Mary Dejevsky: Why does Mohamed Al Fayed get such stick?

Share
Related Topics

How the great and good of the British establishment must be rejoicing – discreetly sheltered by their castle walls and stucco facades. They finally granted Mohamed Al Fayed his yearned-for day in court, and now the whole Diana conspiracy has evaporated in the steam of his own overheated rhetoric. That's what we call fair play, old chaps, fair play.

But it is not fair play at all, is it? All right, so Mr Al Fayed appears to have been treated with due deference inside the court, as the bereaved father he will remain for the rest of his days. As a key witness and man of material substance, he might have hoped for gentler handling, but even the most hostile questions never went beyond the pale. Dodi's father was allowed his dignity. There is still such a thing as courtroom etiquette, and far be it from the establishment to breach it.

Outside the court, it was another matter. The media coverage was merciless. Front pages hurled invective. Yet most merely reproduced Mr Al Fayed's own colourful expressions. There was no need to embellish, still less ridicule. The owner of Harrods had done it all himself.

So much for the headlines. The accompanying reports dripped with innuendo. There was race – who was this man, it was implied, to speak of our Royal Family as "Draculas" who would never accept his son? Silent answer: an Arab with the excitability that belongs to that alien part of the world. And there was class: in all the references to the billions Al Fayed spent lurked disdain for a shopkeeper made good. Oh, and he wasn't quite dressed for the occasion; the wrong sort of check, you know. At once condescending and contemptuous, the reports let us know that this Al Fayed character, whoever he was, was definitely, positively, not "one of us".

Could such negative – no, insulting – coverage have been predicted? Of course. It was no more surprising than The Sun headline, "45 Minutes from Doom" that followed publication of the dossier stating the time within which Saddam Hussein could deploy his non-existent weapons. Once you know how the relevant sections of the popular press work, you can play them like the proverbial violin.

In giving Mohamed Al Fayed his day in court, the establishment took the most negligible of risks. Short of failing to turn up or answering in curt monosyllables, there was nothing Mr Al Fayed could do to escape the trap. Too emotional? Too un-British? Too... er, common? You almost wonder why, if it was going to be so easy to damn his credibility with his own words, he wasn't invited to the witness box a decade earlier.

Those of us who still suspect that more lies behind Diana's death than an irresponsible French driver, were dismissed as fantasists, who now had to believe what the establishment had told them. Because Al Fayed was emotional and hyperbolic, every aspect of his story was judged unworthy of consideration; he was speaking cock and bull.

Yet the one does not follow from the other. How many times do you have to say this: here is a father, bereft of his elder son. You can argue, if you like, that he has money and interests sufficient to absorb his sorrows – unlike fond fathers of lesser means. You can criticise his son's lifestyle: to put no finer point on it, Dodi was a playboy; one hopes Diana knew the life she was getting herself into. You may have views on Mohamed Al Fayed's character or his merits as a businessman.

That he may not have presented his case in the most convincing way for an audience more attuned to understatement, however, does not mean that his belief in a conspiracy is discredited. There are old questions that remain unanswered: that white Fiat Uno; the French paparazzo found later with his throat cut; the contradictory accounts of the chauffeur's drinking habits; Diana's fears that she would die in an arranged car accident; and the presence of an MI6 team in Paris on the fateful weekend.

And there are new questions that have been raised by this inquest: not least why witnesses at the scene who volunteered their accounts were not properly interviewed at the time. It is also curious that the Metropolitan Police failed to come clean about Diana's written fears for her life after she died. You might also add the claim that the secret services experimented with dazzling lights for the purpose of causing road accidents. But that came from a supposedly discredited former agent, so it can't possibly be true – can it?

As the Diana inquest lumbers on, Mohamed Al Fayed's testimony is being held up as proof that the whole exercise was ill-conceived and futile. It is a classic case of allowing the messenger to obscure the message. I wonder in whose interests that might be?

m.dejevsky@independent.co.uk

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor’s Letter: The Sussex teenager killed fighting in Syria

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Actor Zac Efron  

Keep your shirt on Zac – we'd all be better for it

Howard Jacobson
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit