Trial halted over Fayed `the biggest crook' claim

THE LIBEL action between Neil Hamilton and Mohamed Al Fayed was halted amid uproar at the High Court yesterday after the multi-millionaire owner of Harrods was branded "the biggest crook in town" by his former head of security.

The jury was hastily ushered out and the judge, Mr Justice Morland, also left after failing to prevent Brian Dodd, a former paratrooper and SAS soldier, from shouting from the witness box, where he had been called to give evidence on behalf of the former MP for Tatton. As he watched the proceedings break up, Mr Dodd, in a dark grey suit and regimental tie, plaintively cried out: "I'm sorry Mr Hamilton, I don't think I've done your cause much good."

Earlier, he said that after watching the former MP's wife, Christine, on television news he felt "... tainted by the same brush as Neil Hamilton". He went on: "I have got to leave this court a tainted man by Mr Fayed, who's the biggest bloody crook in this town."

The latest day of evidence lived up to all the colourful theatre that had gone before.

Mr Dodd, sitting ramrod straight, repeatedly interrupted, not just Mr Fayed's QC, George Carman, but Desmond Browne, the counsel for Mr Hamilton.

Mr Hamilton, the former minister for Corporate Affairs in John Major's government, is suing Mr Fayed over allegations that he accepted cash, gifts, and holidays in return for asking questions in the Commons favourable to the owner of Harrods.

Mr Dodd, the holder of the Military Medal, was in charge of security at Mr Fayed's offices and apartments in Park Lane, central London. The staff included Philip Bromfield, a doorman, who claimed that he had handed over two envelopes to Mr Hamilton.

Mr Dodd told the jury that he had made Mr Bromfield and others keep a book in which to enter the names and times when these envelopes were collected, so as to "cover themselves".

He said: "There were up to 15 people a week who he [Mr Fayed] was paying off." There was also a separate book for anyone who went to see Mr Fayed and this included the names of "Labour MPs, Tory MPs and a whole load of Lords.

"When Mr Fayed's brother, Ali, found out about the book it was taken upstairs and they went mad about it."

Mr Dodd added: "I said I needed to know who is in the building in case there is a fire. I said you can call them Donald Duck one and Donald Duck two, but I will have the names in my book or I will not do my job."

Mr Dodd claimed that when he accompanied Mr Fayed on his walk around the floor at Harrods, Mr Fayed would often offer invitations to strangers. He continued: "It was a nightmare for a bodyguard because Mr Al Fayed would often bump into people and engage them in conversation, frequently inviting them to go to the Ritz if they were in Paris."

As Mr Carman protested, Mr Dodd ploughed on: "I can understand Mr Hamilton's problem, one of the rooms in 1986 cost pounds 3,000-a-night without breakfast, the average person could not afford to stay there..."

Mr Carman said: "My Lord, will you stop this witness please..."

Mr Dodd carried on: "So he would say, `You must come as my guest'."

Mr Dodd claimed that Mr Fayed's secretaries, who appeared as his witnesses, Alison Bozek and Iris Bond, had shredded pages from the book the security staff had kept.

Mr Dodd said: "It's my knowledge, because each day the page was ripped out, it was not allowed to be seen. In 1980 I burnt 40 sacks of documents from Mr Fayed's office that he wanted to hide on a bonfire. It took me four hours."

Mr Dodd claimed that Mr Fayed had instructed him to throw one of his tenants at Park Lane "on an effing skip". He added: "He said, `You kill him, you do what you effing like with him, get him out of that flat'. He gave me the keys to go in and do it."

Mr Dodd also said that Mr Fayed had once asked him to go into the offices of his former brother-in-law, Adnan Khashoggi. And he had instructed him to get rid of tenants who were lawfully at the apartment.

Under cross examination from Mr Carman, Mr Dodd admitted writing a letter to Mr Fayed in January 1995 asking for work. It read: "I would find no difficulty in giving you and your family my complete loyalty as I always have in the past." It added that he still admired Mr Fayed and missed the "good years" working for him.

The jury is expected to retire on Monday at the end of legal arguments, closing speeches and summing up by the judge, to consider their verdict.