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Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 17:43 GMT
Al-Fayed wins Diana pictures dispute

Mohamed al-Fayed Mohamed al-Fayed: Delighted with the judgement

Harrods boss Mohamed al-Fayed has won an action against the Sun newspaper over pictures of his son, Dodi, and Diana, Princess of Wales.

The pictures of them visiting a Parisian villa were taken the day before they died in a car crash in 1997.

Despite his victory however, High Court judges said Mr al-Fayed had "fabricated" the story of his son Dodi's engagement to Diana and the events surrounding their deaths.

High Court judge Mr Justice Jacob had ruled in March 1999 that the Sun had not infringed the pictures' copyright, and they had been published in the public interest in a way that was "fair dealing".

But on Thursday three Court of Appeal judges overturned the ruling, saying there was no public interest defence to breach of copyright.

Mr al-Fayed fabricated and gave wide publicity to a different version (of events)
Lord Justice Aldous
Ben Murrell, who was responsible for security at the Villa Windsor, handed over the stills to reporter Paul Thompson for a fee of 40,000. It was admitted that the security man had taken them without permission.

The pictures were published in the Sun in September 1998 in an article headlined Video that shames Fayed.

Mr al-Fayed had alleged his son and the princess spent two hours at the villa with an Italian interior designer planning their marital home. But the timing on the video stills showed they were there for just under half an hour.

The newspaper said it had printed the stills taken from security cameras at Mr al-Fayed's Villa Windsor to help disprove his claim that his son and the princess planned to marry and set up home there.

Mr al-Fayed's tribute to the couple at Harrods Mr al-Fayed's tribute to the couple at Harrods
Lord Justice Aldous said: "Mr al-Fayed fabricated and gave wide publicity to a different version in a book entitled Death of a Princess".

In the book, Mr al-Fayed also said there was a conspiracy to kill the couple in order to prevent their marriage.

The judge said Mr al-Fayed also "fabricated" the stories that he had paid for a ring to mark their engagement, and that he saw the bodies and was informed of the princess's last words.

Lord Justice Mance said the "transparent absurdity" of Mr al-Fayed's allegations over Diana's death helped him conclude the Sun had no basis for disregarding Mr al-Fayed's copyright.

'Lies peddled'

Mr Murrell was ordered to pay 20,000 into the court in case Mr al-Fayed seeks damages. The Sun was ordered to pay 45,000 in legal fees.

Tom Crone, The Sun's legal manager, said: "We have attempted to fight the good fight to bring to the notice of the public the lies being peddled by Mr al-Fayed.

"The court recognised that it did consist of lies but this didn't allow us to publish."

Mr al-Fayed said he was delighted with the judgment.

"Today's decision vindicates my belief that Reuben Murrell stole the photos of Diana and Dodi to cash-in by selling them to the Sun," he said.

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See also:
21 Dec 99 |  UK
Profile: Mohamed al-Fayed
23 Dec 99 |  UK
The al-Fayed libel trial

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