Mohamed Al Fayed would “never forgive himself” after caving to his son when he asked the businessman to approve his plan to slip out of The Ritz with Diana, the Princess of Wales.
According to Andrew Neil’s column in the Daily Mail, Dodi came up with a “cockamamie” plan to try and avoid a crowd of paparazi that had gathered outside the glitsy hotel in August 1997. It involved slipping out of a back entrance before heading to his flat off the Champs-Elysées.
Neil – who once worked for the businessman as a media consultant – says Al Fayed initially tried to convince his son he could just relax in the hotel’s Imperial Suite and watch a film, rather than hatching an elaborate escape plan. But film producer Dodi told his Dad that Diana was “distraught” that a mob of photographers had gathered outside the hotel.
The couple instead wanted to be able to spend time together and enjoy the anonymity and privacy that Dodi’s flat would afford them. So they needed to find a way to avoid the paparazi.
Neil says the security team at The Ritz however told Dodi they would not help him leave the hotel via the back entrance. It was then they explained he would have to speak to his dad.
Neil writes: “He wanted to give them the slip and take her to the privacy and anonymity of his flat off the Champs-Elysées. After all, it would be their last night together for some time and he wanted Diana to leave with nothing but happy memories.
“Mohammed caved in to his son. He looked at me with a tear in his eye as he recounted this story and said: ‘I will never forgive myself for going along with Dodi’s plan. He would still be alive but for me.'”
The decision to actually leave the hotel wasn’t made until the very last minute. And then it was decided to take the roundabout route to Dodi’s apartment, passing through a tunnel.
Shortly after midnight on August 31, 1997, when executing the escape plan, driver Henri Paul lost control of the armoured Mercedes-Benz W140 that was carrying Diana, Dodi, and security guard Trevor Rees-Jones while attempting to avoid paparazi.
Diana, Dodi, and Paul died in the crash. An jury inquest into the death of Diana returned a verdict of unlawful killing through grossly negligent driving by Paul and the following paparazzi vehicles.