The judge hearing the inquests into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed delivered a scathing attack yesterday on Mohamed Al Fayed for failing to withdraw "grave allegations" made against Trevor Rees, his son's bodyguard and the sole survivor of their fatal car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997.
Lord Justice Scott Baker said that Mr Al Fayed had written a letter to the Metropolitan Police in 2006 in which he accused Mr Rees, formerly known as Trevor Rees-Jones, of faking his memory loss about the crash, lying about what he could remember and taking a senior job at the United Nations in return for keeping his silence.
But yesterday, Mr Rees came to the High Court to give his personal account of the events surrounding the couple's death - and vehemently denied the accusations. Speaking softly and still bearing facial scars from the crash, he told the jury that he had played no part in any conspiracy to "suppress the truth", or that he had been "turned against" Mr Al Fayed by the security services.
Asked by Ian Burnett QC, counsel for the inquests, about his reaction to these allegations, Mr Rees replied: "I'm not part of any conspiracy to suppress the truth at all. All I have ever done is given the truth as I see it."
But later in the proceedings, Mr Al Fayed's barrister, Michael Mansfield QC, told the judge that his client no longer believed these allegations, prompting a hostile response from Lord Justice Scott Baker.
The coroner described them as "very grave," saying that "a man with any decency" should have withdrawn them as soon as he knew he no longer intended to make them. The "responsible and decent course," said the judge, "was to make clear to the public and jury that they were no longer being pursued."
Mr Mansfield said that at the time of his son's death, Mr Al Fayed had many beliefs and wanted them properly tested at the inquests.
Earlier, Mr Rees, a former member of the Parachute Regiment, said he suffered "flashbacks" of the crash in which he could hear Diana, fatally injured and sitting in the back of the car, moaning Dodi's name.
The only other flashback he had had about the time after the car had left the Ritz Hotel was of stopping at traffic lights on the Place de Concorde, with a paparazzi motorcycle drawing up to the side of the vehicle. But he said yesterday that he had often doubted these recollections, or memories.
Mr Rees told the jury he was "very grateful" to Mr Al Fayed for the care he and his family had been given after the crash. But he denied Mr Al Fayed's assertion that he had later been appointed as the head of security at the United Nations in East Timor, or that such an appointment was an "inducement to buy his continued silence".
Asked if he had been head of security in East Timor, he replied: "No, sir, I wasn't. I was a district security officer, of which there were many ... there's no truth in this allegation at all."
Mr Rees also denied selling his story to the media, although he confirmed he had been offered A3;500,000 by a British newspaper and $1m ((pounds sterling)500,000) by an American publication.
He also said that he had received no compensation for his injuries.
He added that while recovering from his injuries he had taken a job in a sports shop in Oswestry, where he had received threatening phone calls. He said: "The telephone calls were stating that they knew who I am and where I worked and to keep quiet ... they said 'you know who we are'."
The hearing continues.
- THE INDEPENDENT