Dodi: An improbable romance, and riddle of a secret baby

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It is five months since Dodi Fayed was killed, but, as one of the most eligible bachelors in the world it was only a matter of time before someone claimed to have had his baby. Kate Watson-Smyth looks at the latest round of rumour and rebuttal, allegation and accusation.

Even Diane Holliday has admitted it was an improbable romance. The dashing playboy who was at home in some of the world's most exclusive resorts would drive to her house in Bracknell to spend the evening chatting over a couple of bottles of wine.

On one such night they become lovers and towards the end of their five- month relationship, Ms Holliday became pregnant. She claims Dodi Fayed is the father and that he gave her pounds 75,000 after she told him she was expecting his child. She also says she has DNA evidence to prove that the 15-month-old baby was his. The baby, called Marni, was adopted by a wealthy couple in the United States days after she was born in November 1996.

But Dodi's father, Mohamed Al Fayed yesterday denounced her claims and said Ms Holliday was trying to exploit the family for financial reasons. He flatly denied that DNA tests were ever carried out.

Ms Holliday, 36, told the London Evening Standard yesterday: "Dodi was Marni's father. I have a DNA test to prove it and Mohamed Fayed knows this full well. Mohamed organised the test. I don't want money from him or anybody else but they cannot deny he was Dodi's child." She said the couple had become close at the end of 1995 and the relationship lasted for five months. "I am a Catholic and don't normally use contraception. Dodi was the one who said I couldn't get pregnant because he had such a low sperm count," she told the newspaper.

"I was really surprised when they discovered in July 1996 that I was 20 weeks pregnant. My immediate thought was to have an abortion. When I met Dodi in Paris, he said he wanted to keep the baby but when I decided to have an abortion he didn't disagree particularly vehemently. He gave me pounds 50,000 and left." However, she changed her mind about the abortion and the baby was eventually adopted by a childless couple from Philadelphia.

Tabloid newspapers engaged in a bidding war for the first pictures of the baby which were sold for thousands of pounds.

Ms Holliday said that Mr Fayed rang her a few weeks before he died and was shocked to hear that she had cancelled the abortion. He gave her a further pounds 25,000 which she used to rent a house in Suffolk.

After his death, Ms Holliday went to see his father who, she claimed, already knew of the relationship. According to Ms Holliday, Mr Fayed arranged for the DNA tests to be carried out and said he wanted the baby to be brought back to England.

But a spokesman for Mr Fayed said: "No DNA tests have been taken. We have DNA tests which were taken from Dodi's body which could be used to test parentage but our investigations have led us to conclude that this is nothing more than an extremely cruel and wicked deception.

"Mohamed would have been delighted to discover that he had a grandchild and that Dodi had a daughter, but that is not the case and this is just heartless." He added that Mr Fayed gave Ms Holliday pounds 5,000 for tests to be done but they were not aware that they had been carried out. "We hired an American lawyer to carry out our investigations and we are satisfied that she is lying."

He said the family had made a complaint to the police. A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: "We can confirm that police are carrying out an investigation into an alleged financial deception in London in December 1997."

Ms Holliday's sister-in-law Julie said the family did not know about her relationship with Dodi."I saw her regularly in 1996 and she never showed any signs of being pregnant," she said.

Ms Holliday remains adamant that the results of the DNA test will prove that Dodi is the baby's father, a claim supported by her lawyer.