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Complainant Name:
Stuart Benson and Company acting for Mr Mohamed Al Fayed

Clauses Noted: 1, 2

Publication: Evening Standard


Stuart Benson and Company, solicitors acting for Mr Mohamed Al Fayed, complained that an article in The Evening Standard of 6 October 1997 "Fayed's Nurse never existed" contained inaccuracies and that an inadequate opportunity to reply had been offered, in breach of Clauses 1 (Accuracy) and 2 (Opportunity to reply) of the Code of Practice.

The article concerned a denial from the Pitie Salpetriere Hospital in Paris that an employee had heard the dying words of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The complainants said that whilst in Paris and at the hospital in the early hours of Sunday 31 August, Mr Al Fayed was told that someone who had been with the Princess during her final hours wanted to see him. He agreed to see that person and was told that the Princess had uttered some final words and requests. He personally accepted the truth of what was said to him. As was asked of him, he passed on those words and requests to those referred to by the person who spoke to him. He had never identified the person to whom he spoke nor the person in the hospital who effected the introduction.

The complainants also denied a number of other allegations in the article: they said there had been no " litany of clashes" between the hospital and their client and said this had now been confirmed by the hospital; that the " Harrods chief wanted to collect the bodyguard in his helicopter from the hospital but the request was turned down" - no such request was made; that " Mr Al Fayed has yet to thank hospital staff for looking after his employee" - on the day of Mr Rees-Jones' discharge a letter was sent to the director; that Mr Al Fayed " began campaigning to have him moved into a chic private hospital" - they said no such campaign was mounted for Mr Rees-Jones.

A further article was published the following day " Fayed hits back over Di's last words" reporting that Mr Al Fayed's spokesman had robustly rejected the claims by M. Meresse, but the complainants said that this wrongly suggested the newspaper had given Mr Al Fayed an opportunity to comment when it had not.

The newspaper said they had reported accurately the words of M. Meresse following a press statement by Mr Al Fayed's spokesman concerning the alleged "final words" . The following day they published the spokesman's response including statements made to another newspaper. They also said that the letter thanking the hospital was one from the Paris Ritz not from Mr Al Fayed personally.

Not Upheld


The Commission considered that the original article was clearly positioned as reporting what M. Meresse had said, and that the follow-up piece the following day left no doubt that Mr Al Fayed firmly rejected, through his spokesman, what the hospitals communications director had said. The Commission believed the newspaper had published accurately and in good faith the views of M. Meresse and noted that the complainants denials were published in the earliest edition of the newspaper the following day. In the circumstances, readers were unlikely to be misled as to the differing views and the complaint was rejected.


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