When dawn broke over London on September 1, 1997, a dark green helicopter rose from the Battersea heliport on the River Thames and turned sharply south toward Paris.
The world was still numb with sorrow at the previous day's death of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed.
On board the helicopter, which was owned by the grieving father of Dodi, were four men: a Scottish pathologist, the American lawyer of Mohamed Fayed, his head of security and me.
And of these, by far the most intriguing was the security chief, John Macnamara, whose death was announced last week 83.
Macnamara was a former chief inspector of the detective and head of the Scotland Yard fraud team.
Pictured: Fayed's security chief John Macnamara in 2000. Former Detective Chief Inspector and Chief of Scotland Yard Fraud Team, Macnamara had supervised countless unfair operations around the world while seeking to protect his employer and destroy his enemies
As the king of digging and spreading dirt, this diminutive, wretched Scotch was a master of blackmail, counterfeiting, burglary and corruption, not to mention threats of violence.
Now Macnamara flew to Paris to spread the most outrageous lie of all – a completely invented story that Prince Philip and MI6 had somehow conspired to kill Diana and Dodi to prevent them from getting married.
Shortly thereafter, Macnamara would claim that the crash was caused by a mysterious white Fiat, another harmful fiction that went around the world. His purpose? To hide the true cause of the accident in the Pont de l & Alma tunnel that killed the couple.
John Macnamara takes countless secrets to his grave, but I saw him personally enough to know how bad a man he was. He had worked for Scotland Yard for 28 years – whose failure to bring this rotten apple to justice was nothing short of disgraceful.
Last moments: Diana and Dodi Fayed in the elevator of the Ritz in Paris, just a few hours before they died
There was little conversation during the 90-minute flight to Paris. Apart from the sound of the helicopter, the death of Diana had shocked us in silence.
At that time I had a close relationship with Mohamed Fayed and he agreed that I would have to interview all the staff of the Ritz hotel in Paris, that he owned and that Diana and Dodi were driven to death just after midnight.
I first got to know Fayed when I wrote an exciting biography about Tiny Rowland, a colorful – and criminal – international tycoon that controlled the Lonrho conglomerate, which owned mines and companies in Africa, America and Europe, including the newspaper The Observer in Great Britain .
Fayed and Rowland had become sworn enemies during the fierce battle to gain control of the Harrods department store.
The world was still numb with grief at the previous day's death of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed (photo: Wreck of the car at the underpass Alma)
Fayed emerged the victor, after which Rowland launched a ruthless campaign to destroy his opponent. How did Fayed react? He turned to John Macnamara, who gave me critical – but completely truthful – information about Rowland.
At that time I had no idea what kind of & # 39; research methods & # 39; Macnamara usually used.
My eyes were opened during that trip to Paris and especially when I interviewed 14 members of the Ritz staff who had taken care of Diana and Dodi while hiding themselves from the paparazzi besieging the hotel.
From the testimony of the waiters, managers, and security staff, it was clear that Fayed and his son Dodi had become too excited about romance that night.
Dodi and Diana stayed in the imperial suite at the Ritz, but wanted to return to an apartment building in Fayed and near the Champs-Elysées.
Macnamara looked for a reason for the crash and started claiming that Diana had been pregnant and that this had been a motive for killing her
An eyewitness of crazy telephone conversations between father and son confirmed that Mohamed Dodi had suggested leaving the hotel through the back door and driving to this new bolgat. But Macnamara had no intention of establishing the truth – or a version of the truth that his employer did not properly reflect. Instead, he said the two lovers had quietly decided for themselves to drive to Fayed's flats.
At the same time, Macnamara encouraged two waiters to describe how Dodi had purchased an engagement ring from a nearby jeweler to announce their upcoming marriage. It was another obvious lie.
At the end of my interviews with the Ritz staff, Macnamara entered the room – and he was irritated. It became clear that he had listened to my interviews in secret.
He then demanded that I meet another witness who, under Macnamara's supervision, insisted that the driver of the crashed car, Henri Paul, "drink only a non-alcoholic hearty drink" in the bar beforehand. This turned out not to be true later.
At nightfall, the tension in the hotel cracked. Now Macnamara stated that I could not spend the night at the Ritz, but that I had to sleep in Fayed's apartment instead. I was shocked to leave the scene of such a drama.
Under cross-examination, Macnamara admitted that there was no evidence that Diana had been killed; that there was no evidence that Diana was pregnant; that he had no evidence against Prince Philip; and that he had lied when he claimed that Henri Paul had not drunk any alcohol on that night at the Ritz (photo: flower tribute to Diana after her death)
An hour later, however, I was very happy, because staying upstairs in the apartment was someone who would prove invaluable in building a real picture of what had happened between Dodi and Diana.
Rene Delorm had been the valet of Dodi earlier that summer and had spent a few days with the couple on the Jonikal, the yacht of Fayed, when it was moored in front of St. Tropez.
