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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008, 23:27 GMT
Diana and Dodi 'were engaged'
Michael Cole
Michael Cole was Mohamed Al Fayed's spokesman in 1997
Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed were engaged, Mohamed Al Fayed's press spokesman has insisted.

At the inquest into the couple's deaths, Michael Cole was challenged on his statement shortly after the crash.

Mr Cole had said then that people would never know the true meaning of a ring which Dodi had given Diana hours before they died in a car crash.

But at the inquest Mr Cole said Dodi had given him "the strongest indication that he was going to marry Diana".

In 1997 Mr Cole said: "What that ring meant we shall probably never know and if the planet lasts for another thousand years, I'm quite sure that people will continue to speculate about its significance."

Private matter

Counsel for the inquests, Nicholas Hilliard, asked if this meant an engagement had not been mentioned.

We're running out of time and we've only just started
Nicholas Hilliard, coroner's representative

Mr Cole replied it was a very private matter between private individuals and the ring and its purpose had not been discussed.

But he said Dodi had given him "the strongest indication" the couple would marry.

Dodi told him that he and Diana were "together" on 28 July, 1997, a month before the fatal crash.

Dodi said: "There will never be another woman for me, Michael, never ever."

Mr Cole said: "He was a man in love and there was no doubt about it in my mind."

'Dogging footsteps'

He said the couple had been planning to buy a house in Malibu where they would live when they were married.

Mr Hilliard reminded Mr Cole of a television interview he gave on behalf of Mr Al Fayed shortly after the fatal crash.

In this he said the tragedy would never have happened without the photographers who had been "dogging the footsteps" of Dodi and Diana for weeks.

But another witness, Mr Hilliard pointed out, had said Mr Al Fayed's first reaction was to allege an assassination plot involving the Duke of Edinburgh and the intelligence services.

Mr Cole said he had expressed what he understood to be Mr Al Fayed's immediate reaction.

The Queen sent a letter of condolence to Mr Al Fayed, before she learned of his belief in a murder plot.

Cruel letters

Earlier on Thursday the inquest heard from an alternative therapist who said the Duke of Edinburgh had written "cruel and disparaging" letters to Princess Diana.

Simone Simmons, who practises "energy healing", told the London hearing the princess had shown her two letters from Prince Philip dating from 1994 or 1995.

Ms Simmons said the duke had made observations about the propriety of the princess's behaviour.

Evidence was also heard from John Johnson, the personal bodyguard for Dodi.

Mr Johnson, who gave his evidence via video-link from the British High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya, contradicted a claim made by Mr Al Fayed that Dodi and the princess visited a jewellery shop during the holiday.

The Harrods boss has said that during one of the cruise trips the pair went into the Repossi jewellery store in Monte Carlo where they selected an engagement ring.

But Mr Johnson told the hearing they were just "window shopping" adding that there "didn't seem to be any specific reason to go into Monte Carlo".

The Duke of Edinburgh with Princess Diana

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