It's almost as if she were spinning in her grave

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Shortly after the Princess of Wales died in Paris at the end of August, we heard the dramatic news that she had managed to utter a few last words at the scene of the car crash which killed her. We never discovered what they were. Assurances were given by Dodi Fayed's family that they had been passed on to the intended recipient - a story promptly denied by royal sources and ridiculed by doctors aware of the extent of her injuries.

Now, courtesy of Paris-Match, we have been belatedly presented with the Princess's final interview, which she is supposed to have granted to a journalist on the French Riviera before the fatal crash. The story was picked up by the British tabloids, with the Sun announcing in a banner headline "My dream of happiness: Diana's amazing last interview revealed her love for Dodi". Woman, 36, in love with boyfriend? Hardly amazing, I'd say. Now if it had been Tom Cruise, or John Prescott, that really would have been worth clearing the front page.

Paris-Match says the Princess criticised the Prince of Wales, comparing his enthusiasm for polo unfavourably with her own attachment to humanitarian causes. Much of what she is supposed to have said covers well-worn territory and it is only when she talks about her future with Dodi, which she never discussed publicly, that the interview takes an unexpected turn. "Today, I dream of sincerity and love," she declares. "Passion is less important to me than harmony. I am like a boat that has passed through a long storm, and I long for perfect good weather."

A boat? Perfect weather? To extend the magazine's aquatic metaphor for a moment, there is something decidedly fishy about all this. Someone who knew the Princess well - her former private secretary, Michael Gibbins - has questioned the authenticity of the interview, observing that the phraseology does not sound like her. The author of the piece has chosen to remain anonymous, indicating that he or she is that rarest of breeds, a shy journalist. But, following a brief analysis, I have to say that the finger of suspicion points towards an unprecedented Anglo-French collaboration: sentiments by Barbara Cartland, imagery by Eric Cantona, No wonder the magazine sold out in Paris on Thursday.

ANOTHER reason for doubting the provenance of the interview is the fact that Paris-Match sat on such an astonishing scoop for four months. Its editor, Roger Therond, who appears to be a graduate of the Eric Cantona academy of gnomic observations, explained the delay by writing that the months had passed, things had calmed down, except for the beating hearts of an immense crowd conquered by the princess of compassion and the prince of passion. Everybody clear on that then?

I have to say that when I heard about the Paris-Match exclusive, I was reminded of the Hitler Diaries fiasco, when the Sunday Times was persuaded to run extracts in which the Fuhrer mused about his feelings for Eva Braun in a manner which can only be described as - well, like something from a bad novel. The diaries were quickly exposed as a fabrication and, while Paris-Match may have evidence to back up its story, it does seem as though all the conditions are in place for a similar spate of dubious revelations about Princess Diana.

lt is worth recalling that she is supposed to have given the interview at a time when her relations with the press were at an all-time low. Remember the occasion when she confronted half a dozen tabloid journalists in a motor launch, promising startling revelations, and then issued a denial that she had done any such thing? Her behaviour in those final weeks was unstable to say the least, yet we are now asked to believe that she and Dodi Fayed sat down in a cafe with a journalist a few weeks before they were killed (according to Paris-Match) or the end of August (according to a spokesman for Mohammed Al-Fayed) and talked calmly about their romance and their plans for joint humanitarian projects. This does more, I think, than strain credulity; it points to the rapid creation of a particular kind of myth. Not quite four months after her death, Diana's status is somewhere between that of a medieval saint - I fear that she may start working miracles soon - and films stars such as James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. Her demise has already prompted a raft of conspiracy theories and it is likely that her death will never, in the eyes of some of her more gullible admirers, be satisfactorily explained. Testimony from beyond the grave is part and parcel of this package - but it tells us more about people's craving to hear her voice and their reluctance to accept her absence than it does about the final days of her life.

LAST weekend, in a burst of festive spirit, I decided to go dancing for the first time since I twisted my ankle in October. I had already survived around a dozen Christmas parties and I lasted until 3am, when my foot started to swell and I limped home to treat it with frozen peas. The damage wasn't permanent and it was not until the middle of the week that I discovered I had completely overlooked the ethical issues associated with spending Saturday night dancing to techno-trance in a warehouse off the Balls Pond Road.

RAY SPIER of Surrey University, who has been appointed Britain's first professor of scientific ethics, expects to help other academics grapple with controversial subjects such as genetic engineering and cloning. But he also, it turns out, anticipates that dance and theatre students will seek his guidance. In the final obscure utterance this column is prepared to tolerate this week, he announced that "dance is a form of engineering in that a message is being transmitted. There is a wrong way to use the medium and it presents issues of ethics if it wants to do something like extolling the virtues of marital breakdown".

I wonder what he has in mind. Happy marriages torn apart by ill-advised forays into salsa clubs? Mothers-of-four eloping with their tango instructors? Excuse me while I go off into a corner and devise a few steps to illustrate the superiority of marital fidelity and family values. Anyone for the Back to Basics Waltz?