That night Delorm told me enough about romance to convince me that the version promoted by Macnamara was fake.
There had been exciting moments between them aboard the Jonikal, he remembered. Dodi's unexpected decision to stay in Paris had further irritated Diana for longing to spend time with her sons in London before returning to school.
Mohamed Al-Fayed on October 26, 2015
Dodi, later claimed to be his father, had wanted them to stay together in Paris so that he could buy an engagement ring – proof, as Mohamed would later say, of their engagement. But Delorm saw no sign that Diana was in a mood to receive a marriage proposal, let alone accept one.
I returned to London and started investigating an unauthorized biography of Fayed. And I watched in surprise as in the months, and when, after the death of Diana, Macnamara searched Europe for witnesses and so-called experts to prove his absurd claim that Prince Philip had orchestrated a conspiracy to commit murder.
Macnamara began by obtaining a statement from the Scottish pathologist Professor Peter Vanezis, who said that the French authorities & # 39; unreliable & # 39; were because they had stated that the blood alcohol content of Henri Paul was three times higher than the legal limit for driving. Vanezis – who had traveled with us to Paris on the helicopter – made this statement, even though he had not been able to inspect Henri's corpse or test blood samples.
Then Macnamara looked for a reason for the crash and started claiming that Diana had been pregnant and that this had been a motive for killing her.
He hired a retired French police officer to prove & # 39; that MI6 was behind the conspiracy and that the agency had acted by order of Prince Philip.
Then he came up with the story that a white Fiat Uno had deliberately crashed into the Mercedes in the Pont de l & Alma tunnel. Macnamara presented himself as a speaking buyer and persuaded journalists to believe his fantasy.
Pictured: Princess Diana leaning on Prince Charles' shoulder on a honeymoon in Balmoral
And then – thanks to Macnamara & # 39; s investigation – a white Fiat Uno was & # 39; discovered & # 39; and described as the murder vehicle, that claim was widely reported.
Let alone that the Fiat had already been inspected by the French police and was completely excluded from the investigation. These notorious lies circulated until 2008, when they received a fatal blow during the investigation of the coroner in the tragedy in London.
Under cross-examination, Macnamara admitted that there was no evidence that Diana had been killed; that there was no evidence that Diana was pregnant; that he had no evidence against Prince Philip; and that he had lied when he claimed that Henri Paul had not drunk alcohol on the night in question at the Ritz.
The manipulations, untruths and deceptions of Macnamara were broad and toxic. Another of his priorities was, for example, to prove that the then conservative government had organized a conspiracy against Fayed to prevent him from getting a British passport.
The death of Diana had shocked us in silence
Fayed was furious by an investigation by the Department of Commerce and Industry (DTI) into his background, resulting in a damned disclosure of Fayed's lies about his origins – he was the son of a poor school inspector, not a rich Pasha family such as he claimed – and lifelong lies around the world. Tiny Rowland was inevitably another Macnamara target. The tycoon had been famous for bribing African dictators and facilitating the murder of their opponents, but he naively opted for a safe vault at Harrods – which Fayed now owned.
The internal security camera & # 39; s had picked up Rowland to visit his box in the basement, and Macnamara seized the moment. That same night he recruited a locksmith. The box contained not only emeralds and rubies, but a pile of letters that revealed the truth about the enormous wealth of Rowland.
It had always been a puzzle that a failing farmer in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) had somehow become an international mogul.
Now it was clear: the letters showed that in 1953 Rowland had stolen about £ 500,000 from a Swiss bank in Basel. And with that money he had bought an emerald-green mine in Rhodesia.
Macnamara tried to blackmail Rowland and told him to admit that he had bribed cabinet minister Michael Howard to prepare the DTI report on Fayed. Rowland refused to play the ball. Instead, he complained to Scotland Yard that Macnamara had stolen the emeralds and rubies from his vault. But no charges were imposed on the bent detective.
Mohamed Al Fayed's head of security John Macnamara (right) arrives at the High Court in London with the former spokesman for the owner of Harrods Michael Cole to testify in the death investigation Diana
My last meeting with Macnamara was during a telephone conversation with the British head of security for the Maktoums, the rulers of Dubai.
In the 1960s, Fayed had earned a fortune by building the infrastructure of the desert kingdom, including the first airport, hospital, school, and harbor.
By 1998, however, the Maktoums accused Fayed of having stolen millions of pounds from those contracts. Their security chief gathered information about Fayed and, of course, ran into Macnamara.
"I have bad news, good news and bad news for you," said the head of security at Maktoums.
"The first bad news is that Macnamara is looking for someone in London to break your fingers so that you cannot write the biography.
"The good news is that he can't find anyone in London. The bad news is that he is now looking in Liverpool. & # 39;
I am happy to say that Macnamara, despite all its corrupt, malicious know-how.
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