Driver Was Known as `Tippler,' Ritz Colleague Says
Bonabesse, Gaedig, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The reportedly drunken driver of the Mercedes that crashed and killed Princess Diana was remembered as a "serious guy" by a friend of 20 years and as a "tippler" by a Ritz Hotel colleague.
Henri Paul, who drove himself, Diana and Dodi Al Fayed to their deaths, was "a very nice guy, very serious, a good guy," his friend Jean-Louis Le Baraillec was quoted as saying Tuesday by a French newspaper.
A spokesman for the Fayed family yesterday denied a report that Mr. Paul lacked the correct driving license.
Mr. Paul, 41, and Mr. Le Baraillec are both from Brittany, the westernmost region of France and an area known for its heavy drinking.
A spokesman for the Ritz Hotel, where Mr. Paul had worked since 1986, described him as a reliable employee and a competent driver. He had received special training at a Mercedes-Benz school near Stuttgart, Germany
"His main duty was not to drive, but he would do it exceptionally for VIPs. In fact, he had driven Princess Diana during previous stays in Paris," the spokesman said.
Although French prosecutors say Mr. Paul had a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit at the time of the crash, the Paul family rebutted those findings, and the family's lawyer is seeking new tests.
A Ritz colleague came forward yesterday on French radio station Europe 1 and said Mr. Paul had no business driving. He was a "tippler," the colleague said, and not an "authorized" driver.
"He was called in by the Ritz to help out because Al Fayed turned up. He'd been drinking a bit, and everyone knew that. Everyone knew he drank when he wasn't on duty," the man said.
"Whenever the Al Fayeds arrived, there was panic," and it was difficult to refuse any request from the Ritz owner's entourage.
The London Daily Telegraph reported that Mr. Paul, a bachelor, was said to have lived "a varied life, mixing with celebrities while working as a security guard at the Ritz Hotel in Paris during the week and spending his weekends relaxing and sailing. …