Fayed blusters once too often

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The Independent Online
THE 10 or more aides who apparently tried to quieten Mohamed Al Fayed as he launched into a highly charged tirade on the steps of the Palais de Justice in Paris on Friday clearly had their work cut out.

Since his son, Dodi, and Diana, Princess of Wales, were killed in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel last August, Mr Fayed has become increasingly outspoken. He has aired opinions not only on the possible cause of the fatal accident but also on the supposed cover-up, the Princess's alleged final words and, it seems, any other topic he happens upon. The past week has seen a deluge of comment from the mouth of the Harrods owner - and a change of public opinion, from sympathy for his loss of Dodi to unease about his outbursts and relentless pursuit of conspiracy theories.

His views on the "plot" to kill Dodi and Diana, which many fear distress Diana's two sons, were aired on a speculative and widely ridiculed programme on ITV. Diana: The Secrets Behind the Crash ran though many of the conspiracy theories he had previously voiced, most famously in the Mirror. He did, however, say something he had not said before: that Diana had told him personally she was going to marry his son.

The following night, another programme - Dispatches on Channel 4 - largely blamed the security at Mr Fayed's Ritz hotel in Paris for the fatal crash, and dismissed conspiracy theories as a distraction from the truth.

Then, on Friday afternoon, blinking in the Paris sunshine, Mr Fayed delivered his most astonishing and seemingly feverish outburst yet. He described Diana's mother, Frances Shand Kydd, as an "English snob" who refused to speak to working-class people like him. "She thinks she is the Queen of Sheba. People like her are from another planet," he cried.

The reaction to this has been predictable, but vehement. "Reptile" screamed the Sun's front page yesterday, while the Daily Mail suggested it "may be some small excuse that Fayed lost his son" and was "wrestling with his own demons".

Mr Fayed is used to the criticism. What is more damaging to him is the almost total loss of credibility he has now suffered. He has changed his story so many times, made so many allegations and criticised so many people, it is likely that only the incautious will give his opinions the time of day.

Of course, that doesn't mean he will stop offering them.