Fiat Uno & Missing Motorbike
The French inquiry confirmed that there had been a collision, near the entrance to the Alma Tunnel, between the Mercedes S280 and a white Fiat Uno.
Despite the biggest search for a car in French history, according to the French police the Fiat Uno has never been found. Nevertheless, Judge Stephan
felt able to conclude that the vehicle played no more than a 'passive' part in the tragedy.
His conclusion defies logic. If the Mercedes was travelling at high speed as it approached the Alma Tunnel, any manoeuvre to avoid another car could
have been the cause of the eventual crash, even if there was only glancing contact between the two vehicles. Since at least one eyewitness suggested
that the white Fiat Uno was "waiting" for the Mercedes, there is also the sinister possibility that, at the mouth of the tunnel, the Fiat
deliberately collided with the Mercedes to force it off course.
Perhaps, the greatest mystery surrounding the Fiat has been the attitude of the French police. In the course of their investigations, they did unearth
a white Fiat Uno which seemed to meet all the criteria. It had body damage exactly matching the marks on the Mercedes and had even been hurriedly
re-sprayed (in red lead in preparation for a full re-spray) in unusual and mysterious circumstances within a few hours of the crash. Tests showed that
its original white paint was identical to the traces of paint found on the wreck of the Mercedes, as were bumper samples. In eventually ruling out the
vehicle the French police first claimed that the paint did not match. However, a forensic report carried out for the French police confirms that the
paint and bumper samples were identical. The French police claimed also that the car's owner and his vehicle had a watertight alibi. Our own
inquiries have revealed, however, that the Vietnamese owner's alibi was never checked. Eyewitnesses to the crash also report seeing a large dog in
the back of the Fiat Uno. Given that their description of the animal matches that of the dog belonging to the car's owner, the lack of interest on
the part of the police is even harder to explain or understand.
Many possible reasons have been put forward for the disappearance of the Fiat Uno and its driver. Some, of course, are perfectly plausible. But
assuming that the role of the Fiat was entirely innocent, it is surprising that whoever was driving - and clearly had the best view of events leading
to up the crash - has not since found some way to pass on his evidence.
Similarly, the French inquiry appears to have made little attempt to track down the motorcyclist seen close to the Mercedes as it crashed. The
importance of this motorcycle was highlighted by an ITV documentary presented by Anthony Scrivener QC and broadcast on 3 September 1999, the day the
findings of the French inquiry were published. Some witnesses have claimed that a flash or stun-light set off by the bike's pillion passenger blinded
Henri Paul and caused him to lose control of the car. But even if the motorcycle was merely impeding the Mercedes, its presence is crucial.
Unfortunately the machine and its rider(s) have never been found - the bike was last seen leaving the tunnel immediately after the crash. Anthony
Scrivener QC, a former Chairman of the Bar Council, concluded his personal inquiry into the crash by stating that, under French law, there is
certainly enough evidence to charge that missing motorcyclist with manslaughter.