About 10 years ago, a former member of the Royal Family, a divorcee with a new boyfriend, a rich woman with some respectable charity work on the side was killed in a car crash in Paris. A lot of people were sad out of proportion to the woman's impact on their lives.
And the story ends.
Except for one man - the boyfriend's father.
And he believes. Oh, how he believes. And it has grown and grown to monumental proportions. One man's grief and inability to come to terms with the death of his son have spun so far out of reason and probability, then eventually possibility. At first, years ago, I suspect it was just denial. After several years it slowly appeared that Al-Fayed was drinking his own Kool-aid and starting to believe his own stories.
Now, he's wandered off onto his own plane of existence.
BBC NEWS | UK | Fayed conspiracy claim collapses
He made up his mind the moment he was telephoned by the president of the Ritz Hotel to be told that the accident had occurred and that Dodi was dead and Diana injured.
"This is not an accident. It is a plot, an assassination." Those were Mr Al Fayed's words in the early hours of the morning of 31 August 1997. He has never wavered from that belief. The only modification he has made has been in the scale of the plot that he has alleged.
Belief is not truth. I believe myself to be a writer, someone whose opinions may make a difference. In reality I'm a dude in grungy sweat pants taking a break from internet porn to mouth off on something that I don't care to research. My dog believes he's feral enough to be sexy (a bit of ruff?) and a heroic adventurer. In reality he's a prissy meterosexual who hates what the rain does to his 'do and hides barking behind my wife if there's a noise in the basement. See what I mean.
How has this dissonance charted and grown for Al-Fayed?
This is the problem with conspiracy. Reality keeps testing it's cup until the nuts hurt and the story has to spin out of control just to keep facts at arms length. (I'm looking at you 9/11 Troofers. George W. Bush a conspriatorial, organizational genius? Seriously?)
From a very early stage he claimed the conspiracy had been instigated by Diana's former father-in-law, the Duke of Edinburgh.
But by the time Mr Al Fayed left the witness box in Court 73 at the Royal Courts of Justice on 18 February, the list of supposed conspirators had reached astonishing proportions - so astonishing, really, that the "conspiracy" appeared to have lost any connection with reality.
By the end of that day Mr Al Fayed had named the following as conspirators: the princess's former husband, the Prince of Wales; the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair; two former commissioners of the Metropolitan Police, Paul Condon and John Stevens; the Queen's former private secretary Lord Fellowes and the former British ambassador to Paris, Lord Jay.
But that was not all. According to Mr Al Fayed, Diana's elder sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale had been part of the cover-up. The Al Fayed bodyguard Trevor Rees who was severely injured in the crash had been described as a "crook" who had also, according to Mr Al Fayed, been part of the conspiracy.
Similar accusations had been levelled against the intelligence services of Britain, France and the United States, together with the French emergency, medical and judicial authorities.
All - according to Mohamed Al Fayed - had been part of the plot to carry out, or cover up, multiple murder.
The major difficulty for Mr Al Fayed and his many advisers and lawyers is that there is not, and indeed never has been, a shred of what could properly be described as evidence to support the central proposition that the deaths were the result of a plot, rather than the very much more prosaic alternative that the couple died in a tragic accident, caused by Henri Paul drinking too much and driving too fast as he tried to out-run the reckless pursuit of the Paris paparazzi.I started this with a lot more snark in my system. It was gone by the end of the title line.
It is true that the French made a mess of the first post-mortem examination carried out on the body of Mr Paul on the morning of Sunday 31 August.
But the French authorities realised the first set of blood and tissue samples were open to question, and went back three days later and took a second set in properly controlled and carefully supervised circumstances.
...In contrast to the obvious honesty and authenticity of the majority of the nearly 250 witnesses, was the palpable unreliability and even dishonesty of a small group.
Unfortunately for Mr Al Fayed, the witnesses who spoke of a "blinding flash" in the tunnel and of sinister "men in black" on a motorcycle came, very definitely, in the latter category.
...After nearly 90 days of exhaustive inquiry by the inquests, involving evidence from nearly 250 witnesses, the Al Fayed legal teams threw in the towel.
They accepted there was not a shred of evidence to support properly the central pillars of the conspiracy theory.
First, Al Fayed lawyers accepted that there was no direct evidence that either the Duke of Edinburgh or the secret intelligence service, MI6, had been involved in any murder conspiracy involving the princess or Dodi Al Fayed.
Equally without warning, a few days later in the course of further submissions without the jury, Michael Mansfield, the senior Al Fayed barrister, turned to the role of the white Fiat Uno - the untraced car that was struck a glancing blow by the Mercedes as it entered the Pont de l'Alma tunnel and which, for the past decade, has been one of the principal components of the supposed "conspiracy".
On Thursday 20 March, Mr Mansfield told the court: "The Fiat Uno was not the cause of any loss of control [by the Mercedes]. We are not suggesting its driver is guilty of anything."...
By the time the jury was sent out to consider its verdicts there was, in reality, nothing left to the conspiracy theories.
It has taken six months and almost £7m of British taxpayers' money. That is the estimated cost of the inquests and the inquiry by the Metropolitan Police that preceded it.
But, finally, the conspiracy theories have been run to ground and shown for what they are - a fantasy borne of one man's anguished denial of the truth, and of the need of many to believe that a beloved princess must have been the victim of something more elaborate and malevolent than a reckless aberration by a single motorist.
Loss is a terrible thing. Yes, we all have to deal with it and will eventually cause it as well. But its proliferation doesn't diminish its impact. All it takes is loss and a man whose psyche leans a little to the paranoid and you end up with a colossal waste of time and effort on the part of everyone involved, old wounds torn open and one man's attempt to bring peace to himself devolving into self-parody.
Draw a line under it and be done.