A crucial witness in the Princess Diana probe has claimed that investigators pressured him to alter evidence in a bid to rig the inquiry’s findings.
The disturbing allegations by Alberto Repossi, a central figure in the final weeks of Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed, strengthen fears of an Establishment cover-up to prevent the truth behind the deaths being made public.
In an exclusive interview from Monte Carlo, jeweller Mr Repossi revealed how he came under pressure to change the story of his part in the tragedy during lengthy interviews with officers from the £4million Operation Paget inquiry.
His explosive testimony, backed by receipts and CCTV from his upmarket showroom in Monaco, confirms the couple picked out a £230,000 emerald and diamond band from a line of engagement rings called Dis-Moi Oui – Tell Me Yes.
Diana and Dodi’s engagement in the weeks leading up to their deaths in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997, sparked the enduring theory that the Princess was murdered by the Establishment to prevent her marrying a Muslim.
Mr Repossi detailed a shocking catalogue of underhand attempts by investigators to force him to alter his evidence, claiming officers used thinly-veiled threats that he was risking his reputation and adverse press coverage by continuing to stick to the engagement story.
“I have for a long time followed closely the Daily Express’s crusade for the truth and I strongly support any attempt to determine exactly what caused this terrible tragedy,” said Mr Repossi.
“Until now I thought I could play my part by co-operating fully with the inquiry. But my treatment during the interviews has convinced me that they are not interested in establishing a true record of what happened.”
The businessman was so outraged by his ordeal at the hands of British investigators that he sent a detailed letter of protest to the officer leading Operation Paget, respected former Metropolitan Police chief Lord Stevens.
In a damning attack on the tactics used during his encounters with the inquiry team, Mr Repossi said last night: “My real concern is that attempts were certainly made to get me to change what I knew to be the truth.
“I believe they were doing this in order to support theories or conclusions that they had already arrived at or decided upon long before they saw me and my wife, Angela. They only seemed interested in trying to show we were lying.”
Mr Repossi, jeweller by appointment to Monaco’s royal family, contacted the Daily Express after reading how Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the Establishment figure drafted in as coroner, wants next month’s preliminary hearings to be held in private and the inquest to go ahead without a jury.
“After reading your coverage, and my experiences and those of my wife with the inquiry team, I feel I can no longer trust the authorities to speak the truth,” he said.
Mr Repossi said Diana and Dodi visited his Monte Carlo shop in August 1997, spotting the engagement ring in a window display while on a stroll in the principality.
Dodi Fayed asked for the ring to be sent to the jeweller’s other store at Place Vendome in Paris, which Mr Repossi opened especially so he could visit on August 30. The ring was later left at Dodi’s apartment in the city, where he planned to present it to the Princess.
“These are things which I am absolutely certain about,” said Mr Repossi.
The jeweller revealed he has been interviewed three times, and his wife once, at Scotland Yard by officers from Lord Stevens’ team.
The final meeting, he said, was in July this year when officers told him, in the course of a three-hour meeting, they knew the jewellery he had sold the couple was not an engagement ring.
“They warned me that if anyone lied to Lord Stevens – and anyone could include the Prime Minister or even the Secret Service – then he had the power to get people sent to prison,” he said.
“I told them I’d told the truth and if other people had changed their stories perhaps it was because the police had persuaded them, in the same way they were trying to persuade me to change my story.
“They kept repeating the warnings of the risk to my reputation and the bad press coverage I would get.
“But despite all this, I was not prepared to change what I’d said before because it was the truth.”
Mr Repossi claimed officers had told him the final interview would be an informal chat to bring him up to date with the inquiry’s progress, but he is convinced the meeting was tape-recorded in the hope he would make an unguarded admission.
“I spent hours and hours of what I can only describe as interrogation,” he said.
“My wife and I were separated and the officers often left the room to confer with colleagues interrogating my wife, and came back to trick me.”
When the jeweller asked for copies of the interview tapes, two of the five cassettes he was sent were blank, he claims. The Yard blamed technical problems. “This is very unprofessional if this is the case,” Mr Repossi said.
He also complained that investigators used inconsistencies in his recollection of events in 1997 to suggest he was telling lies.
“I wasn’t seen or interviewed about any of this by the French police or the original investigating judge,” he said.
“The first time I was asked to talk about exactly what happened was eight years after the crash, so it’s hardly surprising I’ve forgotten or become confused about some of the details.
“I feel that the investigators took me by surprise with the details they were trying to get me to remember after eight years, and causing confusion which in the last meeting I had they used to imply that I was a liar.”
Mr Repossi said he was also infuriated by claims made by bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, the only survivor of the crash, who cashed in on the controversy by publishing a book in 2000 roundly rejecting the assertion that Dodi had bought an engagement ring in Monte Carlo.
“I realised I had to speak up after I saw the book by Rees-Jones, because he was telling such outrageous lies,” said Mr Repossi.
“My intention has always been to help get to the truth of what actually happened.”
Fears that an open investigation is being stifled by the Establishment have grown amid concern that Lord Stevens’ inquiry is being closed down prematurely by the Government, with vital questions left unexplored and unanswered.
A spokesman for the former police chief declined to comment on the latest claims.
A spokesman for Mohamed Al Fayed, who is fighting to have the inquest into the deaths of his son and Diana held openly and in public, said last night: “He is addressing his concerns through the courts and does not want to comment on this particular aspect.”