21 OCTOBER 2003
Six years after a Paris car crash claimed the life of Princess Diana, the release of a new book by her former butler Paul Burrell has once again focused the world's attention on the circumstances surrounding her tragic death.
In A Royal Duty, Burrell reveals controversial documents written by the Princess, including one penned ten months before her death which warns: "This phase in my life is the most dangerous." She goes on to name someone who "is planning an 'accident' in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry".
Explaining his decision to publish the documents, Burrell said: "I have watched and listened as many individuals have claimed to know the truth about the Princess. I know that what was claimed to be the truth is actually far from it." He also remarked that he believes that "someone has to stand in the Princess' corner and fight for her now that she cannot do so herself."
As the revelations renewed calls for an immediate inquiry into the accident, a spokesperson for Prince Charles stated: "There will be an inquest at some point in the future and matters relating to the Princess' death will be taken up at that time." A French investigation in 1999 found chauffeur Henri Paul, who was also killed in the accident, responsible for the crash. In August, Coroner Michael Burgess announced he would conduct an inquest into the matter, but did not specify a date.
Harrods owner Mohammad Al Fayed, whose son Dodi was killed alongside Diana, has long called for such an examination of the accident. "It is extraordinary that Paul Burrell did not volunteer this evidence in time for the French investigation into the crash," he said, "but it is now vital that he be called to give evidence in an independent public inquiry."
But several people who were close to Diana have urged caution regarding the emerging claims. Diana's private secretary from 1990 to 1996 Patrick Jephson said: "I don't doubt Paul Burrell's sincere belief that the Princess felt herself to be under threat. But I'm unimpressed by wild conspiracy theories… I believe the stress (the Princess) was living under had dulled her sense of proportion."
Former Buckingham Palace press officer Dickie Arbiter also doubts the latest theories, telling CNN: "There is no question of conspiracy… It was an accident. It shouldn't have happened, but it did."
Diana's two sons, Princes William and Harry, are said to be "angry and upset" over the new developments.