It was set to reveal an intriguing new insight into the tragic romance between Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed on the 20th anniversary of their deaths.
A new book, Diana And Dodi: The Truth, promised explosive new revelations about the fateful night in August 1997, when the pair died in a car accident in Paris, as well as fuel rumours of a cover-up.
But the book by Michael Cole, who works for Dodi’s father Mohamed Al Fayed, is now at the centre of its own mystery after Mr Al Fayed dramatically intervened to prevent its publication.
The book has been pulled and its potentially scandalous contents, based on years of painstaking research and first-hand insight by Mr Cole, may never be known.
A new book, Diana And Dodi: The Truth, promised explosive new revelations about the fateful night in August 1997, when the pair died in a car accident in Paris, as well as fuel rumours of a cover-up
Publisher Biteback, owned by former Tory parliamentary candidate Iain Dale, is said to be furious and has complained about receiving legal letters from Mr Al Fayed’s solicitors.
The row is all the more fascinating because Mr Cole, a former BBC correspondent, was director of public affairs for Harrods and still works as Mr Al Fayed’s spokesman. He once declared that he loved the tycoon ‘as a father’.
The reasons for the cancellation of the book are unknown.
Mohamed Al Fayed, far left with author Michael Cole, intervened to stop the publication of Mr Cole’s book, inset, about his son Dodi and Princess Diana
It is understood that Mr Al Fayed had at one stage been ‘aware and supportive’ of the book, and had even supplied photographs from his private collection.
The former Harrods boss is also said to have seen a manuscript and expressed an interest in ordering copies for his family.
But Biteback confirmed that Mr Al Fayed had experienced ‘an abrupt change of mind’ and had asked Mr Cole not to go ahead with its publication.
The publisher also said that Mr Al Fayed had subsequently sent it a ‘needless and unjustified’ legal letter via his solicitors, Lewis Silkin, even though Mr Cole had already undertaken not to publish the book.
Mr Cole said he made his decision when he became aware the Al Fayed family ‘did not wish me, in this book, to revisit the terrible events of 20 years ago’.
The author, a BBC correspondent, was director of public affairs for Harrods and still works as Mr Al Fayed’s spokesman.
In a statement released by Biteback, Mr Cole added: ‘Knowing how acutely the family continues to feel the loss of Dodi and the Princess, I have now decided that the best and most appropriate thing I could do to honour the memory of Diana and Dodi would be to continue to share the Fayed family’s grief, borne in silent dignity for the past 20 years.’
The book was set to be released on the 20th anniversary of the crash on August 31 and had attracted a significant number of pre-orders.
Mr Cole had unparalleled access to sources, having worked with Mr Al Fayed since he left the BBC in 1988.
He says he was the only person to know all three victims of the crash – Diana, Dodi and driver Henri Paul – and learned of the Princess’s death hours before it was announced by the British ambassador.
A press release for the book notes that Mr Cole ‘sensed a cover-up’ over the deaths, and witnessed ‘strange things’ in the weeks leading up to the crash.
It adds: ‘This is the inside story of what really happened.’
Mr Cole left Harrods to take early retirement in 1998, the year after the tragedy, but has continued to work for Mr Al Fayed as his spokesman.
In 2008, he gave evidence at the inquest into the couple’s deaths, claiming he knew Diana had been pregnant with Dodi’s child and that Dodi had planned to propose.
Mr Cole (right) left Harrods to take early retirement in 1998, the year after the tragedy, but has continued to work for Mr Al Fayed as his spokesman
Mr Dale, Biteback’s managing director, said he ‘respected’ Mr Cole’s position.
He said that the decision not to publish ‘was not one made lightly’, adding: ‘It also deprives the world of reading a very different and moving account of Dodi Fayed’s relationship with the Princess of Wales.
‘I hope in time the Fayed family may come to realise that this book’s publication would not only be in their interests but represents a vital contribution to the truth surrounding the events of July and August 1997.’