Diana 1961-1997: Mirror Investigates: It Was like Suicide; Diana's Driver on Prozac.And Pills to Calm Violent Alcoholics

By Dowdney, Mark | The Mirror (London, England), September 11, 1997 | Go to article overview

Diana 1961-1997: Mirror Investigates: It Was like Suicide; Diana's Driver on Prozac.And Pills to Calm Violent Alcoholics


Dowdney, Mark, The Mirror (London, England)


Princess Diana's drunken chauffeur had downed a drug used to calm violent alcoholics, police revealed yesterday.

And a doctor said mixing it with booze and anti-depressants before speeding into the night was "tantamount to committing suicide".

The shock revelations swung the spotlight firmly back on to chauffeur Henri Paul, 41, as the cause of the crash that killed Diana and new love Dodi Fayed.

An official statement from prosecutors probing the accident 12 days ago confirmed that a third blood test showed Paul was three times over the French drink-drive limit.

They said the two readings - of 1.75 and 1.73 grams of alcohol per litre of blood - were equivalent to drinking two aperitifs and a bottle of wine.

And they added that the chauffeur's blood also had levels of fluoxetine - the active ingredient of anti-depressant Prozac - and traces of tiapride, which is used to treat chronic alcoholism. Medical experts stressed that neither should ever be taken with alcohol.

Dr Henri Altabe, an expert in the treatment of alcoholics, commented: "In my view driving at 120mph under the influence of alcohol, Prozac and tiapride is tantamount to committing suicide."

The French doctor added: "It is hard to think of a more dangerous mixture of drugs to take before driving.

"The level of alcohol in Henri Paul's blood already made driving a potentially lethal activity.

"To take Prozac with alcohol would increase the danger - but to take tiapride on top is very, very dangerous indeed.

"Tiapride is used to treat aggressive behaviour in alcoholics. It helps calm violent mood swings.

"It is also used to treat involuntary, spasmodic reflexes of the limbs and is normally used for long-term treatment over months or even a year.

"The instructions on the packet warn against taking tiapride while driving or operating machinery and they warn the user not to take it with alcohol.

"Doing so can induce drowsiness and clumsiness and has an adverse effect on the reflexes." British expert Dr Patrick Toseland said: "I would place a reasonable bet that the driver had an alcohol problem.

"The people who take these drugs must recognise that they have an alcohol problem.

"Combined with the high level of alcohol, they would slow his reaction times.

"In my experience this combination and level of drugs is quite uncommon."

Tiapride - not available in Britain - is prescribed in France to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms and prevent a relapse.

It is an anti-psychotic drug which controls the shudders, trembling, agitation and aggression associated with withdrawal.

Prof Ian Hindmarch, an expert on the effects of drugs on driving ability at Surrey University, said: "It is used to treat behavioural disturbances and acts on the central nervous system. It can have a sedative action and cause blurred vision and changes to the heart, depending on the dose.

"French doctors treating alcoholics are quite likely to prescribe both these drugs."

The French firm Panpharma, which makes tiapride, insisted: "It is not to be combined with alcohol."

Guides for doctors warn that taking it with alcohol "makes it dangerous to drive cars".

But Prof Peter Vanezis - a forensic expert working for the Al Fayed family - demanded another post mortem on Paul's body.

Prof Vanezis, of Glasgow University, said: "I question the procedure by which these results were obtained.

"We were not allowed to be present when the samples were taken.

"For the family to be satisfied with what is going on, we would need to have our own autopsy or to be present at a post mortem. …

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