Sometimes people involved in the world of intelligence display remarkably little of it themselves. Yesterday, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee appointed by the Prime Minister, called for the inquest into the deaths of Diana Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed to be stopped.
Lord Foulkes complained that "the extraordinary performance of [Mohamed] Fayed has turned the whole thing into a circus". He seemed to be especially exercised by the fact that 10 members of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) have been summoned to give evidence by the coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, following a request from Mr Fayed's lawyers.
How stupid is it possible for a man to be? What does Lord Foulkes imagine would be the consequence if Lord Scott Baker did as he asked and declared that, following an intervention by a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, he had decided that the MI6 officers should be spared interrogation and that the whole inquest should now be abandoned?
Leave aside the fact that it would be the grossest breach of the impeccably even-handed way in which Lord Scott Baker has conducted the inquest to date, such action would triumphantly vindicate the suspicions of the conspiracy theorists who – against all evidence, reason and common decency – continue to assert that the accident was in fact murder committed at the request of the Royal Family.
My colleague, Mary Dejevsky, continues to believe that French and British police were wrong to conclude that the deaths were the result of an intoxicated driver losing control of a car driven at twice the speed limit in the Pont d'Alma Tunnel, while his passengers chose not to put on their seatbelts. In yesterday's Independent she alleged, in direct contrast to Lord Foulkes, that the inquest was somehow an "establishment" trap, and that Mohamed Fayed was its victim and, in particular, a victim of snobbery and racism.
I admit to not being entirely disinterested in this matter. How could I be, having seen Mr Fayed name me in court on Monday as one of many implicated in his alleged MI6 plot to murder the Princess of Wales? Offensive as this is – Diana was godmother to my younger daughter – it is true that most of those accused of the vilest acts by Mr Fayed are robust enough to shrug off his PR-aided campaign of indiscriminate character assassination.
Prince Philip, the arch-villain of the Harrods owner's imagination, can survive being called "a Nazi" by Mr Fayed; perhaps, though, one should point out that Prince Philip saw active service against the Axis powers, while Mr Fayed had always seemed inordinately proud of his purchase of what he calls "Villa Windsor", the French home in exile of the late Duke of Windsor, whose relationship with the Nazis was indeed somewhat suspect.
There are those of Mr Fayed's targets, however, who are less robust or cocooned by privilege. For example, there is Trevor Rees, the transparently decent bodyguard who was horrifically injured in the crash which killed Diana and Dodi. Last week, Mr Fayed described Mr Rees – who, unlike many other of his better-paid employees, has always refused to pander to his conspiracy theories – as "a crook".
Interestingly, when Mr Rees took the stand, Mr Fayed's lawyer Michael Mansfield did not raise his client's allegations that the bodyguard was lying about losing his memory of the crash as a result of trauma, and had been paid to keep silent by MI6. The coroner argued to Mansfield that if these allegations were not to be put to Mr Rees, then "one would have thought that a man with any decency who was not going to pursue them would withdraw them". Mr Fayed, of course, did not do the decent thing by Mr Rees, a man almost killed in his service.
Then there was the somewhat frail figure of Kelly Fisher, the American who had been Dodi Fayed's girlfriend up to the moment his affair with Diana began. When her evidence was mentioned to Mr Fayed by Richard Horwell, QC for the Metropolitan Police, he snapped: "Kelly Fisher is just a hooker." Some in the press gallery could barely suppress a laugh of sheer astonishment at this revolting slur. I turned to look at the jury. They were not laughing. Their faces, in so far as I could tell, registered disgust: Kelly Fisher had been a compelling and dignified witness. At least she is able to take legal action if Mr Fayed should repeat such vile defamation outside the privilege of the court. A number of his targets are not so fortunate – for example, the late Robin Cook, who, as Foreign Secretary at the time of the crash, was also named by Mr Fayed as part of his "murder conspiracy".
Mary Dejevsky defends Mr Fayed's behaviour in the witness box as follows: "How many times do you have to say this: here is a father, bereft of his elder son." He is, indeed. Yet Mary is quite wrong if she thinks Mohamed Fayed's brutality and bluster is a consequence of being unhinged by his tragic bereavement. He has always been like this.
If readers think I am prejudiced, they don't have to take my word for it: they should read Tom Bower's astonishing book, Fayed. Mr Bower started off as sympathetic to the Harrods owner – he was even approached to write an authorised biography – but his exhaustive investigations revealed a truly dreadful human being. Mary thinks the reaction to Mr Fayed from the British press has been racist, but the casual racism displayed by Mr Fayed throughout Bower's tome would make a Sun editor blanch and, as usual, it was the most vulnerable who bore the worst of it.
Those of Mr Fayed's least powerful employees who tried to fight back discovered the full extent of his vindictiveness. Few now recall the name of Hermina Da Silva, who was dismissed in 1994 as a nanny from Mr Fayed's Oxted home; Ms Da Silva prepared allegations that she was sexually harassed by the Harrods owner (she would not have been the first to make such an allegation). She was arrested by detectives and held overnight in cells following a complaint of theft by John Macnamara, the former police chief superintendent employed by Mr Fayed as his "head of security". Ms Da Silva was released without charge after officers concluded she had stolen nothing. Mr Fayed eventually settled with her out of court, and she was awarded many thousands of pounds.
Of course, all this has nothing whatever to do with the "mysterious" Fiat Uno, which Mr Fayed claims was the car used by MI6 to cause Dodi's S-Class Mercedes to crash and which Mary Dejevsky describes as "an unanswered question". Actually Mr Horwell did ask Mr Fayed about the Fiat Uno, in these words: "It is an extremely light car, one of the most underpowered cars available in the world. Can you help us as to why, with the might of the Royal Family, MI6 and so on and so on, they chose such a car? Can you assist us?"
Let the inquest continue.