MAN never landed on the moon, Princess Diana was assassinated by secret agents and the events of 9/11 were actually the result of an American Government plot. Sound plausible? Well, not according to Voodoo Histories, the latest book from award-winning journalist David Aaronovitch, who believes these conspiracy theories are “ludicrous”, “beyond stupid” and “without even a scintilla of truth.”

North London-born David arrives at Henrietta Barnett School next week to speak about his book, as well as attempt to explain exactly why people choose to believe in conspiracy theories.

The 54-year-old writer, who lives in Hampstead with his wife and three daughters, tells me that he first became interested in conspiracy theories nine years ago, after hearing a chance remark about the moon landings from a colleague.

David, who won the George Orwell Prize for political journalism in 2001 and the What The Papers Say Columnist of the Year award in 2003, explains: “We were filming a documentary in Tunisia at the time and on the long drive to El-Jem, my colleague turned to me and said, ‘you know the moon landings – well they were faked.’ “He started telling me how in the photographs the flag is flapping away, but there would have been no breeze on the moon, and there are also no stars visible in the pictures.

“I was immediately intrigued, but my instinct was that he was wrong. I didn’t know why, but something told me that it would have been impossible to fake one moon landing, let alone the many others that followed afterwards – and what about all those subsequent astronauts? Were they also sworn to this big secret?”

With his interest piqued, David decided to delve into the world of conspiracy theories, and one by one sought to understand how they came about, why people believed them – and why they just couldn’t be true.

Among the theories he dissects in Voodoo Histories is the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

He tells me: “In this case, there were no unknown facts or weird circumstances. It was just a very tragic accident. I think it’s also pretty evident from the inquest that the conspiracy theories were just a smokescreen against Mohamed Al Fayed’s guilt at the failure of his security operation that night, which led to the eventual tragedy.

“Also, if Diana had been wearing a seatbelt she probably would have survived and secondly, the angle at which the car hit the underpass could never have been planned. So in my mind, there’s not even a hint of truth to these theories that she was assassinated.”

In another chapter, David looks at the conspiracy theories which have arisen since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, including the proposition that the twin towers were hit not by planes, but by missiles surrounded by holograms.

“That’s just ludicrous,” answers David, when I ask him if it’s at all possible. “It’s beyond stupid.”

He adds: “I think people have this desire to believe these killer facts that just aren’t true at all.

“Some of these theories are humorous but many are actually quite damaging. If you don’t combat them with the facts, there then arises an impossible distinction between what actually happened and what is believed to have happened.”

In making his point, David tells me about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic Russian forgery written in 1903, which intended to prove that the Jews were plotting world domination. However, despite being discredited, the book is still alluded to as factual in some parts of the Middle East.

David concludes: “As you can see, conspiracy theories leave us vulnerable to things like the Protocols, which are still widely believed.

“They also mean that someone – or something – else is ultimately in control of our fates. It means that princesses don’t get killed in tragic accidents and gorgeous film starts don’t have pointless deaths from barbiturates. But what it really means is that we don’t have to think about the real, messy and sometimes tragic world that we actually live in.”

The Henrietta Barnett School Literary Society presents An Evening with David Aaronovitch on Thursday, June 25, 7.30pm, at the Henrietta Barnett School, Central Square, Hampstead Garden Suburb. Details: 020 8209 9730.