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Princess Diana's limo was deathtrap: Chauffeur claims car had already been in horror crash and had steering faults

Mirror logo Mirror 2017-08-04 Russell Myers

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For 20 years Princess Diana's death has eaten away at Karim Kazi – he believes she could still be alive if bosses had acted on his warnings. 

After driving the Mercedes S-280 as a chauffeur who ferried VIPs to and from the Paris Ritz hotel, he says he regularly complained that the limousine was prone to “losing control” at speed.

He added: “If it had been my choice, I’d never have let Princess Diana near that car. It had become unpredictable.”

Karim Kazi believes Diana would still be alive if bosses had taken notice of his safety warnings. © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Karim Kazi believes Diana would still be alive if bosses had taken notice of his safety warnings. The Mirror told in May how the limo which took Diana and boyfriend Dodi Fayed from the Ritz on the fateful night of August 31, 1997, had been in an accident and had rolled over several times.

And it was claimed this had made the car dangerous, but today Mr Kazi tells in detail the extent of the damage caused by not one, but two serious incidents that he believes led to the tragedy.

Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed were both killed in the 1997 crash. © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed were both killed in the 1997 crash. After tracking down Mr Kazi, now a successful businessman in central Paris, he told of the moment he heard of the accident while at a friend’s party.

Dressed impeccably in a tailored black suit, white shirt and black tie, he said: “I got a call in the early hours from a prince in Oman I had driven before when he was staying at the Ritz.

The back of the crumpled wreck of the Mercedez-Benz. © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited The back of the crumpled wreck of the Mercedez-Benz.

“He was worried I might have been involved. When I heard, it was devastating, devastating for everyone.”

Diana, 36, Dodi, 42, and their drunken driver Henri Paul , 41, died after the car hit a concrete pillar at up to 120mph in the Alma Bridge tunnel, by the Seine.

Police remove the crumpled wreck. © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Police remove the crumpled wreck. Only the Princess’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, now 49, survived.

He was the only one wearing a seatbelt. Henri Paul, also on anti-depressants, was blamed for the “unlawful killing” caused by his “gross negligence”.

Mr Kazi added: “The car’s steering was not safe. I started pointing out faults with the Mercedes in early 1997, before Diana died. For me, it was a car that did not work very well.”

And he said that he believed the car was “an ­accident waiting to happen” after it was rolled “up to 10 times” at 100mph by a prisoner out on remand and written off by the insurance company.

But the owner of the firm that ran the chauffeur business for the Ritz bought it in August 1996 for £40,000, half its value when new.

Jean Francois Musa claims he had no idea the car had been involved in such a serious smash and had been led to believe the car belonged previously to a senior executive at Mercedes.

Another director of Etoile Limousine was at the wheel in April 1997 when it was again stolen.

Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed leave the Ritz. © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed leave the Ritz.

It was found days later after thieves stripped out fittings and parts, including the power steering. But it was repaired for £15,000 and put back on the road.

Mr Kazi, now 47, says it was these incidents that had led to major problems with the car which were never corrected.

He said: “I’m a very safe driver who is experienced at driving cars very fast. This one had trouble sticking to the road. It was a very bad car to drive all the time.

“There was something very wrong with it. When the car sped up, it would lose control. There was no dynamic control, it was certainly risky if driven at more than 60km/h (37mph).

“This should have been a problem for Mercedes to sort out.”

Diana in the back seat shortly before the crash. © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Diana in the back seat shortly before the crash.

Mr Kazi said the last two decades of his life have been filled with anguish over the condition of the car.

He said: “Now that the history of the car has come out, it is clear my fears were correct.

"Looking back, of course, I would like to have seen action taken, and ­something done about the car, but it was beyond my control at the time.

“Other people were in charge of the security of Princess Diana, it was up to them to decide how she travelled.”

Mr Kazi worked as a staff driver for Etoile for a year between 1996 and June 1997, previously freelancing at the company until he left just weeks before Diana’s death, to set up a business.

He added: “I mainly dealt with the management of Etoile Limousine, rather than the Ritz management, but I do not believe my comments were acted upon.

Trevor Rees-Jones ws the only person to survive the crash.  © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Trevor Rees-Jones ws the only person to survive the crash. 

“It was an accident waiting to happen.”

The car had been sent to a workshop in Saint-Ouen at least twice to be checked for its steering mechanism.

But still problems remained, Mr Kazi claimed, right up until the tragic ­accident that claimed the princess’s life.

At the time of her death, after her divorce from Prince Charles and several other ill-fated relationships, Diana had become close to Mr Fayed, the son of billionaire businessman and Harrods owner, Mohamed.

The night before the tragedy, the couple had returned from a Mediterranean cruise together, where they were pictured kissing.

In Paris they had been previously driven around the city in a Range Rover but Mr Fayed decided at the last minute to change to another vehicle to be “more discreet”.

The only other car available in the Ritz hotel fleet was the Mercedes.

In the aftermath, Mr Kazi claims he told French investigators of concerns over the car’s mechanics when he was interviewed with other Ritz drivers.

Mr Kazi claims blaming Henri Paul for drink-driving was 'an easy way out'. © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Mr Kazi claims blaming Henri Paul for drink-driving was 'an easy way out'.

However, he claims his comments were dismissed and were never followed up by French or British authorities.

He said: “French police officers spoke to me only once after the accident, but apparently none of the information I gave them was followed up.

“For me, I had told them what I knew and that was the end of the matter, but I still had my concerns. When I first heard about the accident, my first thought was about the technical problems with the car.

“It was a doomed car.

“To blame Henri Paul for drink-driving and for taking anti-depressants was an easy way out.

“It was just part of a search for the culprit. More questions should have been asked of those who repaired the car.

“There is no doubt in mind the faulty car had far more to do with her death than had been made out.”

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