Joined: 13 Feb 2006
|Posted: Mon Jun 05, 2006 9:05 am Post subject: A CRUCIAL PERSONAL DETAIL...
|A CRUCIAL PERSONAL DETAIL...
AND THE TRUTH ABOUT DIANA’S DEATH
A compelling analysis of what Lord Stevens’s inquiry into the cause of Diana’s death will soon reveal . . . by a close friend whose wife has given evidence
The Mail on Sunday
4 June 2006
By DOMINIC LAWSON
ON JUNE 1, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, was taking part in the second birthday celebrations of our daughter Domenica, who was born with Down’s syndrome. Diana was her godmother, and in those two years she had often shown how seriously she took her duties in that role. But that day it was Diana who was seeking guidance from us.
After the other guests had left and we were sitting down together, she told us that she’d had an invitation from Mohamed Al Fayed to spend a few days in the South of France on his newly acquired yacht, the Jonikal. She was very tempted and wanted to know whether we thought it was a good idea. My wife Rosa asked her why she was keen on taking up the invitation from the deeply controversial owner of Harrods.
PROPOSAL?: ‘ Dodi gave me a watch and a bracelet – the next thing will be a ring,’ said Diana
Diana replied that she wanted to take ‘the boys’ and that she knew that Fayed had a very big security operation, which would remove one of her biggest headaches – how to keep her sons protected from the Press and other intruders. I acknowledged that, but strongly urged her not to accept.
I said it didn’t seem right that she – and especially her sons – should be closely associated with a man who successive British Governments, both Conservative and Labour, had decided was not fit to be given a passport (ever since a 1989 Department of Trade investigation into his takeover of Harrods condemned him as a serial liar with ‘a capacity for fantasy’).
I believe that I added: ‘The man is nothing but trouble.’
Diana looked steadily at us with those big doe eyes, and then said: ‘Thank you so much, I’m very glad I asked you.’
Six weeks later I was in the newsroom of the paper I then edited when the picture editor came marching towards me with a look of satisfaction on his face. ‘There’s our front page,’ he said, and slapped down on the table in front of me a long-range photograph from a French news agency of a man and a woman on a big boat. ‘That’s Princess Diana and Mohamed Al Fayed,’ he exclaimed.
‘Yes,’ I sighed, ‘I know who they are.’
After he wandered off, probably thinking what an ungrateful editor he was working for, I called my wife and told her what I had just been shown. She laughed. ‘Well,that explains why I haven’t heard a peep from Diana recently.’
That was so typical of Diana: she often asked my wife for advice, but seldom took it. And when she did something that she knew Rosa disapproved of, she found it impossible to own up.
A month later, however, Diana took up Rosa’s invitation to join her on a boat trip around the Greek Islands. By then her brief romance with Mohamed Al Fayed’s son Dodi – which began on the Jonikal – had become the story that every newspaper and television channel in the world was chasing. More than ever before in her life, Diana was on the run from the paparazzi.
Fortunately the boat Rosa had chosen was tiny – barely room enough for the two of them and three crew. The world’s Press had got wind of the fact that Diana was touring the Greek Islands, but it never occurred to them that it would be on such a small boat.
The two friends would laugh as helicopters hired by the photographic agencies flew over their little boat, clearly not realising that they were in the right spot.
In that peaceful interlude, a week before Diana flew back to France for her last, fated, encounter with Dodi Al Fayed, she talked at length about her attitude to her latest suitor: ‘He’s given me a bracelet. He’s given me a watch. I know that the next thing will be a ring.’
Then she laughed: ‘Rosa, that’s going firmly on the fourth finger of my right hand.’ In other words, forget about engagement, much less marriage, to Dodi Al Fayed.
DOGGED: Lord Stevens is looking at ‘ every single conspiracy theory’
AFORTNIGHT later, both Diana and Dodi were dead. In the months that followed, the grief-stricken Mohamed Al Fayed insisted that the two of them had agreed to marry, that Diana had been pregnant with Dodi’s child and that they had been murdered by British Intelligence at the urging of the Duke of Edinburgh who, the Egyptian multi-millionaire claimed, was determined to prevent the possibility of a Muslim stepbrother to Princes William and Harry.
The official French report by Judge Herve Stephan into the deaths of Diana, Dodi and their driver Henri Paul was published in 1999.
His investigation, led by the French police’s leading detectives and forensic experts, produced a document of 6,800 pages and involved more than 200 witness statements, of which almost half were from staff of the Ritz Hotel, all of whom worked for Mohamed Al Fayed.
Henri Paul was the hotel’s head of security and the Mercedes he drove that dreadful night was hired from a firm whose only client was the Ritz. The official communique of Judge Stephan’s report concluded: ‘The accident was caused by the fact that the driver of the car was inebriated and under the influence of drugs incompatible with alcohol, a state that did not allow him to maintain control of his vehicle which was travelling at a high speed on a tricky section of the road.’
The report also records the French police’s belief that both Diana and Dodi ‘would have survived if they had fastened their seat belts’. Yet countless people find it emotionally unacceptable that the world’s most famous woman should simply have been the victim of a Saturday night drunk-driver and the failure to observe the most rudimentary rule of passenger safety.
