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Wednesday, May 20, 1998 Published at 18:45 GMT 19:45 UK


Al Fayed buys Diana's school

Al Fayed - used the announcement to criticise the memorial fund

The former school of Diana, Princess of Wales, is to become a living memorial to her after it was bought by the chairman of Harrods, Mohammed Al-Fayed.

The father of Dodi Al-Fayed, who died in the same car crash in Paris last year, bid £2.5m for West Heath School at Sevenoaks in Kent, and the offer has now been accepted by the Charity Commission.

An organisation which helps traumatised and deprived children, the Beth Marie Centre, will now use the buildings.

West Heath was sold because the school ran into financial difficulties in 1997 and was closed on the same day as Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed died.

The Harrods chairman said he was "absolutely delighted" by the commission's decision, and used the announcement to add his own voice to continuing controversy surrounding the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

A statement on his behalf said that he had made his offer "after the Princess Diana Memorial Fund refused to buy the building."

He added: "I am surprised that the Princess Diana Memorial Fund with all its millions in the bank did not show a greater interest in this project.

"I believe it to be a far more fitting tribute to her work than putting her name on tasteless souvenirs."

Mr Al Fayed's statement said a further £660,000 would be spent on fully restoring the school, near Sevenoaks in Kent, to provide a permanent home for the Beth Marie Centre.

Mr Al Fayed stepped in shortly before the deadline last month for purchase of the school, which closed because of mounting debts.

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