Diana inquiry: Rival camps play out the drama on the small screen

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The Independent Online
YESTERDAY'S meeting of the main surviving players in the drama surrounding the death of the Princess of Wales was the culmination of a week of claim, counter-claim and recrimination.

Mohamed Al Fayed's claims that Diana was the victim of a conspiracy and murder have come under withering attack in a Channel 4 television documentary. According to the Dispatches programme, Mr Fayed set out to snare the Princess into his family through his son Dodi, and her death was caused, as originally thought, by drunken and reckless driving by Paris Ritz driver Henri Paul, and a breakdown in security. However, since her death the Fayed camp had deliberately created a smokescreen of conspiracy theories.

These are the latest claims and counter claims:

The Fayed claims: Officials at the Paris Ritz and bodyguard Trevor Rees- Jones had said that Mr Paul did not appear to be drunk, and had been drinking pineapple juice mixed with water. Mr Fayed's camp had issued video footage which purported to show him walking and behaving in a manner which did not suggest he was drunk.

Dispatches rebuttal: A barman at the Bar Vendome, Alain Villaunez, said he saw Mr Paul drinking Pastis, and afterwards "[Mr Paul] staggered to the exit", bumping into another barman on the way. Mr Villaunez also claims he was asked by representatives of Mr Fayed to support their version of events "for the good of the Royal Family".

The Fayed claims: Spokesmen for the Harrods owner have dismissed claims that Mr Paul had taunted and challenged waiting photographers as he drove off, saying they would never be able to catch him. It was also claimed that Mr Paul was fully qualified to drive the Mercedes limousine which was owned by a hire company called Etiole.

Dispatches rebuttal: A driver called Frederick who worked at the Ritz until last month said he was present when Mr Paul made the challenge then drove off at speed. He also claimed that Dodi Fayed told him that his father had personally instructed that Mr Paul did the driving that night. Roland Biribin, of the French limousine drivers' association, said that Mr Paul was not a member, and did not have the necessary qualification to drive the Mercedes.

The Fayed claims : In their pursuit of a conspiracy theory the Fayed camp had made much of a Fiat Uno which is supposed to have clipped the Mercedes before the crash. Mr Fayed's people are even said to have tracked down the car.

Dispatches rebuttal: the programme revealed that French investigators have already tracked down and eliminated the car from their inquiries.

The Fayed claims: The Harrods owner had repeatedly stated that he had been told about the last words spoken by Diana before her death. He had also said that he saw the Princess's body.

Dispatches rebuttal: Sami Nair, an adviser to the minister of the interior, said he arrived at the hospital before Diana was taken there and said "I can confirm in definite terms that she did not utter a single word."

He added that the room where she was taken was closely guarded and the Harrods owner's claims to have seen her was "almost impossible ... and extremely questionable".

The Fayed claims: An expensive necklace had gone missing from the crashed car. The inference being it had been stolen by a photographer. The loss was reported to the French investigating authorities.

Dispatches rebuttal: This was a false story fed to the media to discredit the paparazzi. It was printed by the Sunday Times despite the reservations of their Paris correspondent. She subsequently discovered no such loss had been reported to the investigators.

The Fayed claims: Sources close Mohamed Al Fayed have claimed that the Princess had tremendous affection for him and regarded him as an uncle figure. Dodi and Diana planned to get married.

Dispatches rebuttal: Mr Fayed had set out to get the Princess married to his son. Kelly Fisher, Dodi Fayed's former girlfriend, claims in the programme that Dodi had told her he had been ordered by his father to the South of France to be with Diana.

A former member of the Harrods owner's security staff, Bob Loftus, said the villa in the South of France was bugged, and Diana's conversations could have been taped.