Page last updated at 18:09 GMT, Monday, 18 February 2008

Al Fayed gets his 'moment' in court

By Caroline McClatchey
BBC News

Mohamed Al Fayed arriving to give evidence
Mr Al Fayed said he faced the "steel wall" of the security service

Mohamed Al Fayed has been giving evidence at London's Royal Courts of Justice at the inquest into the death of his son Dodi and Diana, Princess of Wales.

He said this was his moment.

Stepping out of his chauffeured car and into the media glare, he was defiant from the start.

"I've been fighting for 10 years," he said.

"This is the moment for me to say exactly what I feel happened to my son and Diana."

And he certainly didn't hold back when he got into the witness box.

For Mr Al Fayed, it's simple. Princess Diana and his son were murdered because they were going to get married and Diana was pregnant.

Prince Charles wanted to "get on and marry his Camilla", and princes Charles and Philip could not accept Dodi having "anything to do with the future king", he said.

And according to Mr Al Fayed, everyone was in on the conspiracy.

From the top officials who didn't pass on a note from Diana in which she said she feared for her life, to the driver Henri Paul; they were all in the pay of the security services or the "dark forces".

Chuckles

The princess's former butler, Paul Burrell, and her sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale were also part of the cover-up, according to Mr Al Fayed.

And, as he had maintained for years, Prince Philip and Prince Charles were in charge.

His conspiracy theories are well known, but never before has Mr Al Fayed had such an opportunity to air them at such great length, and never before have they been pulled apart by top lawyers.

At the start, Mr Burnett, counsel for the coroner, called him "a great buccaneering businessman", but during cross-examination Mr Al Fayed's often incoherent and at times amusing ramblings raised chuckles from the public gallery and quips from the legal team.

At one point, Lord Justice Scott Baker remarked: "A lot of people were involved in the plot, yes?"

'Steel wall'

The lawyers tried to rein Mr Al Fayed in on several occasions and make him stick to the questions asked, but they didn't have much success. He was on a roll.

Tieless, dressed in a checked suit and shirt, the Harrods' owner elaborated on several of his previous accusations.

He remained resolute throughout, saying he didn't mind being ridiculed or being told he was hallucinating.

But when asked to provide some evidence of his accusations, he threw his hands up and said: "How can you want me to get proof?"

He was, he said, facing the "steel wall" of the security services.

'An execution'

When Mr Al Fayed was asked about the moment he found out about the fatal crash, he broke down and reached inside his jacket for a handkerchief.

I am not doing this for myself, but for the country
Mohamed Al Fayed

Passionate and direct, the words he used reflected his profound grief and the strength of his convictions.

He said it was "a slaughter, not a murder", and an "execution" by "gangsters and terrorists".

There was no shortage of startling remarks.

He referred to the royals as the "Dracula family" and called Prince Philip "a Nazi" and "a racist", and even suggested his original surname was something like "Frankenstein".

'Silly questions'

The tone of questioning changed after lunch, and the atmosphere with it.

While Mr Burnett was gently mocking, Richard Horwell QC, representing the Metropolitan Police, was definitely more bullish.

All you are interested in is your assumptions, not evidence
Richard Horwell QC

He accused Mr Al Fayed of not listening to any of the evidence, and telling him: "All you are interested in is your assumptions, not evidence."

In response, Mr Al Fayed grew angry, demanding to know why he had to answer such "silly questions".

As the list of the co-conspirators expanded to include then-prime minister Tony Blair, the French ambulance service, and the British Ambassador in Paris, the laughs from the public gallery grew longer and louder.

The biggest laugh came when Mr Al Fayed was quizzed about the photographer James Andanson, who he claimed was a trained MI6 assassin and the driver of the mystery Fiat Uno which allegedly caused the fatal crash.

Mr Horwell described the Fiat Uno as "clapped-out".

He asked Mr Al Fayed: "Can you help as to why with the might of the Royal family, MI6 and so on, they chose such a car?"

Now looking rather pitiful, he addressed Lord Justice Scott Baker: "I am a father who lost his son... I am fighting unbelievable forces.

"But with your power as a judge, you have to force MI6 to open their box and find the result."

Outside the court, Mr Al Fayed did not halt his invective.

Asked by the BBC's royal correspondent Peter Hunt whether he was lying, the Harrods owner shot back: "You work for MI6, you idiot."

Mr Al Fayed had his day in court. And it was certainly unforgettable for all concerned.


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Mohamed Al Fayed says he was close to Princess Diana



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