By Cyril Dixon
THE mystery over Princess Diana’s fatal car crash took another twist yesterday when startling new evidence emerged about the death of a key witness.
The Daily Express has uncovered dramatic new information which undermines the French police claim that photographer James Andanson doused himself and his black BMW with petrol and set himself alight.
Andanson was found dead in his burnt-out car three years after the smash which killed Diana, her lover Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul.
Andanson, suspected of causing the crash by driving a white Fiat Uno into their Mercedes, was said officially to have committed suicide.
But investigators have uncovered a receipt which shows that although Andanson, 54, did buy a substantial amount of fuel on the day he died, it was diesel, not petrol.
Unlike petrol, diesel is not highly inflammable at normal temperatures and would not have ignited if he had struck a match.
He used his credit card to buy more than 100 litres of diesel on a visit to a hypermarket near Nant, southern France.
Sceptics would say it is far more likely that the experienced paparazzo bought it to fill up his car for the 400-mile journey back to his home in central France.
They would also think it unlikely for him to prepare his car for a long trip if he planned to kill himself just a few miles away.
The development could support the theory that Andanson was murdered by the security services.
Dodi’s father Mohamed Al Fayed believes he was on the intelligence payroll and that he was killed to stop him exposing a plot to assassinate his son and the Princess.
The Harrods owner’s belief is supported by the evidence of a new witness, a policeman, who said he saw what looked like a bullet hole in the dead photographer’s head.
The officer backs up claims by Christophe Pelat, the fireman who discovered the body, that Andanson had been shot in the head.
Two months ago, Pelat said: “I saw him at close range and I’m absolutely convinced that he had been shot in the head.”
Yesterday’s revelation came just days after the police officer who ran the initial inquiry into how Diana died in Paris’s Alma tunnel blamed the Fiat driver.
Jean Claude Mules said he had compelling evidence that the black Mercedes collided with the Fiat seconds before it ploughed into a pillar. He said his officers would have “had their killer” if they had succeeded in tracing the driver.
Andanson was found dead on May 4 2000 in woodland alongside a country road near Nant, in the Aveyron region of France.
He had apparently left his wife Elizabeth, 45, at their farmhouse in Lignieres, 170 miles south of Paris, and driven 400 miles south to Nant.
A police spokesman said at the time: “He took his own life by dousing himself and the car with petrol and then setting light to it.”
But Andanson’s credit card records show he went into a GÃ©ant hypermarket just a few miles away from where he was found dead.
He bought more than 100 litres of diesel and spent almost 600 francs.
Investigators are not certain what he did with the fuel. But his BMW 3 series’ saloon would hold only 60 litres and he may have filled up and transported the surplus in cans. Critically, experts say that it is inconceivable that Andanson would buy diesel to set himself alight.
Ray Holloway, of the Petrol Retailers Association, said: “With petrol it is the vapour that is the risk. It’s very different with diesel.
“Diesel is warmed andâ€‚compressed to make it fire. You wouldn’t be able to set light to diesel with a match. It would just go out.
“The flashpoint for diesel, that is the temperature it would need to get to, is something like 63C.
“You would need to warm diesel up with something like a blow torch to have any hope of igniting it, and even then you wouldâ€‚probably have to be in a confined space.
“People often get burnedâ€‚when using petrol because they try setting light to the liquid.â€‚But what happens is the vapour ignites first.”
The riddle of Andanson’s death will be looked at by Lord Justice Scott Baker, the judge appointed to oversee Diana’s inquest. He has produced a list of 20 questions about the accident which most people assumed had been answered but which must now be re-examined.
Andanson, who worked for the Sipa agency, was famous for his celebrity portraits, including one of Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis on his death-bed.
But he is also rumoured to have been working for the security services. Former MI6 officer Richard Tomlinson once alleged they use the paparazzi because they are good at tracking the whereabouts of high profile “targets”.
In the summer before the accident, when Diana and Dodi cruised the Mediterranean on his father’s yacht Jonikal, they were plagued by paparazzi. Andanson was one of the biggest players on that scene and was never far away from the couple.
Mr Al Fayed believes Diana, 36, and Dodi, 42, were murdered in a conspiracy driven by the Royal Family and carried out by the security services in August 1997.
He claims they had fallen in love after spending the summer together and planned to marry.
Mr Al Fayed claims the Royals objected to their romance because they did not want Prince William to have a stepfather who was non-white and a Muslim.