LONDON: Mohamed El-Fayed, the man who claims that his son and Princess Diana were killed to prevent a marriage, prepares to take the stand at a coroner s inquest today.
The testimony by El-Fayed looks set to be the dramatic high point in an inquest that has already run for more than four months and consumed more than ?3 million in public funds.
El-Fayed drew his own conclusions within half an hour of his son Dodi s death, according to Frank Klein, president of the Ritz Hotel in Paris.
“This is not an accident, this is a plot or an assassination, Fayed said in a telephone conversation, Klein has testified.
“I am in no doubt whatsoever that my son and Princess Diana were murdered by the British security services on the orders of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, El-Fayed said in a witness statement three years ago.
He has also declared: “I m the only person who knows exactly what happened.
On Thursday, however, El-Fayed s security chief, John Macnamara, said the billionaire had no evidence to implicate Philip.
Macnamara also said he had no evidence for previous assertions that Diana had telephoned friends with news of an impending engagement, that the British ambassador in Paris ordered her body embalmed to cover up her pregnancy, or that the French medical team that treated the dying princess were involved in a murder plot – all allegations made by his boss.
That s unlikely to dent the confidence of the combative El-Fayed, who worked his way up from a humble birth in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1929 to become one of the richest men in Britain.
Stubbornly rejecting the findings of French and British police that his son died in a simple road accident, he has used his wealth to pursue court cases in Britain, France and the United States seeking evidence of collusion among security agencies.
Despite owning the famous Harrods department store in west London, a castle in Scotland and the Fulham FC soccer team, El-Fayed has been a frustrated outsider in his adopted country.
He has been thwarted in his applications for British citizenship, and caused a political uproar in 1994 when he disclosed that he had paid two members of the House of Commons to put questions to ministers.
El-Fayed began building his fortune as a furniture dealer, and had profitable dealings with his brother-in-law, Adnan Khashoggi, who later became a major arms trader.
El-Fayed and his son Dodi, the product of a brief first marriage, moved to England in 1974.
El-Fayed defeated another colorful entrepreneur, Tiny Rowland, to gain control of Harrods in 1985. Five years later, a British government report concluded that El-Fayed and his brother Ali had misrepresented their background and the sources of their wealth when they bought Harrods, but no sanctions were imposed.
El-Fayed s lawyers have not yet outlined a comprehensive theory of the alleged murder plot, though they have asked pointed questions about Philip, the letters he wrote to Diana, now missing; and the now-legendary white Fiat that investigators say bumped against the couple s car just before the crash.
Lawyer Michael Mansfield told the inquest that El-Fayed was no longer claiming that Trevor Rees, the bodyguard who was severely injured in the crash, had made false statements under coercion from the security services.
El-Fayed s lawyers did not challenge Michael Jay, the British ambassador in Paris in 1997, when he denied having anything to do with embalming Diana s body.
And although El-Fayed has accused Diana s brother-in-law, Robert Fellowes, of being in the Paris Embassy on the night of the crash to coordinate the plot, the lawyers did not question Fellowes testimony that in fact he was in eastern England on the night.
They also had few issues to raise with John Stevens, the former chief of London s Metropolitan Police, who headed the British investigation of the crash that produced an 867-page report that comprehensively dismissed El-Fayed s claims of a murder conspiracy.
Instead, it basically agreed with French investigators that driver Henri Paul was over the limit for alcohol, was driving too fast and simply lost control of the car.
On his website, El-Fayed has said he believes that:
– Henri Paul was a paid informant for the British foreign intelligence agency MI6.- Paul was not drunk.- MI6 and the US Central Intelligence Agency were monitoring Diana s calls and movements.- MI6 is known to be involved in assassinations.- Two senior MI6 agents based at the British Embassy in Paris orchestrated Diana s death.- British authorities authorized the embalming of Diana s body to cover up her pregnancy, and that the embalming was illegal.- Blood samples taken at Henri Paul s post-mortem were switched by MI6 to show excessive alcohol in his blood.- Secret services had tampered with CCTV cameras on the couple s route to make them inoperative.- The crash was caused by a blinding flash and a deliberate collision with a white Fiat Uno owned by a photographer employed by MI6.- There is no explanation why Paul chose the route leading to the fatal crash.