'Garbage and baloney': Fayed gives his verdict

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Those invited to hear Mohammed Al Fayed's thoughts on Lord Stevens' report into the death of Princess Diana in person had to sit through nearly an hour of detailed rebuttal, lurid allegation and dewy-eyed reminiscence from his most loyal retainers before the great man himself bowled into the room.

Until the arrival of the Harrods boss, bearing the forlorn but stoic countenance of the wronged father seeking justice for a murdered son, the world's media had been taken on a whirlwind journey through Dianaland and its beguiling characters.

Mr Fayed's former spin doctor, the ex-BBC world correspondent Michael Cole, who has found himself pressed back into service for his old boss, presided over proceedings with magisterial gravitas.

He recalled the Princess's old lovers ­ Gilby, Hoare, Carling and Hewitt. There was her "rock", Paul Burrell, his sensational Old Bailey trial, the Princess's devoted but devastated sons William and Harry, and ailing and much loved father Johnny Spencer. There were even brief cameos from Martin Bashir, Julie Andrews and the Duke of Windsor. But lurking behind the scenes was the brooding spectre of the British establishment, the Royal Family and the malign workings of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Mr Cole suggested Diana was being targeted by the "US military industrial complex" because of her successful campaign against landmines.

The suspicion that Cole was stalling for time was only finally dispelled when Mr Fayed arrived.

The Egyptian billionaire was apparently still recovering from his " beating up" on the Today programme earlier in the day, the events of recent days having aged him by "10 years". But it didn't seem to quell the spirit of the man who, his followers say, can out-think his rivals in four different languages.

"I am the father who lost a son and close friend," he said. Lord Stevens' long awaited report, he branded alternatively "garbage" and "baloney". The former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police was, he said, a "mental case".

Earlier, Mr Fayed had posed the question: "If Dodi and Diana had wed and if they had children, Britain would have had, in effect, an alternative Royal Family. The attractive, personable Fayeds. Or the charmless German Windsors? I will not rest until I expose the devastation and loss the gangster has [inflicted] on me.

"Whatever it is going to cost me ­ if I lose the last penny in my pocket... not just for me but for Great Britain," he said.

But the question remains: when will he give up?