No link too tenuous for Diana walk

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THE SHOP where Diana, Princess of Wales, supposedly bought shirts for James Hewitt - and Dodi Fayed was a director - qualified for a mention.

Desiree Erasmus, actor-cum-guide, attempted to engage her audience with another snippet of royal gossip as her tour group passed Turner & Asser.

The Original London Walks Company now offers a Princess Diana's London - a two-hour walk "back down the years to the places where the Princess was on the Royal stage". It also takes in "the other places" where the princess lived her real life, "the places that aren't in the guide book".

For the tour, no Royal connection is too tenuous. It began at the Ritz hotel, "an auspicious place", the group was told, given that Diana's last dinner was at the Paris equivalent, and ended outside the Fayeds' flat on Park Lane.

"This is where Diana had been wined and dined en famille with the Fayeds," said Miss Erasmus, building up to a final flourish. "How ironic that two short weeks later her body goes by in a box, bearing the Royal standard."

At St James's Palace, the tourists were given a taste of the scenes before Diana's funeral. "I'm not exaggerating when I say it was knee-deep in flowers," she said, recalling the aroma of incense as well.

Miss Erasmus claimed to have spent months researching the walk, drawing on "connections" to get the "inside story". She alleged, for example, that it was at the Albany where "Diana was conducting her affair with the English rugby captain Will Carling," and at Aspreys that Diana bought Dodi a gold cigar cutter.

In a conspiratorial tone, Miss Erasmus claimed to provide the inside story on Diana's secret assignations, and those of the men with whom she associated.

What was her evidence? She had read every book and "talked to every person I could meet". Months of research had gone into the walk. "Everything I say on my walk has been documented," she added.

On to Tramp nightclub, "the sort of place where Dodi Fayed would be every night in the late Seventies and early Eighties, sporting a different blonde on his arm every night", and "the actual place where Prince Andrew met Koo Stark".

Miss Erasmus denied that the walk was a cynical attempt to use the Princess's death. "We decided that Diana's death had made such an impact that it was probably the most famous historical event in this country," she said.

Just as there was a market in Paris for following the route of the crash, so people liked to learn the ins-and-outs of Diana's life in Britain. "They think it's a soap opera. They want to hear the salacious gossip," said Miss Erasmus.

At the end of the tour hardened Dianaphiles were told of another "Diana walk" on Tuesday - taking in San Lorenzo, Harvey Nicholls and Harrods.