LONDON – A former executive of the Ritz Hotel in Paris said Thursday that a jeweler invented stories about a ring Dodi Fayed selected hours before he and Princess Diana were fatally injured in a car crash.
Claude Roulet, who was assistant to the president of the hotel at the time of the crash on Aug. 31, 1997, assisted Fayed in choosing a ring from Alberto Repossi's shop near the hotel.
He disputed claims by Repossi that Diana and Fayed had chosen the ring jointly, and that it was intended as an engagement ring.
"I know that a few days after the accident, Mr. Repossi started giving different accounts of the events and that his director of communications, Gilles Montrichard, advised him against making things up," Roulet testified at the British inquest into the couple's deaths.
"This director had to leave his employ," Roulet said.
Roulet said the choice of a ring from Repossi's "Dis-moi Oui" ("Tell me Yes") range was a late decision, and that Fayed did not even look at it. The ring, priced at the equivalent of US$23,000, was the cheapest of a group offered to Fayed, Roulet said on Wednesday.
The jury has been told that Repossi claims a ring had already been chosen in Monte Carlo, had been sent to Italy to be sized, and was due to be collected in Paris.
Roulet said he had read one magazine article in which Repossi gave an account that differs from Roulet's memory and Repossi's current position.
"As best as I can remember, it was a kind of romantic story that Dodi asked for an engagement ring and that they had to choose together the engagement ring, which was not the truth," Roulet said.
Roulet, who left the Ritz Hotel in 2004, said he had complained to the hotel president, Franz Klein, about Repossi's claims.
"I remember I said to Mr. Klein, 'But why he is lying?' and Mr. Klein told me, 'Well shut up, it is not your matter."'
Mohamed Al Fayed claims that his son and the princess were a day away from announcing their engagement, and that she was pregnant with his child. He alleged that the couple were targets of a conspiracy directed by Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.
French and British police blamed the crash on Henri Paul, the acting head of security at the Ritz, who was driving the couple's car. Al Fayed disputes police conclusions that Paul was drunk.
Roulet said he saw Paul, who had two drinks at the Ritz, in a bar near the hotel on the same night.
"As I was walking home via the Rue des Petits Champs, I saw Henri Paul in the Bar de Bourgogne.
"It was five or seven minutes away from the Ritz, he was on his own in the bar by the glass door which was open.
"He was drinking something, but I cannot say what it was," Roulet said.