LONDON Mohammed al-Fayed waited more than 10 years for the day in open court where he could lay out his theory of conspiracy in the deaths of Princess Diana and his son Dodi, her lover when both died in a Paris car crash in August 1997.
When the moment came on Monday in the fifth month of the long-delayed inquest into their deaths, Fayed, the 75-year-old owner of the Harrod's department store, outdid himself with sensational new twists to his allegations that Britain's royal family was behind the crash.
In a written statement he read before the packed benches of Room 73 in the Royal Courts of Justice, and under questioning, Fayed repeated his central claim: What caused the crash was not, as official inquiries by the French and British authorities found, that the Mercedes car was traveling at excessive speed and driven by a man who had been drinking heavily, but a conspiracy led by Prince Philip, the now 86-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth. And, he said, it was "executed" by the British and French secret intelligence services, with help from the CIA.
But this time, Fayed added a new co-conspirator, Prince Charles, Diana's divorced husband and 59-year-old heir to the throne. Fayed said Charles had "participated" in the plot so that he could marry Camilla Parker-Bowles.
For the first time, Fayed said that Diana had told him she was pregnant in a telephone call an hour before the couple left the Ritz Hotel on the brief journey that ended with the crash.
He said the couple told him during the call that they planned to announce their engagement within days, once the princess had informed her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.
Medical and forensic experts who have testified at the inquest have said there was no evidence that she was pregnant when she died.
The inquest is in many ways a forum fashioned by Fayed to test his conspiracy theories. He spent millions of dollars in legal battles to ensure the inquest would be conducted in public and before a jury, conditions vigorously opposed by the royal family and many in Britain's legal establishment.
In questioning Fayed, Lord Justice Scott Baker and lawyers who were not part of his own legal team implied that credulity was strained by the number of people Fayed claimed were involved in the conspiracy, ranging from former Prime Minister Tony Blair to French, British and American security personnel, medical and forensic experts in Paris, two former heads of Scotland Yard and the private secretary to Queen Elizabeth, among others.
Challenged to provide proof to support his claims, Fayed said he had faced an uphill struggle against the powerful forces arrayed against him. "You want me to get the proof, but I am facing a steel wall from the security services," he said.