The French newspaper Le Monde last week suggested that Fayed’s reason for a similar attitude may be more than emotional: ‘Whoever is ultimately found responsible could face enormous damages. Princes William and Harry could claim colossal financial compensation from the proprietor of the Paris Ritz.’
For whatever reason, Fayed pleaded privately with the then Metropolitan Police Commissioner, John Stevens, to reopen the investigation into the crash.
It must have seemed to Fayed like a prayer answered when on January 6, 2004, Michael Burgess, the Royal Coroner whose own inquiry into the deaths had been held up by Fayed’s litigious tussles with the French authorities, appointed none other than John Stevens to head a formal investigation into the deaths of Dodi and Diana. Why should Fayed have felt that John, now Lord, Stevens was the person he could most trust, describing him as ‘a man of conscience and great integrity – he will not be bullied by the intelligence
services, who I believe executed Dodi and Diana’? To understand the reason, it is necessary to delve briefly into the grim world of sectarian murders in the Northern Ireland of the 1980s.
In 1989, John Stevens was appointed to investigate allegations of collusion between the British security services and loyalist paramilitaries. One of the slaughtered victims of this alleged collusion was the Catholic lawyer Pat Finucane, who acted for many IRA suspects.
To the consternation of the security services, Stevens was unremitting in his quest for the truth, undeterred even when his incident room was, in his own words, ‘destroyed by a fire which I believe was a deliberate act of arson’. In 2003 he produced a report in which he sensationally declared: ‘I conclude that there was collusion both in murders and in the circumstances surrounding them.’ No wonder Mohamed Al Fayed believes that John Stevens ‘will not be bullied by the intelligence services’.
When, just after he was appointed by the Royal Coroner, I somewhat facetiously asked John Stevens whether he would be prepared to declare that Prince Philip was the guilty man, should that be the result of his investigations. He said that indeed he would. ‘I am going to investigate every single conspiracy theory, and there are about a hundred of them. I am going to do what a policeman does: to follow where the evidence leads me, wherever that happens to be.’
As if to emphasise his doggedness, Stevens’s desk in his spartan office in New Scotland Yard has a single adornment on it: a metal sculpture of a bulldog, that most tenacious of all breeds.
I have not had the chance for a proper talk with John Stevens since that conversation, but through other contacts I have been able to piece together something of the state of play of his investigations, which are likely to have cost £2million by the time they are completed.
Although I understand that Stevens will not be reporting until August, his team of 12 officers – all of whom refer to their boss as His Lordship – have already made some significant breakthroughs.
NEW CLUE: The wrecked Mercedes still has tiny traces of Diana’s blood
They have found fresh witnesses to the events of the night in question. What will most please Mohamed Al Fayed is that they have established that Henri Paul was a paid informant for the intelligence services – but the French, not the British. They have, however, had unprecedented access to MI5 and MI6. Stevens will include all their interview statements in his report to the Royal Coroner. It will then be up to Mr Burgess to decide whether to make them public.
Apparently Stevens has yet to decide whether to interview the Duke of Edinburgh, the man Fayed claims ordered MI6 to kill the mother of his own grandsons. That would be a memorable encounter – for both men.
Stevens’s investigators are still attempting to get details from the US National Security Agency of satellite intercepts of Diana’s phone conversations in Paris, which the NSA allegedly possesses.
And they have yet to track down the Fiat Uno which, according to the forensic work by the French, brushed against Henri Paul’s speeding Mercedes immediately before
he drove it into pillar number 13 of the Alma Tunnel.
THE Mercedes itself has been brought back to the police’s forensic laboratories in Camberley, Surrey, and ‘ taken to bits’ – and not just to establish the nature of the fatal crash. The car still has faint traces of the blood of its final passengers.
There have been astonishing developments in the field of forensic science and DNA testing since the French investigated, and for some reason they never preserved any of Diana’s blood.
The latest British techniques can – and will – establish definitively whether or not the tiny amount of dried blood in the car that matches Diana’s type is that of a woman who was pregnant. That issue, upsetting as it must be to Princes William and Harry, is at the centre of Fayed’s claims of a conspiracy.
I understand that Stevens’s men have interviewed the Home Office pathologist Dr Robert Chapman, who carried out a post-mortem examination of Diana’s body.
He has told them that he examined the uterus closely and that the Princess was not pregnant.
However, Stevens characteristically wants everything nailed down. So it was that two female members of his team arrived at our home and subjected my wife to a grilling lasting two hours.
Given that Rosa had spent a week with Diana just before her death, they wanted to know whether she had any reason to think that Diana believed herself to be pregnant.
Rosa felt obliged to reveal that when they said their goodbyes on August 20, Diana’s period had started, and therefore it was biologically impossible for her to have been pregnant at the time of her death.
It is in a way obscene that such speculation is the subject of a public inquiry. But Lord Stevens regards Mohamed Al Fayed principally as a bereaved parent and perhaps believes that it will bring succour to the Harrods owner to know for certain that though he lost a son, he did not lose an unborn grandchild.
Last Thursday our own daughter celebrated her 11th birthday. We thought how proud Diana would have been of Domenica – and how we wished we had been able to persuade her not to become involved with the Fayeds in that summer nine years ago.
Diana, Princess of Wales is and always will be The People's Princess.