Rowland's widow to pursue Fayed feud

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The Independent Online
THE late tycoon Tiny Rowland will continue his bitter feud with Mohamed Al Fayed from the grave next month, when his widow takes the owner of Harrods to the High Court.

Josie Rowland will use a detailed witness statement claiming her husband swore in July, shortly before his death, to pursue a civil legal action. Mr Rowland had vowed to battle for his case, after Scotland Yard dropped an investigation into an alleged theft from his security deposit box at Harrods.

The tycoon, who began his dispute over the ownership of the House of Fraser, had claimed Mr Fayed was responsible for the theft of 500 documents, cut emeralds, uncut rubies and other treasures. But the Crown Prosecution Service advised Scotland Yard that it had looked "very carefully" at the case, consulted senior Treasury counsel, and decided that there was "no realistic prospect of a conviction" relating to the allegations.

Mr Rowland was determined to bring his business rival to court and instructed his solicitors, Cameron McKenna. When he died, his wife took over the role of plaintiff in the case, due to start on 19 October. A spokesman for Mr Fayed said the Harrods owner had admitted the trespass into the safety box, but contested the charges of conspiracy to defraud and theft.

The rivalry between Mr Rowland and Mr Fayed has a long history. In earlier court hearings, Christopher Carr, QC, for Mr Fayed, had stressed how Mr Rowland's deeply-held ambition to own Harrods had been thwarted by Mr Fayed. "This has been a cause of bitterness on Mr Rowland's part ever since. For these last 13 years, he has conducted an unremitting campaign to vilify Mr Fayed, subject to one short interlude when a temporary peace broke out."

Friends have played down Mrs Rowland's role in pursuing the feud, but she has been a determined defender of the Rowland name before. In 1993, she threatened to sue his biographer, Tom Bower, although the plan was dropped after legal advice that she had been "insufficiently abused" in the book, Tiny Rowland - A Rebel Tycoon. She also called for the resignation of the Conservative MP, Tim Smith, after he failed to declare a commercial relationship with Mr Fayed, taking at least pounds 18,000 from him in return for lobbying on his behalf, and she told shareholders that Mr Rowland's successor at Lonrho, Dieter Bock, did not understand the business.