Focusing On The Fiat

FROM THE FIRST HOURS AFTER THE CRASH THAT KILLED Princess Diana, Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul, investigators focused on the paparazzi. Nine photographers and a motorcyclist were charged with involuntary homicide and failure to render assistance at the scene of an accident. Now it appears they may be guilty of nothing more than being obnoxious. NEWSWEEK has learned that the investigating judge has told the attorneys for at least two of the paparazzi that once the inquiry is completed he expects the charges to be dropped. While a preliminary check of phone records indicated that none of the paparazzi had called the Paris emergency number for help after the accident, it turns out that one photog did dial an alternate number. Then he shouted to the others that he'd called, so they wouldn't clog police lines. As for the involuntary-homicide charges, certainly the photographers were chasing the Mercedes, but none of the witnesses saw them come close enough to interfere directly with the car.

With the paparazzi apparently off the hook, the investigation is now focused almost entirely on the white Fiat Uno that may have played a key role in the accident. New evidence filed in the official police dossier last week indicates that the Mercedes not only clipped another car but sideswiped it, leaving traces of white paint and black rubber along the entire right side of the Mercedes. The paint, identified as Bianco Corfu 224, was applied to Fiat Unos manufactured in Italy from 1983 to 1987; the rubber was found to be the same as used on the side moldings of the Unos. Police sources say they have eliminated all such autos registered in the area around Paris and are concentrating their search in central France, where a ""considerable number'' fit the criteria. ""It's really a mystery,'' said an attorney familiar with the case. ""Nobody saw the little car in the tunnel. Nobody saw it go backward; nobody saw it go forward. But for sure it existed.''