The French Connection: Secrets of Princess Diana Driver Henri Paul 


Despite claims that Paris Ritz security chief Henri Paul was working for British spy service MI6, Lord Stevens’ Operation Paget inquiry found Paul was more likely a low-level French informant than 007 - in fact, there was no evidence Paul even worked for the British Secret Services.

So why was Paul walking around with large wads of cash and making hefty deposits into his multiple bank accounts?

SPYSCAPE digs into the secrets of the man behind the wheel of the black Mercedes who died along with Princess Diana and her companion Dodi Fayed on August 31, 1997.

The French Connection: Secrets of Princess Diana Driver Henri Paul 
Henri Paul (right) with bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones (who survived) and Princess Diana

Who was Henri Paul?

Born in 1956, Henri Paul was a French Air Force Captain and Chef de Section Protection, a security team leader, who later tried to open a private detective agency. Paul’s police contacts introduced him to the Paris Ritz staff in the ‘80s and he joined the security team, rising to acting security chief in 1997. Staff nicknamed him ‘the Ferret’, as he liked to stick his nose everywhere.

The French Connection: Secrets of Princess Diana Driver Henri Paul 

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Despite claims that Paris Ritz security chief Henri Paul was working for British spy service MI6, Lord Stevens’ Operation Paget inquiry found Paul was more likely a low-level French informant than 007 - in fact, there was no evidence Paul even worked for the British Secret Services.

So why was Paul walking around with large wads of cash and making hefty deposits into his multiple bank accounts?

SPYSCAPE digs into the secrets of the man behind the wheel of the black Mercedes who died along with Princess Diana and her companion Dodi Fayed on August 31, 1997.

The French Connection: Secrets of Princess Diana Driver Henri Paul 
Henri Paul (right) with bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones (who survived) and Princess Diana

Who was Henri Paul?

Born in 1956, Henri Paul was a French Air Force Captain and Chef de Section Protection, a security team leader, who later tried to open a private detective agency. Paul’s police contacts introduced him to the Paris Ritz staff in the ‘80s and he joined the security team, rising to acting security chief in 1997. Staff nicknamed him ‘the Ferret’, as he liked to stick his nose everywhere.

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Did his role at the Ritz include driving VIPs?

No. Paul was not accredited as a chauffeur and it wasn’t his job to drive guests around, although he’d taken several Mercedes driving courses in Germany.


The French Connection: Secrets of Princess Diana Driver Henri Paul 

Henri Paul’s finances

Henri Paul’s Ritz salary was about $30,000 a year but his bank balance - spread across 15 accounts - was around $200,000 and he was carrying about $1,500 in cash at the time of the crash. French investigators don’t know where the money came from and Britain’s Operation Paget investigation couldn’t prove or disprove whether Paul was being paid by intelligence contacts. Paul’s parents and friends said Ritz guests tipped large sums and he carried cash because Paul sometimes paid shopping bills for VIPs and was later reimbursed by the hotel. 

Was Paul with intelligence agents on the eve of Princess Diana’s death?

Paul’s job sometimes required him to liaise with the police about hotel guests. His phone book listed La Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST) - the French police organization that deals with espionage - but the DST said it didn’t know where Paul was between 7 pm and 10:10 pm on August 30, 1997, the evening before the crash. While journalist Gerald Posner’s American NSA source said Paul was meeting the Direction Générale de la Sécurité (DGSE) - the French equivalent of the CIA or MI6 - the DGSE denied any knowledge of Paul.

Ex-MI6 officer Richard Tomlinson initially told investigators that an MI6 operational file he’d read in the early ‘90s indicated British spies were working with a French security officer at the Ritz, but Tomlinson couldn’t be certain who it was or that Paul worked with British intelligence.

Operation Paget found no evidence that Paul worked for MI6, no trace of any intelligence or informant database of Henri Paul, or any codename or description fitting or apparently referring to Henri Paul nor someone in his position at the Ritz before the crash in August 1997. Records were checked back to 1990. 

The French Connection: Secrets of Princess Diana Driver Henri Paul 
Princess Diana at the Ritz with Dodi Fayed and Henri Paul (far right)


So what was Paul’s connection with the security services?

Two documents in the French judicial dossier of Judge Hervé Stéphan showed a link between Henri Paul and the French DST. According to the DST information in the dossier: ‘Henri Paul has been in touch with members of the DST specifically tasked with inquiries in hotel circles.”

Was Henri Paul drunk when he crashed into Paris’ Pont d'Alma tunnel?

French investigators said Paul’s blood alcohol level was three times over the legal limit to drive, but experts differ about whether blood tests were administered correctly. Henri Paul wasn't staggering on the evening in question but Claude Garrec, Paul's best friend, told the Paget inquiry that Paul didn’t display signs of intoxication - even when he’d consumed more alcohol than usual. Garrec said it would have been a matter of pride for Paul to drive Diana and Dodi; a refusal would have amounted to refusing to drive Ritz owner Mohamed-Al Fayed.

The French Connection: Secrets of Princess Diana Driver Henri Paul 


Did Henri Paul take drugs on the eve of the crash?

Paul’s doctor had prescribed Prozac, an antidepressant, and Noctamide, medication for insomnia, along with two drugs that would slow his alcohol intake - Aotal and Tiapridal. Paul’s doctor said he could stop taking Aotal and Tiapridal in social contexts or on holidays. French medical experts found traces of Prozac and Tiapridal in Henri's system, according to The Washington Post.

Who was the mysterious blonde woman who showed up at Paul’s apartment asking for a memento days after his death?

Paul left his apartment around 1 pm on August 30, 1997 in the company of a young blonde. The next day, after Paul’s death, a blonde woman, aged about 25, asked about him at his local bar. Paul’s parents then described a blonde woman turning up at Paul’s apartment days after his death and asking for a memento. She gave her name as Françoise, but they had no other information. Was she a friend? A tenant? An intelligence contact? It is one of the secrets Paul took to the grave with him.

Was Henri Paul responsible for the three deaths?

In 2008, a British coroner’s jury found that Diana and Dodi Fayed died because of Paul’s ‘grossly negligent driving and because of the paparazzi following their car. French magistrates, however, ruled that paparazzi played no role in the accident and dropped proceedings against them.

Lord Stevens, who led the three-year Paget inquiry, called the 1997 crash a "tragic accident". HIs report said Paul was speeding and over the legal drink-drive limit.

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