland, February 6th 1986. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)KLOSTERS, SWITZERLAND – FEBRUARY 06:Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing red ski gear and a red and white head band, enjoys a skiing holiday on February 06, 1986 in Klosters, Switzerland. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)MAJORCA-AUGUST 10: (FILE PHOTO) Princess Diana, Princess of Wales with Prince William and Prince Harry on holiday in Majorca, Spain on August 10, 1987. Also present were the Spanish Royal Family and the Prince of Wales.(Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)MAJORCA, SPAIN – AUGUST 08:Prince Charles And Princess Diana With Prince William And Prince Harry On Holiday In Majorca. Also Present Are Queen Sofia Of Spain And Infanta Elena.(Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)PALMA, SPAIN – AUGUST 10: Diana, Princess of Wales poses withQueen Sofia of Spain during a summer holiday in Majorca on August 10, 1987 in Palma, Spain. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)Princess Diana (1961 – 1997, left) with the Duchess of York during a skiing holiday in Klosters, Switzerland, 9th March 1988. (Photo by James Andanson/Sygma via Getty Images)Left to right: the Duchess of York, Princess Diana (1961 – 1997) and Prince Charles during a skiing holiday in Klosters, Switzerland, 9th March 1988. (Photo by James Andanson/Sygma via Getty Images)NECKER ISLAND, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – JANUARY 9: Diana, Princess of Wales, with Prince Harry on holiday on Necker Island , on January 9, 1989 in Necker Island, British Virgin Islands. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)NECKER ISLAND, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – JANUARY 9: Diana, Princess of Wales, on holiday on Necker Island , on January 9, 1989 in Necker Island, British Virgin Islands. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)NECKER ISLAND, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – JANUARY 9: Diana, Princess of Wales, on Necker Island , on January 9, 1989 in Necker Island, British Virgin Islands. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)NECKER ISLAND, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – JANUARY 9: Diana, Princess of Wales, on Holiday on Necker Island , on January 9, 1989 in Necker Island, British Virgin Islands. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)NECKER ISLAND – APRIL 11:Princess Diana In Leopardskin Swimming Costume And Sarong On Holiday In Necker Island In The Caribbean(Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)The Prince and Princess of Wales holiday on a yacht with King Constantine II of Greece, 1990. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)NECKER ISLAND, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – APRIL 11: Diana, Princess of Wales, with Prince William, on Holiday In Necker Island In The Caribbean, on April 11, 1990, in the British Virgin Islands. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)SPAIN – AUGUST 15:Princess Diana on holiday in Majorca with King Constantine of Greece and his daughter, Princess Theodora on the King’s yacht, Fortuna.(Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)MAJORCA, SPAIN – AUGUST 15:Princess Diana On Board The Yacht Fortuna On Summer Holiday In Majorca(Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)MAJORCA, SPAIN – AUGUST 15:Diana, Princess of Wales, on board the yacht of King Juan Carlos of Spain ‘Fortuna’ on summer holiday on August 15, 1990 in Majorca, Spain(Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS – JANUARY 1993:Diana, The Princess of Wales walks in the sea on January 1993 in the Island of Nevis. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)Princess Diana (1961 – 1997) in the surf off the Island of Nevis, during a Caribbean holiday, 2nd January 1993.(Photo by Thierry Orban/Sygma via Getty Images)SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS – JANUARY 1993:Diana, The Princess of Wales walks in the sea on January 1993 in the Island of Nevis. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)The Princess of Wales (C) watches for a wave while surfing at Indian Castle Beach 02 January 1993.Princess Diana is vacationing with her sons William and Harry.(Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS – JANUARY 1993: Diana, The Princess of Wales walks in the sea on January 1993 in the Island of Nevis. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)GIZA, EGYPT – MAY 12:Diana Princess of Wales visiting the Pyramids in Giza during an official tour of Egypt.(Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)GIZA, EGYPT – MAY 12:Diana Princess of Wales visits the Pyramids in Giza during an official tour of Egypt.(Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS – JANUARY 1993:Diana, The Princess of Wales walks in the sea on January 1993 in the Island of Nevis. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)LECH, AUSTRIA – MARCH 25:Diana, Princess Of Wales, On A Spring Ski-ing Holiday With Her Sons, Prince William And Prince Harry, And Her Friend Kate Menzies.(Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)AUSTRIA – MARCH 26:Diana, Princess of Wales running whilst on a skiing holiday in Lech, Austria(Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)Princess Diana (back row, R), along with her friends Kate Menzies (back row C) and Catherine Soames (back row, L), rides 26 August 1993 the Splash Mountain ride at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom during the third day of their vacation.Front row left is Prince Harry, son of Princess Diana. Other passengers are unidentified. (Photo credit should read BOB PEARSON/AFP/Getty Images)Photo taken on July 14, 1997 shows Britain’s Lady Diana taken by an unidentified young girl for a jet-ski ride off the property of her friend Dodi Al-Fayed in Saint Tropez, on the French Riviera. Diana, Princess of Wales, and her companion, the Egyptian millionaire film-producer Dodi al-Fayed, died in Paris early 31 August after a midnight car crash. / AFP PHOTO / Patrick HERTZOG(Photo credit should read PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images)Photo taken on July 14, 1997 shows Britain’s Lady Diana taken by an unidentified young girl for a jet-ski ride off the property of her friend Dodi Al-Fayed in Saint Tropez, on the French Riviera. Diana, Princess of Wales, and her companion, the Egyptian millionaire film-producer Dodi al-Fayed, died in Paris early 31 August after a midnight car crash. / AFP PHOTO / Patrick HERTZOG(Photo credit should read PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images)ST TROPEZ, FRANCE – JULY 17 1997: (FILE PHOTO) Diana, Princess of Wales and son HRH Prince William are seen holidaying with Dodi Al Fayed (not pictured) in St Tropezin the summer of 1997, shortly before Diana and Dodi were killed in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997. The inquests into both of their deaths are due to start in early 2004. (Photo by Michel Dufour/WireImage)Up Next
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.
“Diana: Case Solved: The Definitive Account That Proves What Really Happened” is out now. Order it here or read the e-book here.
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